Martin and Malcolm met only once. March 26, 1964, the two black leaders were on Capitol Hill, attending Senate debate on the Civil Rights Act of 64'. Although the two held opposing views on the struggle for equal rights, by the end of their lives they evolved on a path forward. Economic Justice!
"I don’t think having an opportunity to ride either at the front or the back or the middle of someone else’s bus does not dignify you. When you have your own bus, then you have dignity. When you have your own school, you have dignity. When you have own your own country, you have dignity. When you have something of your own, you have dignity."
"Instead of the negro leaders having the black man begging for a chance to dine in white restaurants, the negro leaders should be showing the black man to do something to strengthen his own economy, to give himself an independent economy, or to provide job opportunities for himself. Not begging for a cup of coffee in a white man’s restaurant."
"When you are equal with another person, the problem of integration doesn’t even arise. It doesn’t come up. The Chinese in this country aren’t asking for integration. The Japanese aren’t asking for integration. The only minority in America that’s asking for integration is the so-called Negro, primarily because he is inferior, not inherently inferior, but he’s economically, socially, politically inferior. And this exists because he has never tried to stand on his own two feet and do something for himself. He has filled the role of a beggar."
"You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars…. [W]e are treading in difficult waters, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong… with capitalism. There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism."
"Urban riots must now be recognized as durable social phenomena," King suggested during his "Role of the Behavioral Scientist in the Civil Rights Movement" dissertation at the American Psychology Associations’ annual convention in Washington, D.C, on Sept. 1, 1967. "They may be deplored, but they are there and should be understood. Urban riots are a special form of violence. They are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or to attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the [Caucasian] community. They are a distorted form of social protest. The looting, which is their principal feature, serves many functions."
"Let us say boldly that if the violations of law by the [Caucasian] man in the slums over the years were calculated and compared with the law-breaking of a few days of riots, the hardened criminal would be the [Caucasian] man. These are often difficult things to say, but I have come to see more and more that it is necessary to utter the truth in order to deal with the great problems that we face in our society."
Actor/activist, Harry Belafonte, shared a moment about his friend. “Midway through the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. realized that the struggle for integration would ultimately become a struggle for economic rights,” Belafonte reflected. “I remember the last time we were together, at my home, shortly before he was murdered. He seemed quite agitated and preoccupied, and I asked him what the problem was?”.
According to Belafonte, King responded, “I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply. We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know we will win, but I have come to believe that we are integrating into a burning house. I’m afraid that America has lost the moral vision she may have had, and I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears the soul of this nation. I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.”
Belafonte added, “That statement took me aback. It was the last thing I would have expected to hear, considering the nature of our struggle.” Belafonte said he asked King, “What should we do?” and King replied that we should, “become the firemen.” King said, “Let us not stand by and let the house burn.”