The Intertwined Lives of MLK and RFK

Next Year It Will Be 50 Years Since
the Untimely Deaths of Martin Luther King, Jr. & Robert F. Kennedy

Whose fate outside of your immediate world do you care about?

We are approach the appalling assassinations of two accomplished advocates, Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) who died on April 4, 1968 and Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) who died on June 6, 1968. Connecting their past achievements and actions to the present, can help present-day reformers solve social struggles and also guide others who seek to be future social reformers, which is the purpose of the Hub for Social Reformers (click here).

Prior to their premature deaths, the lives of these two great social reformers were intertwined in the United States and in other countries. One such country where their advocacy and actions were interwoven was South Africa. They were both motivated to end apartheid, a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination in South Africa that ended by 1994.

On December 10, 1965, MLK, gave a speech at Hunter College (CUNY), New York entitled “Let My People Go,” which was less than six months before RFK’s visit to South Africa. December 10 is known as Human Rights Day because the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948.

MLK ended his powerful speech with

“The powerful unity of (Black) with (Black) and white with (Black) is stronger than the most potent and entrenched racism. The whole human race will benefit when it ends the abomination that has diminished the stature of (humanity) for too long. This is the task to which we are called by the suffering in South Africa, and our response should be swift and unstinting. Out of this struggle will come the glorious reality of the family of (humanity).”

To read the entire speech click here.

RFK gave a speech nearly six months later on June 6, 1966 at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, which is known as the Day of Affirmation speech and at times referred to as his “tiny ripple of hope” speech.

During the beginning of his speech, RFK said

“Today I am glad to meet with the National Union of South African Students. For a decade, NUSAS has stood and worked for the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights-principles which embody the collective hopes of men (and women) of good will all around the world.”

During the end of his speech, he proclaimed

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man (or women) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he (or she) sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

To read the entire speech click here.

The demise of apartheid in South Africa took place 30 years after the efforts of MLK and RFK. Their actions encouraged many South Africans to fight injustice inside their world because they now knew that some persons outside of their world cared about their fate, which begs the question—whose fate outside of your immediate world do you care about?

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