Personal Statement by Dr. Ralph J. Bunche
5 April 1968
In the untimely death of Dr. Martin Luther King, the world has lost one of its most earnest, respected and commanding voices in the allied causes of peace, freedom and the dignity of man. For this nation, his loss is a national disaster, a profound American tragedy. The shot that took Dr. King's life, fired apparently by a white man infected with racism, has been heard around the world in its barbarism and infamy, to the shame and discredit of the United States.
The world's leading contemporary exponent of non-violence is now gone, all too ironically by an act of savage violence. Advocates of violence in the country undoubtedly will seek to exploit this sorrowful fact. On the other hand, the tremendous shock of this dastardly blow against decency should impress upon every American of goodwill, who has the interest of the country at heart, the imperative need for an effort of unparalleled determination, massiveness and urgency to convert the American ideal of equality into reality; to make the catchword of integration an actual way of life for all citizens, black and white, in our society. Dr. King persevered in this dream for America in the face of overwhelming adversity and continuous personal danger. His vision was the truest essence of the American dream. In this regard, no man had greater faith in this nation than he. For the sake of the future of this country, that dream must soon come true, and in full.
I feel impelled to mention my sense of deep personal loss in this tragedy for I have cherished my friendship with Martin Luther King over many years and shall always retain moving memories of my association with him, shoulder to shoulder, in some of his great and most dramatic efforts, particularly in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington and the Selma-Montgomery March. I grieve for his charming and talented widow, Coretta, who shares her late husband's dedication and integrity, and for their four fine children.
― 1 ―
The saddest journey I have ever made
- sick at heart, both because of the assassination and shameful aftermath in the epidemic of eruptions in so many of our cities
Difficult to believe that Martin Luther King Jr. is really dead.
His spirit and his influence will live long after him.
Ours is an enigmatic country.
Until his death Dr. King was tirelessly and fearlessly leading the black revolution, championing the cause of the poor, the deprived, the oppressed everywhere; upholding peace. King was always in the front lines, assaulting the bastions of bigotry, of hypocricy, of indifference and entrenched interests. His fight was always uphill.
Today, he has gone, struck down by a white assassin. Now King, no longer the foremost revolutionary leader, hated by many in a racist society and widely feared, has become a national hero, our foremost martyr, and is nationally mourned with an unprecedented scope and intensity. The public information media of the country have given attention to little else but King since last Thursday night. On the day of his funeral the entire nation will be virtually closed down.
To mourn a man to this degree has to mean some degree of respect and sympathy and acceptance not only for the man but for what he
― 2 ―stood for, his ideas and ideals, his goals, his work.
It occurs to me that if the sentiment behind this massive mourning for Dr. King could be quietly converted into community and national resolve to launch a decisive attack upon racism in this country in all of its aspects, and particularly in its ghetto manifestations, the back of the American racial problem could be broken. It has not been heretofore because all approaches to the problem have been characteristically timed, superficial, pecking, palliative and band-aid in nature, never going to the roots. And never with any determination and will, or conviction that the problem could actually be licked, which alone could provide the necessary thrust.