April 02, 2010 | Posted by Danielle Belton
Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Beyond Vietnam" was a powerful and angry speech that raged against the war. At the time, civil rights leaders publicly condemned him for it.
PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley's new documentary, MLK: A Call to Conscience explores King's speech. The film is the second episode of Tavis Smiley Reports. Smiley spoke with both scholars and friends of King, including Cornel West, Vincent Harding and Susannah Heschel.
By the time King made the "Beyond Vietnam" speech, Smiley tells host Neal Conan, "he had fallen off already the list of most-admired Americans as tallied by Gallup every year." Smiley continues, "it was the most controversial speech he ever gave. It was the speech he labored over the most."
After King delivered the speech, Smiley reports, "168 major newspapers the next day denounced him." Not only that, but then-President Lyndon Johnson disinvited King to the White House. "It basically ruins their relationship," says Smiley. "This was a huge, huge speech," he continues, "that got Martin King in more trouble than anything he had ever seen or done."