Transforming token integration into good faith: Martin Luther King talks to Czechoslovak Radio


“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’” The unforgettable words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., delivered on August 28 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. The speech, addressed to a crowd of a quarter of a million, was a defining moment in the American civil rights movement, and its echoes reached as far as communist Eastern Europe. In Czechoslovakia the civil rights movement had already aroused considerable interest, and not just because of the pleasure that the regime took in pointing to America’s shortcomings; Czechoslovak Radio's correspondent in the United States, Karel Kyncl, had already interviewed Dr King in March of that same year. Here is a short extract from the interview, where Dr King has just been outlining the progress made so far in ending segregation:

Karel Kyncl, photo: CTKarel Kyncl, photo: CT “These are meaningful changes, but I must not give the impression that the problem is almost solved. There is still a great deal to do. We've come a long way, but we have a long, long way to go.”

Karel Kyncl: “I have the impression that sometimes the changes that we are speaking about are much more surface changes than real changes.”

“Yes, I think we must recognize that two or three things are developing which can be dangerous if they are not dealt with. One is a trend toward token integration – that is having one or a few Negroes in a situation and calling it integrated, so that South Carolina pats itself on the back because it has one Negro at the University of South Carolina and no violence emerged when he entered. No southern community has really gone all out with a program of desegregation, and this it seems to me is the job ahead, to transform token integration into good faith compliance and integration.

“The other fact is that we still haven’t touched one of the basic problems in our society – and that it that the Negro is still at the bottom of the economic ladder. He is still in a situation where the Negro family earns 50% less than the average white family. Now, as long as there’s economic insecurity there will be many social problems developing, and it seems to me that this is one of the great changes that must take place if we are to have genuine progress.”


The episode featured today was first broadcast on November 27, 2008.

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