Video: Martin Luther King Jr. Tells Angelenos To Go Vote
We're not sure why you'd need another reason to vote. But, if you're stuck at home twiddling your thumbs, this video might inspire you to go out and do your civic duty (for the rest of us who voted or are planning to vote, it's no less inspiring).
The video—an old KTLA broadcast— is of a 1964 speech in which Martin Luther King Jr., while addressing a crowd outside a Boys Market location in L.A., tells his audience to get to the voting booth. "I've come here to urge every person under the sound of my voice to go to the polls on the third of November and vote your convictions," said King.
He adds, "I know you're intelligent people, and I don't need to tell you who you should vote for. I don't have any fear about that. You know who to vote for," to which a smattering of laughter is elicited.
The context here, of course, is that King and most of the audience were likely not voting for the conservative Barry Goldwater in the presidential election. "If you need a little information on my convictions at this point, I must honestly admit to you that I am not going to vote for Mr. Goldwater," King said in a deadpan manner that provoked an even larger outburst of laughter and applause (really, the comedic timing is impeccable here). Lyndon B. Johnson would go on to demolish Goldwater in the election, taking 44 of 50 states.
Partisan politics aside, King goes on to make a rousing argument for our democratic process. "We stand in one of the momentous periods in history. In these days of emotional tension, when the problems of the world are gigantic in extent and chaotic in detail, all men of goodwill must make the right decision," said King. He also cites the Declaration of Independence, saying that all people are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." The event was kicked off by a group of singers who did a glowing rendition of "Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind Stayed On Freedom)."
The location of this gathering is, perhaps, not entirely accidental. As noted by the L.A. Times, Boys Markets at one point had 54 locations throughout the L.A area, and 80 % of them were in predominantly minority neighborhoods. The stores were cognizant of their clientele; the Huntington Park location (situated in an area with a huge Latino population) was selling masa harina in the '80s. Today, we're spoiled by a more diverse selection of goods at our supermarkets. But, back then, Boys Markets was going against the grain by paying attention to the needs of underserved communities. So, in some ways, it was a fitting backdrop for a speech about representation.
The video comes to us via the UCLA Film & Television Archive, which has a treasure trove of old KTLA clips, including this one of George Takei protesting nuclear testing.