Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Sermon: I Am An Untouchable

While on vacation for one month in India back in 1959. Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr., and his wife Corretta went to these little villages in the southernmost part of India. There they encountered what the Indian people called the untouchables. “These were the people who worked hardest, and they were trampled over even by the Indian people themselves”, and that is in which this sermon was derived from.

“I AM AN UNTOUCHABLE” 

I remember when Mrs. King and I were in India, we journeyed down one afternoon to the southernmost part of India, the state of Kerala, the city of Trivandrum. That afternoon I was to speak in one of the schools, what we would call high schools in our country, and it was a school attended by and large by students who were the children of former untouchables …. 

The principal introduced me and then as he came to the conclusion of his introduction, he says, “Young people, I would like to present to you a fellow untouchable from the United States of America.” And for a moment I was a bit shocked and peeved that I would be referred to as an untouchable …. 

I started thinking about the fact: twenty million of my brothers and sisters were still smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in an affluent society. I started thinking about the fact: these twenty million brothers and sisters were still by and large housed in rat-infested, unendurable slums in the big cities of our nation, still attending inadequate schools faced with improper recreational facilities. And I said to myself, “Yes, I am an untouchable, and every Negro in the United States of America is an untouchable.”

From sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, July 4, 1965


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