Martin Luther King Jr. In Rhode Island

“The appalling silence of the good people is as serious as the vitriolic words of the bad people.” Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke those words to a packed URI gym in 1966. Those words have never been more true.

One year later, and less than one year before his death, King was back delivering an impassioned speech to an overflow crowd at Brown University’s Sayles Hall, addressing the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. (The Providence Journal has a photo gallery of the URI event in Keaney Gym as well as King’s visit to Brown in 1967.)

Fifty years later Brown looked back at that pivotal moment and an even earlier visit to the campus in 1960. One speech from that Pembroke visit includes one devastating sentiment that I had never read before.

It was not the first time Dr. King sparked dialogue at Brown. The civil rights activist delivered two speeches at Brown in November 1960, according to the Pembroke Record, imploring students to combat prejudice and hatred with peace and joy.

“We will wear you down by the Negro’s capacity to suffer,” Dr. King reportedly said in an Alumnae Hall speech.

Capacity to suffer? This needs to stop, and keep in mind: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”


(Bust of MLK, Jr., Rhode Island State House)


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