MLK Jr. and the Class Question

MLK Jr. and the Class Question
Cover of La komunista manifesto (an Esperanto translation of the Communist Manifesto) published by the Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda (SAT) in 1923. Photo courtesy of The Commons

As an undergraduate student, at his father’s house in Atlanta, a young inquisitive Martin Luther King Jr. read Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto and therefore Marx’s critique of capitalist social inequality. This reading informed King’s thought and behavior for the rest of his life.

This fact eventually brought King to Memphis, Tenn., in 1965 to support the class struggle of city garbage workers on strike for higher wages and safer working conditions.

Echoing a Marxist sentiment, King said, per the poor paid workers, “But what does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he can’t afford a burger or a cup of coffee?”

King further stated in an earlier class observation in 1963, “God never intended for one group of people to have…inordinate wealth while others live in abject and deadening poverty.”

Before his assassination, King planned his most significant march to address capitalist class exploitation—the 1968 Poor People’s March.

And lest we forget, the March on Washington was for jobs and freedom. Yes, at that march, King’s “dream” was encased in the class question.


  • Malik Simba

    Dr. Malik Simba is professor emeritus of history and Africana studies at Fresno State and has taught at the University of Minnesota, Binghamton University and Clarion University. His book, Black Marxism and American Constitutionalism: From the Colonial Background through the Ascendancy of Barack Obama and the Dilemma of Black Lives Matter, is used widely. Dr. Simba serves on the board of, the Google of the Africana experience.

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Homer Gee Greene Jr
Homer Gee Greene Jr
1 year ago

Really nice a short essay on MLK’s worldview based on the critical analysis of Karl Marx’s on the social and economic relationships between capitalist and people of color.

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