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King slaying--black people ‘have to get guns’: 1968 | by Washington Area Spark
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King slaying--black people ‘have to get guns’: 1968

Stokely Carmichael speaks on the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the morning after the murder April 5, 1968 at the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at 2208 14th Street NW.

 

From left to right: SNCC Orangeburg, S.C. chair Cleveland Sellers; former national chair Carmichael; and Washington, D.C. chair Lester McKinnie.

 

The press conference had been scheduled on behalf of jailed SNCC chair H. Rap Brown prior to King’s assassination.

 

Some excerpts from Carmichael’s statements (full text follows):

 

“…I think white America made its biggest mistake when she killed Dr. King last night because when she killed Dr. King last night, she killed the one man of our race that this country’s older generations, the militants and the revolutionaries and the masses of black people would still listen to.”

 

“When they got rid of Brother Martin Luther King they had absolutely no reason to do so. He was the one man in our race who was trying to teach our people to have love, compassion and mercy for what white people had done. When white America killed Dr. King last night, she declared war on us. There will be no crying and there will be no funeral.”

 

“The kind of man that killed Dr. King last night made it a whole lot easier for a whole lot of black people today. There no longer needs to be intellectual discussion. Black people know that they have to get guns. White America will live to cry since she killed Dr. King last night. It would have been better if she killed Rap Brown and/or Stokely Carmichael. But when she killed Dr. King she lost it.”

 

“We die every day. We die in Vietnam for the honkies. Why don’t we come home and die in the streets for our people. We die every day. We die cutting and fighting each other inside our own communities. We cut and fight and kill each other off. Let’s kill off the real enemies.”

 

“Black people are not afraid to die. We die all the time. We die in your jails. We die in your ghettos. We die in your rat-infested homes. We die a thousand deaths every day. We’re not afraid to die, because now we’re gonna’ die for our people.”

 

“Dr. King’s death will not affect our leadership. He will affect the black man, for he was my brother, flesh of my flesh and blood of my blood.”

 

“You see the mistake they made when they shot Dr. King was even though Dr. King felt about nonviolence, he was always in the streets ready to lead a demonstration.”

 

“All the other so-called leaders who talk about non-violence are not on the streets with their people. Many people respected Dr. King, even though they didn’t agree with his philosophy, because at least he was in the streets. But now there’s really no one else to respect who talks about non-violence. The people who talk about non-violence are not in the streets.”

 

When asked if he feared for his life: “The Hell with my life! You should fear for yours. I know I’m going to die. I know I’m leaving.”

 

Full text of SNCC press conference after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

 

Lester McKinnie:

 

This press conference will be for only five minutes and as soon as the press conference is over you gentlemen will not leave anything here…your films, your cigarette butts, you take them with you. You waste any water, you will have to clean it up. We will have a few questions…To my right, Cleveland Sellers, director of the Orangeburg, S.C. project SNCC…Right here, immediately, right is Stokely Carmichael, who will start here in Washington, D.C., and to my left, Winkie Hall, who is also a member of the staff of Washington. Carmichael will speak to you five minutes.

 

Carmichael:

 

You may or may not know that this press conference was called before Dr. King’s murder. We called it then to deal with Brother rap Brown because we were very upset. Brother Rap Brown had been in jail for 41 days and Gov. Agnew of Maryland still seems to persist with his nonsensical charges so the Brother can’t get out of jail and we want the Brother out of jail next week when he comes to trial.

 

As for Dr. King’s murder, I think white America made its biggest mistake when she killed Dr. King last night because when she killed Dr. King last night, she killed the one man of our race that this country’s older generations, the militants and the revolutionaries and the masses of black people would still listen to. Even though sometimes he did not agree with them, they would still listen to him.

 

When white America killed Dr. King she opened the eyes of every black man in this country. When white America got rid of Marcus Garvey, she did it and said he was an extremist; he was crazy.

 

When they got rid of Brother Malcolm X, they said he was preaching hate; he deserved what he got.

 

When they got rid of Brother Martin Luther King they had absolutely no reason to do so. He was the one man in our race who was trying to teach our people to have love, compassion and mercy for what white people had done. When white America killed Dr. King last night, she declared war on us. There will be no crying and there will be no funeral.

 

The rebellions that have been occurring around these cities and this country is just light stuff to what is about to happen.

 

We have to retaliate for the deaths of our leaders. The execution for those deaths will not be in the court rooms. They’re going to be in the streets of the United States of America.

 

The kind of man that killed Dr. King last night made it a whole lot easier for a whole lot of black people today.

 

There no longer needs to be intellectual discussion. Black people know that they have to get guns. White America will live to cry since she killed Dr. King last night. It would have been better if she killed Rap Brown and/or Stokely Carmichael. But when she killed Dr. King she lost it.

 

Q.: Mr. Carmichael don’t you believe that the vast majority of Americans feel just as badly as you do about what happened to Dr. King?

 

Carmichael: The honky from honky Lyndon Johnson to honky Bobby Kennedy will not co-opt Dr. Martin Luther King—Dr. Martin Luther King or black people. It was not but four weeks ago when Johnson told King that if he came marching into the District he’d need a voice because he should bring his troubles to him and now tonight he’s trying to make as if Dr. King was his hero. He fooled no one.

 

Bobby Kennedy pulled that trigger just as well as anybody else, because when Dr. King was down south, Bobby Kennedy was Attorney General.

 

Every time a black person got killed Kennedy wouldn’t move because he wanted votes, so he is just as guilty as all of white America who killed Dr. King. And those who feel sorry ought to feel sorry.

 

Q: Mr. Carmichael what do you intend to do? What action do you intend to take relative to Rap Brown?

 

Carmichael: We decided at our central committee meeting that if Maryland persists with this nonsensical charge, even though the reports said Rap did not incite any riot in Cambridge—well, then Gov. Agnew—he ain’t seen nothing if he thinks he’s done something on that Bowie State thing.

 

We will take our troops back into Maryland and all of us veterans from Cambridge, Md. and from Baltimore, Md., and we will turn that state inside out and upside down, and we’ve got Louisiana to get.

 

We’ve got some brothers working in Florida. We’ve got some brothers working in Ohio and we’re going to get Richmond, Va.

 

Q.: Mr. Carmichael, what do you think will happen with the Poor People’s Campaign?

 

Carmichael: I understand that the Southern Christian Leadership Conference will carry it on, and as we said before we will be glad to give them any support. Whatever the Southern Christian Leadership Conference asks for today we will give to them, except our tears. We will give no more tears for any black man killed.

 

Q.: Mr. Carmichael, do you see anybody replacing Dr. King as a nonviolent leader.

Carmichael: NO! That’s why America lost when she shot him down last night.

 

Q.: [Inaudible]

 

Carmichael: We’re waiting for what the Southern Christian Leadership Conference wants to do.

 

Q.: What do you say to black people who have to die to do what you say?

 

Carmichael: That they take as many white people with them as they can. We die every day. We die in Vietnam for the honkies. Why don’t we come home and die in the streets for our people. We die every day. We die cutting and fighting each other inside our own communities. We cut and fight and kill each other off. Let’s kill off the real enemies.

 

Black people are not afraid to die. We die all the time. We die in your jails. We die in your ghettos. We die in your rat-infested homes. We die a thousand deaths every day. We’re not afraid to die, because now we’re gonna’ die for our people.

 

McKinnie: On Monday our chairman, Rap Brown, will be in Richmond, Va. According to the honky federal government. And there will be a car caravan with all directions leading to Richmond, Va. On Monday morning. We’re urging all our black brothers and sisters to come to Richmond.

 

Q.: Mr. Carmichael, what’s the alternative to this kind of retribution in the streets that you are talking about. Is there any way to stop it?

 

Carmichael: I don’t think so, I do not think so. I think white America is incapable of dealing with the problem.

 

Q.: How will Dr. King’s death affect the leadership?

 

Carmichael: Dr. King’s death will not affect our leadership. He will affect the black man, for he was my brother, flesh of my flesh and blood of my blood.

You see the mistake they made when they shot Dr. King was even though Dr. King felt about nonviolence, he was always in the streets ready to lead a demonstration.

 

All the other so-called leaders who talk about non-violence are not on the streets with their people. Many people respected Dr. King, even though they didn’t agree with his philosophy, because at least he was in the streets. But now there’s really no one else to respect who talks about non-violence. The people who talk about non-violence are not in the streets.

 

Q.: Mr. Carmichael, are you declaring war on white America?

 

Carmichael: White America has declared war on black people. She did so when she stole the first black man from Africa. The black man as been…has been patient, has been resisting—and today the final showdown is coming.

 

That is clear. That is crystal clear. And black people are going to have to find ways to survive. The only way to survive is to get some guns. Because that’s the only way white America keeps us in check, because she’s got the guns.

 

Q.: What do you see this ultimately leading to? A blood bath in which nobody wins?

 

Carmichael: First, my name is Mr. Carmichael, and secondly black people will survive the bath. Last question.

 

Q.: What accomplishments or objectives do you visualize from the encounter? What do you think you will accomplish?

 

Carmichael: The black man can’t do nothing in this country. Then we’re going to stand up on our feet and die like men. If that’s our only act of manhood, then Goddammit we’re going to die. We’re tired of living on our stomachs.

 

Q.: One last question: Do you fear for your life?

 

Carmichael: The Hell with my life! You should fear for yours. I know I’m going to die. I know I’m leaving.

 

(Applause)

 

McKinnie: There will be a just fight throughout the United States, so that black brothers and sisters can take off that day as slaves working for the master and think about, realize what the honky is doing to the black people in this country and perhaps then something can be done. That’s the end of the press conference.

 

For more information and related images, see flic.kr/s/aHsk4zGPDw

 

Photo by Randolph Routt. The image is courtesy of the D.C. Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

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Taken on April 5, 1968