King’s ultimate goal of the civil rights movement: Reconciliation and the Beloved Community
1956, Dr. King reminded the people of Montgomery, Alabama, that integrating the busses was not their primary goal. “The primary reason we protest the loss of our God given human rights is reconciliation,” he said. “The end is the creation of the beloved community.”
In a Palm Sunday sermon on Gandhi in 1959, Dr. King described the beloved community as a “new relationship between the oppressed and the oppressor.” In a 1963 sermon he said the only way to create the beloved community is “while abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist.” In a 1966 magazine article he said the ultimate goal of activism is not gaining political or economic power but the creation of “a truly brotherly society, the creation of the beloved community.”
During those twelve historic years between his 1956 speech in Montgomery until his assassination in 1968, Dr. King referred many times to the “beloved community” but he never stopped long enough to describe the “beloved community” in a way we can point to as the absolute and ultimate definition. In fact, in The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (edited by James M. Washington) the “beloved community” doesn’t even merit a listing in the thirteen page index of that 702 page collection. The best definition I’ve found is in one paragraph on the King Center web page.
“Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict- resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace with justice will prevail over war and military conflict.”