years ago a famous novelist died. Among his papers was found a list
of suggested plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored
being this one: “A widely separated family inherits a house in which
they have to live together. This is the great new problem of mankind.
We have inherited a large house, a great “world house in which we
have to live together—black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile
and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu - a family unduly
separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never
again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.
However deeply American Negroes are caught in the struggle to be at
last at home in our homeland of the United Sates, we cannot ignore
the larger world house in which we are also dwellers. Equality with
whites will not solve the problems of either whites or Negroes if
it means equality in a world society stricken by poverty and a universe
doomed to extinction by war.
All inhabitants of the globe are now neighbors. This world-wide neighborhood
has been brought into being largely as a result of the modern scientific
and technological revolutions.
Along with [these technological] revolutions, we have also witnessed
a world-wide freedom revolution over the last few decades....
In one sense the civil rights movement in the United States is a special
American phenomenon which must be understood in the light of the American
history and dealt with in terms of the American situation. But on
another and more important level, what is happening in the United
States today is a significant part of a world development.
All over the world like a fever, the great masses of people are determined
to end the exploitation of their races and lands. They are awake and
moving toward their goal like a tidal wave. You can hear them rumbling
in every village street, on the docks, in the houses, among the participants,
in the churches, and at political meetings. For several centuries
the direction of history flowed from the nations and the societies
of western Europe out into the rest of the world in “conquests of
various sorts. That period, the era of colonialism, is at an end.
East is moving West. The earth is being redistributed. Yes, we are
“shifting our basic outlooks.
These developments should not surprise any participant of history.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for
freedom eventually manifests itself....
One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people
fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every
society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities
of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions.
But today our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake,
to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge
of change. The large house in which we live demands that we transform
this world-wide neighborhood into a world-wide brotherhood. Together
we must learn to live as brother or together we will be forced to
perish as fools....
Among the moral imperatives of our time, we are challenged to work
all over the world with unshakable determination to wipe out the last
vestiges of racism ... that hound of hell which dogs the tracks of
Another grave problem that must be solved if we are to live creatively
in our world house is that of poverty on an international scale. Like
a monstrous octopus, it stretches its choking, prehensile tentacles
into lands and villages all over the world. Two-thirds of the peoples
of the world go to bed hungry at night. They are undernourished, ill-housed
and shabbily clad. Many of them have no houses or beds to sleep in.
Their only beds are the sidewalks of the cities and the dusty roads
of the villages. Most of these poverty-stricken children of God have
never seen a physician or a dentist.
There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that
we now have the resources to get rid of it.... Why should there
be hunger and privation in any land, in any city, at any table, when
man has the resources and the scientific know-how to provide all mankind
with the basic necessities of life? ... There is no deficit in human
resources; the deficit is in human will....
The time has come for an all-out war against poverty. The rich nations
must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped,
school the unschooled and feed the unfed. The well-off and the secure
have too often become the indifferent and oblivious to the poverty
and deprivation in their midst. The poor in our countries have been
shut out of our minds, and driven from the mainstream of our societies,
because we have allowed them to become invisible. Ultimately a great
nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great
if it does not have a concern of “the least of these.
The first step in the world-wide war against poverty is passionate
commitment.... The wealthy nations of the world must promptly
initiate a massive, sustained Marshall Plan for Asia, Africa and South
America. If they would allocate just two percent of their gross national
product annually for a period of ten or twenty years for the development
of the underdeveloped nations, mankind would go a long way toward
conquering the ancient enemy, poverty....
... In the final analysis the rich must not ignore the poor because
both rich and poor are tied together. They entered the same mysterious
gateway of human birth, into the same adventure of mortal life.
All men are interdependent. Every nation is an heir of a vast treasure
of ideas and labor to which both the living and the dead of all nations
have contributed.... We are everlasting debtors to known and
unknown men and women....
In a real sense, all life in interrelated. The agony of the poor impoverishes
the rich; the betterment of the poor enriches the rich. We are inevitably
our brother’s keepers because we are our brother’s brother. Whatever
affects one directly affects all indirectly.
A final problem that mankind must solve in order to survive in the
world house that we have inherited is finding an alternative to war
and human destruction.... Therefore I suggest that the philosophy
and strategy of nonviolence become immediately a subject for study
and for serious experimentation in every field of human conflict,
by no means excluding the relations between nations.... We
still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihi
lation This may well be mankind’s last chance to choose between chaos
Source: King Jr,, M.L., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?
(New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1967).