What Martin Luther King Jr. Said About Walls During His 1964 Visit to Berlin

  1. Martin Luther King in Berlin on Sept. 12, 1964.

Berlin was perhaps destined to be a meaningful place for Martin Luther King Jr.; it was the city that, in some ways, gave him his name. And for a man who preached against walls that “divided humanity,” a 1964 visit to the then-three-year-old Berlin Wall, which divided the Soviet-occupied East side of the city and the U.S.-occupied West side of the city, offered a chance to add another layer to that significance.

The visit came about after West Berlin’s Mayor Willy Brandt invited King to participate in a memorial ceremony for President John F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated the year prior, less than six months after his own famousvisit there. King also received an invitation to speak in East Berlin from Heinrich Grüber, who had been a pastor at a church there and a prisoner in a concentration camp for three years during World War II for openly criticizing the Nazi Party.

It would be risky for King, as Grüber had driven out because of his anti-government views, and had been living in West Berlin himself. “I write in the bond of the same faith and hope, knowing your experiences are the same as ours were,” he wrote in a letter to King, according to historian Britta Waldschmidt-Nelson’s account of the visit. “During the time of Hitler, I was often ashamed of being a German, as today I am ashamed of being white,” Grüber wrote. “I am grateful to you, dear brother, and to all who stand with you in this fight for justice, which you are conducting in the spirit of Jesus Christ.”

King decided to take that risk and accepted both invitations.

On Sept. 13, 1964 — two months after the Civil Rights Act was enacted and a month before he won the Nobel Peace Prize — King addressed 20,000 people at a rally at the outdoor stadium Waldbühne in West Berlin. He also visited the spot where, earlier that day, East Berlin guards had shot and wounded aresident who was trying to climb over the wall into West Berlin. King also delivered the same sermon at St. Mary’s Church in East Berlin, which was over its 2,000-person capacity, and then gave another, unscheduled speech to the overflow crowd at Sophia Church, similarly over its 2,000-person capacity.

And, in a city with a division that could not be avoided, he said that, while he was no expert in German politics, he knew about walls.

“It is indeed an honor to be in this city, which stands as a symbol of the divisions of men on the face of the earth,” he told East Berliners. “For here on either side of the wall are God’s children and no man-made barrier can obliterate that fact. Whether it be East or West, men and women search for meaning, hope for fulfillment, yearn for faith in something beyond themselves, and cry desperately for love and community to support them in this pilgrim journey.”

He talked about the similarities shared by the clash between African Americans and white people in the United States and that between communism and democracy in Berlin, which he described as “the hub around which turns the wheel of history.” Just as America is “proving to be the testing ground of races living together in spite of their differences: you are testing the possibility of co-existence for the two ideologies which now compete for world dominance,” he said. Quoting Ephesians, he spoke of his assumption that “wherever reconciliation is taking place, wherever men are ‘breaking down the dividing walls of hostility’ which separate them from their brothers, there Christ continues to perform his ministry of reconciliation.”

The sermon was “particularly moving” to East Berliners, especially “his passages on the readiness of Negroes to suffer and if necessary die for their faith and his emphasis on common struggles, common faith, and common suffering,” according to a telegram rundown of King’s trip that the U.S. Mission in Berlin sent to the Secretary of State’s office, European embassies and the Moscow embassy.

The U.S. State Department nervously monitored the visit, worried about anything that would heat up the Cold War or undermine its agenda to prove democracy was the better system of government.

Julián Castro draws contrast to Trump on 'respect' for Puerto Rico in first 2020 campaign trip

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'I can guarantee you that a lot of people in Washington are underestimating my campaign," Castro told NBC News.

Presidential hopeful Julián Castro spent Monday touring Puerto Rican communities still needing help from Hurricane Maria and berating President Donald Trump for working "less than part-time" and failing the island.

Meant to showcase his stark differences from Trump as well as his understanding of housing issues, Castro's walk and drive through San Juan neighborhoods was his first stop since officially entering the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Speaking at a political summit held by Latino Victory Fund, a political action committee, Castro blasted Trump for considering using money designated for Puerto Rico's recovery to build a wall on the southern border, calling it "completely objectionable" and "immoral" and that it "should never happen."

He hit back at the president's tweet mocking Democratic legislatorsfor coming to Puerto Rico to attend several conferences, suggesting they were celebrating the shutdown.

"I wish the president would spend more time doing the job of being president instead of fighting with people on Twitter and spending so much time golfing and not going to his first meeting until 11 a.m. in the morning," Castro said. "It's amazing to me that we have a president that is not even doing a part-time job, that is putting in less time than the average part-time worker."


After his speech and tour, Castro spoke to NBC News about his prospects in what is certain to be a crowded field, challenging those in Washington who think his campaign is a long shot.

"I can guarantee you that a lot of people in D.C. are underestimating my campaign," Castro said.

"Some people call me charismatic and some people call me boring. Some people say it's not my time yet, and some people say it's past my time, that should have been 2016. Some folks say I'm going to excite the Latino base and some say I'm not Latino enough, but they are missing the point," he said. "The point is that my brother and I have always been able to connect with everyday people of different backgrounds, and they are going to see that in full during this campaign."

Castro’s identical twin is Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, who also serves as his campaign chairman.

Castro jumped into the presidential race on Saturday, announcing his bid from his hometown, San Antonio. He said he would not accept any PAC money; the campaign paid for his Puerto Rico trip.

Puerto Ricans on the island can vote in presidential primaries but not in the general election, since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, not a state. But the millions of Puerto Ricans who reside in the 50 states can vote in U.S. elections.

Castro toured hurricane recovery efforts in the capital, with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito as his guides.

Castro, who was secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, toured an emergency center that had solar power, medical supplies and a water filtration system and was created by residents from the low-income neighborhood of Comunidad Playita, using nonprofit and city funds.

A few homes were still using tarps and a 90-year-old man was trying to repaint his home that had been damaged in the September 2017 hurricane. Massive debris was still clogging a waterway.

Cruz told Castro that many residents have been unable to get FEMA aid because they can't produce titles of homes that have been passed down for generations. In addition, residents said they were only given funds to rebuild homes from the same building materials that did not withstand the hurricane.

Castro said the issue of proving home ownership without a deed or title is one he saw in Native American reservations, too. Sometimes the government lives up to its reputation of being too bureaucratic, but that shouldn't be true in this case, he said.

The RNC criticized Castro's visit. "It is disgusting that Julián Castro is trying to further his own political aspirations off of a natural disaster the administration has spent over a year addressing," stated RNC spokesman Steve Guest.

But during his visit, Castro said that while challenges with disaster recovery didn't happen overnight, strides were made under Obama that were not followed through.

"It looks like we've had a setback here in this administration," he said.


Democratic members of Congress were attending a weekend conference held by Bold PAC, the political action committee that is the fundraising arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

In addition, some members of the Latino Victory Fund, a PAC that financially backs Latino candidates, held its political "summit" on Monday, with an agenda that included speeches from Castro and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Lin-Manuel Miranda is in Puerto Rico for a series of "Hamilton" performances to benefit island art programs. His father, Luis, is board chair of the fund.

When asked about the criticism over the timing of the visit, several attendees said that while there were receptions and "Hamilton" performances — which they paid for with their own money — they spent most of Saturday in briefings with Puerto Rican officials, including Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, learning about where things stand for Puerto Rico's recovery.

"To portray this as like, oh, a party and a holiday, is a very cynical attempt to deflect from a president who wanted to divert disaster relief funds from Puerto Rico into building a wall, which comes from also a very racist, nativist place that's hostile to Latinos," said Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., who serves as chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee.

Takano said he learned on the trip that veterans on the island have been unable to get a form of veterans' health insurance coverage because of the loss of health care professionals from the island.

Castro said he was headed Monday afternoon to Austin, Texas, where state legislators planned to organize a strategy around his campaign.

Then he heads to New Hampshire to participate in Politics and Eggs,a traditional, almost mandatory stop for presidential candidates at which they speak to business leaders and autograph wooden eggs.



MSNBC beats Fox News in key ratings for first time in 17 years

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MSNBC has surpassed Fox News ― President Donald Trump’s favorite cable news network ― in a key TV ratings battle for the first time since 2000.

MSNBC, described by some media commentators as the antithesis to conservative-leaning Fox News, averaged nearly 1.56 million total viewers during the week of Dec. 17-21, NBCUniversal announced Wednesday.

Fox News drew in about 1.54 million viewers and CNN averaged 975,000 viewers during the same time period, NBCUniversal said, citing data compiled by Nielsen Media Research.

MSNBC also reportedly scored the most viewers ages 25 to 54, a highly coveted demographic to advertisers, for the first time since 2001. Fox News came in third, trailing significantly behind CNN.

Fox News has been a tour de force in the cable news industry for nearly two decades, regularly dominating total viewers and key demographic ratings. Last month, the network marked its 29th consecutive month as the most-watched channel on basic cable.
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