“Martin Luther King Jr.” by Gwendolyn Brooks

Saint James, Synthia_The Dream
Synthia Saint James (American, 1949–), The Dream, 2013. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 34 × 26 in.

A man went forth with gifts.

He was a prose poem.
He was a tragic grace.
He was a warm music.

He tried to heal the vivid volcanoes.
His ashes are
     reading the world.

His Dream still wishes to anoint
     the barricades of faith and of control.

His word still burns the center of the sun
     above the thousands and the
     hundred thousands.

The word was Justice. It was spoken.

So it shall be spoken.
So it shall be done.

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917–2000), winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and many other honors, wrote this poem in 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was originally published that year as a broadside by Broadside Press in Detroit, and it appears in I Am the Darker Brother: An Anthology of Modern Poems by Negro Americans (Macmillan, 1968).

Listen to Brooks’s daughter, Nora Brooks Blakely, read the poem in this WBEZ Chicago broadcast from 2018:

(Update: If the embedded video player is not showing up for you, click here.)