“I am proud to be maladjusted…” MLK at the Ware Lectures in 1966

During a weekend training called “Jubilee 3” hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Association, I heard about a lecture by Martin Luther King JR delivered to the UUA national meeting in 1966 called “The Ware Lecture.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., Dana McLean Greeley, and Homer Jack, director of the Unitarian Universalist Association Department of Social Concerns, at the 1966 Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly in Hollywood, Florida. Dr. King delivered the Ware Lecture to this annual denominational assembly. Source.

For White UUs like me, we often take some justified pride in how much our religion worked to support and advance the civil rights movement. I didn’t know MLK had come and addressed the church in 1966. So, for me, to see him there with White UU leaders sparkles with energy. Ministers I knew may have been there, or were one degree from there. The full history of the UUs and the sea changes in race in the 1960s is a complex story covered in “The Empowerment Tragedy” by Mark Morrison-Reed.

In MLK’s speech, which has many of the familiar cadences and arguments if you know his other speeches, he does have this gem. What I admire is how he takes the intellectual machinery of the label- maladjusted- and inverts it to be a radical moment of resistance and courage. My sense is that in the psychology and thinking of the time, no one, no “rational” person would want to be “maladjusted.” But of course to be adjusted means to accept the status quo. And the field of psychology has a long history of entanglement with baking White supremacy into “adjusted.”

But I must say to you this evening, my friends, there are some things in our nation and in our world to which I’m proud to be maladjusted. And I call upon you to be maladjusted and all people of good will to be maladjusted to these things until the good society is realized. I never intend to adjust myself to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry .I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few, and leave millions of people perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of prosperity. I must honestly say, however much criticism it brings, that I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.