Why 'Why We Can't Wait'?

The Common Reading Committee is pleased to announce Why We Can't Wait by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as the Elon common reading for 2015-16.  If you’ve never read an extended text by MLK, this will be a mind-expanding experience.  The book is a timeless classic, the sort of work that everyone should read at least once.  King presents intellectual and historical arguments for how to achieve a more just society while highlighting the civil rights movement and the campaign in Birmingham, Alabama.  The book’s messages resonate strongly with modern events/conditions happening all around us, both in our local community and around the world, creating opportunities for discussions about civil rights, equality, civil disobedience, leadership models, poverty, and many other themes.

Excerpt from Why We Can't Wait:

“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’ But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim…when you see the vast majority of twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky…when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you…when…your wife and mother are never given the respected title ‘Mrs.’…when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’—then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.”