MLK Jr. & The Death Penalty

Death Penalty Action
4 min readJan 11, 2019


January 15th, next Tuesday, is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. King would have been 90!

The other night I was honored to be on a panel celebrating how Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspires interfaith justice work. My friend and Death Penalty Action supporter Dan Clark of Faith in Public Life gave an excellent presentation in which he outlined seven key themes of King’s work, and then the others of us gave reflections on the theme. I also took a question about MLK Jr & the death penalty close to the end. The full video is worth your time — Dan provided some important reminders for anyone who is about creating the world in which we want to live. My part starts around the 38 minute mark. Click here to watch the video. wanted to share with you several things Dr. King said about the death penalty, and encourage you to help us spread these items over the next week or so on your social media platforms. Please share from Facebook and Twitter.

You might have seen this quote:

That sentence comes from a longer statement, which you can read (and share) here, on Death Penalty Action’s Facebook Page.

Here’s another quote. This one is from King’s April 6, 1958 “Statement Delivered at the Prayer Pilgrimage Protesting the Electrocution of Jeremiah Reeves”:

“But the issue before us now is not the innocence or guilt of Jeremiah Reeves. Even if he were guilty, it is the severity and inequality of the penalty that constitutes the injustice. Full grown white men committing comparable crimes against Negro girls are rare[ly if] ever punished, and are never given the death penalty or even a life sentence. It was the severity of Jeremiah Reeves penalty that aroused the Negro community, not the question of his guilt or innocence.”

It’s powerful stuff. It’s the sort of thing that drives us to action.

Just knowing that early in his career, Martin Luther King Jr. was on a Prayer Pilgrimage to protest an execution is inspiring to all of us who work to stop executions and end capital punishment forever. We know Dr. King led and participated in many direct actions. How many people know he did so specifically on the death penalty?

Really, King was demonstrating the “ways of being” that we all must aspire to if we are to be about Love, and not hate. In his sermon “Loving Your Enemies,” Dr. King preached a philosophy that guided him and the broader movement for civil and human rights. If we are living these words, there can be no room for the vengeance of the death penalty.

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

Again, please visit Death Penalty Action’s Facebook and Twitter pages to “like” and follow us, and to share our MLK Day tributes. Together we can let more people know how to emulate the words of Dr. King, and how to join with us to end executions.

Death Penalty Action thanks YOU for being a part of the movement to stop the death penalty. Whatever you do to help move us forward, it makes a big difference.

Thank you for standing with us in the struggle to end the death penalty. Have an excellent weekend and a happy new year!

— Abe
Death Penalty Action

PS: What do you say? Are you ready to support Death Penalty Action’s work to stop executions? Even if you are not yet ready to make it monthly, click here for DPA’s on-line site to chip in today. And if possible, simply check the box at the bottom of the form to make it weekly, monthly or even quarterly!




Death Penalty Action

Death Penalty Action provides high visibility resources, leadership and support in order to stop executions.