“I Fear I May Have Integrated My People Into a Burning House” – Martin Luther King Jr.

“I Fear I May Have Integrated My People Into a Burning House” – Martin Luther King Jr.


Harry Belafonte speaks on last conversation between him and MLK.


Midway through the Civil Rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. realized that the struggle for integration would ultimately become a struggle for economic rights. I remember the last time we were together, at my home, shortly before he was murdered. He seemed quite agitated and preoccupied, and I asked him what the problem was. “I’ve come upon something that disturbs me deeply,” he said. “We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know that we will win. But I’ve come to believe we’re integrating into a burning house.”

That statement took me aback. It was the last thing I would have expected to hear, considering the nature of our struggle, and I asked him what he meant. “I’m afraid that America may be losing what moral vision she may have had,” he answered. “And I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears at the soul of this nation.”

“I fear, I am integrating my people into a burning house.”

~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Dr. King said the above statement to Harry Belafonte in a conversation they had before his death. Belafonte startled at the statement said to him “What should we do?” Dr. King told him that we “Become the firemen, Let us not stand by and let the house burn.”

On the flip side of that, you have a speech by Malcolm X. It was entitled “The House Negro and the Field Negro.” He spoke about how the House Negro loved the Master more than he loved himself. And that if the Masters house caught on fire, the House Negro would try to put the fire out. On the other hand you have the Field Negro. The Field Negro hated the master and despised his very existence. If the Master’s house were to catch on fire, the Field Negro would pray for a strong wind to come along.

Here you have two black thoughts that are on opposite sides of the spectrum. The feelings are as true today as they were when both these statements were proclaimed in the mid 60’s.

What are your thoughts on this?

How can one fight for something they don’t believe in?


Why would someone fight for something they believe will ultimately destroy the people they are supposedly fighting for?


15 thoughts on ““I Fear I May Have Integrated My People Into a Burning House” – Martin Luther King Jr.

  1. I totally agree with “burning house” statement and of the field negro mindset of praying for winds. If we are to see America through the lens of the bible, then as written it is a true fact that this place is reserved for fire and doomed for destruction and wholly wasted. It is great to know that the shells of high rise buildings will be a playground for the beast of the fields and animals of all sorts.

    MLK Sr., Marcus Garvey and others were men about following God’s way whereas MLK Jr. wanted nothing to do with the commandments of the Most High and wanted to forge his own path. In fact, a bible passage is about MLK Jr. One could read in Jeremiah 23 verses 1 and 2 for context, and then read verses 20 to 36. This is about MLK Jr. the only one of the latter day in which we all know and talk about even 48 years later with streets and statues in his name but not major change for our people of the ghetto. The KKK only moved to corporate, congress and leading positions in every sect of society. We are still targeted and hated. I pray Judah, Issachar, Ephraim, Gad and Naphtali realize who they are before the terrorists hit and then those missiles come as prophesied.


    • Remember who Beat the bible and its Christianity into your ancestors. You keep on praying to the same Jesus they introduced their slaves to hundreds of years ago. smdh


    • I’m pretty sure you aren’t following the context of Malcolm X’s statement. It’s a hypothetical fire, and Malcolm was not referring to the bible. He was Muslim.


  2. Very thought provoking… I have deep respect for both Dr. King and Brother Malcolm – but on this issue I must side with Dr. King. My reason? I am neither a house Negro nor a field Negro – and the white man is not my master. I am not a servant on any man’s plantation.

    Now, I realize that someone reading this might say “Bro, you are indeed on the plantation known as the American political and economic system.” But I whole-heartedly reject this notion. If you see yourself as either a house Negro or field Negro (both of which are subservient roles) on the white man’s plantation, you are cementing yourself in a place of inferiority – a place where someone else is running things and you are at their whim.

    The solution? Take ownership. Brother Malcolm’s analogy fits perfectly if – and only if – we don’t own the house. WE NEED TO OWN THE HOUSE. Let’s go beyond “demanding” fairer laws and become the lawmakers in our cities, states, federal government. Let’s go beyond “demanding” better jobs and start creating them as business owners. These are the ideas preached many times by Brother Malcolm himself, if you recall.

    Brother Malcolm is right in this: it is foolish for someone to rush and put out a fire on a house in which they’re being victimized. But our victimization, economic exploitation, political pimping, etc all stop when we own the house. Let’s take ownership family.

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  3. I think there’s a miscommunication here. I don’t think that Malcom X and MLK are talking about the same thing here. MLK seems to be talking about America as a whole, particularly in regards to class struggle. I don’t know if the “burning house” metaphor was meant to mean that integration was ineffective, but rather that the nation itself was struggling to find a moral identity outside of just racism. I think he was looking at the bigger, post-integration picture of, “okay, once we’re equal owners of this nation, we assume it’s problems as our own.”

    Malcom X seems to be coming from a completely different perspective in saying that America as a whole was not worth saving, because it’s a broken machine based on broken ideology.

    I think MLK was in the right here. I think there’s a strong desire to just say “no fuck those people, they’re the bad guys and they built bad things” but it’s easy to hate. It’s easy to just say, fuck this place, and everything to do with it. It’s much harder to try and find common ground with your enemy, and accept them as your own. It feels like betraying yourself, but it’s not.

    I’m not sure if I’ve been able to express what I’m trying to say perfectly, but I hope that you can sort of get what I’m trying to say.


  4. Stop the lying! King talked about integration in 1967 to a group of college students. He said the moral health of black America depended on integration. He stressed the urgency of it, because schools were not equal. This statement was taken out of context. King was on the third phase, economic rights, of the movement at the time that statement was made. He was disappointed at Black rioting. He had, up to that point, gotten the support of the federal government and other country, With the rioting, he was not sure he could continue getting support, because any violence was against philosophy of the movement. The Civil Rights bill was passed in 1964 and a school integration billed had been passed in 1954. People had been killed…4 young ladies. Houses had been bombed. People had been beaten and cars bombed. Do you think he was going to take the coward position and let the suffering be in vain? I will fight this lie anywhere I see it.


  5. America began as a corporation financed by a group of financers from the continent of Europe, with no regards as to the color of a mans skin. Before the massive of Europeans moved to America, the corporations relied upon Native Americans labor, and in sighted violence amongst the tribes. As the Europeans begin to arrive in the Americas the corporations no longer needed the Native American and sought to marginalize them in favor of European labor, had the Indian remained the larger part of the labor force, then the Caucasian would have been without a job, as it was in the South due to Negro Labor. This burning House of which Dr. King spoke is a house that values labor and production. The Negro being the lest in numbers would have the identical position as the Caucasian provided that his numbers were as great.


  6. I don’t think it’s the master’s house burning. MLK’s fire is of inequality, economic opression. That is the fire we must fight. MLK was acknowledging what I call de-facto slavery. Malcolm X was talking about a litteral fire. He was saying that a man pampered by his master forgets he’s a slave. That a man who does not suffer doesn’t see suffering.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It has become painfully apparent that intergration has not worked in the way it was intended, even though I don’t ascribe to the philosophy of racism I have to be a realist. Over fifty years after the civil rights movement and we are still fighting the same battle economically, and socially. Since the presidency of Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump. It’s no secret at all that our country is completely and totally divided racially


  8. Hmm. White nationalists,neo Nazis,and the alt right,are”good people”,”shit-hole countries”Jeff Sessions,brietbart,etc,etc,etc. We traded self determination,our own economy,and dignity for an integration we’re still fighting for,an identity stolen from us,digested, regurgitated and forced fed to us,and in our ignorance we dare ponder this question when we are beat with the answer on a momentary basis?!?!A better question….Are we all members of the Moteasa tribe?


  9. I understand why he thought that insegregstion separated us as a whole. You have successful black folks moving to white neighborhoods cause they can, when in reality them white folks don’t want you in there schools or communities the same as some black folk don’t want unsuccessful, poor, lower class negros in there community, leaving it behind.


  10. DEEP! I think all the above comments are true. From my point of view, I think the burning house we have been lead into is church.


  11. Pingback: Dear Dr. King: Where We Are Today - Multiracial MediaMultiracial Media | Voice of the Multiracial Community

  12. I believe that what Martin Luther King was saying is that he realized that integration may not have been the best thing for his people after all only because it would negatively impact the less fortunate. It appears that deep down Martin Luther King, Jr felt that intergration was the best option as it would allow his people to have access to what they where denied. To intergrate would be to bring his people in out of the rain. Which leads me to believe that intergration what he referred to as the house. However, he began to realize that it may also come with the price of negatively impacting the less fortunate, which is the fire inside. And when he said that he would put the fire out, it was to protect his people from burning while keeping them in the house. This meant that he saw a problem that he would work to fix. This is different from what Malcomn X meant. Malcomn’s statement refrered to those slaves who would do anything to protect the master’s house simply because it was the master’s house. These are two different statements with two different meanings.


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