The Martin Luther King Not Seen on TV

Reply Sat 13 Jan, 2018 04:04 pm

In early 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders planned a Poor People's Campaign in Washington, D.C., for the spring. The group planned to demand that President Lyndon Johnson and Congress help the poor get jobs, health care and decent homes.
Campaign organizers intended the campaign to be a peaceful gathering of poor people from communities across the nation. They would march through the capital and visit various federal agencies in hopes of getting Congress to pass substantial anti-poverty legislation. They planned to stay until some action was taken.
But weeks before the march was to take place, King was assassinated. His widow, Coretta, and a cadre of black ministers, including the Revs. Ralph Abernathy and Jesse Jackson, decided they would pick up where King had left off and that the Poor People's March on Washington would go forward.
Thousands of people participated in the march on May 12, 1968.
"We come with an appeal to open the doors of America to the almost 50 million Americans who have not been given a fair share of America's wealth and opportunity, and we will stay until we get it," Abernathy said as he led the way for demonstrators.

A week later, protestors erected a settlement of tents and shacks on the National Mall where they camped out for six weeks. Jackson became mayor of the encampment, which was called Resurrection City. Conditions were miserable.
"You know, what I remember I suppose the most about it was that we set the tents up at the foot of Lincoln's memorial," he says. "It seemed to rain without ceasing and became muddy and people were hurt, and we were still traumatized by Dr. King's assassination. Then while in the Resurrection City, Robert Kennedy was killed."
The demonstrators were discouraged and disheartened, says Jackson, so he tried to give them hope through words.
"I am. Somebody," he told protestors. "I am. God's child. I may not have a job, but I am somebody."
Jackson says that refrain "has resonated across the world in this last 40 years, but it grew out of the context of trying to give people a sense of somebody-ness who had nothing, but still had their person and their souls."
Although as many as 50,000 people ended up marching, the Poor People's Campaign was considered a failure by people who had grown weary of protesting and did not see immediate changes. But not by the Rev. Joseph Lowery.
"The nation became conscious of the fact that it has an expanding poor population," says Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with King. "It's one thing to have the right to check into the Hiltons and the Marriotts, it's another thing to have the means to check out."
For many of America's poor, there hasn't been much progress in the 40 years since the Poor People's Campaign. In 1968, 25 million people — nearly 13 percent of the population — were living below the poverty level, according to the Census Bureau. In 2006, 36 million people or more than 12 percent of the population, were living below the poverty level.
Poverty and Faith
Although not much has changed for many poor Americans, the role of religion in the black community has changed greatly since the days when King and others wielded such power.
Today, the civil rights movement and life in the black community converge at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where the Rev. Arthur Price Jr. is now pastor. Four girls were killed at the church in 1963 when a bomb exploded during Sunday service. Price worries that all these years later, too few parents are bringing their children to church.
"I believe if we can get people engaged on the front end and teach them a good foundation, that some of the social ills that we have in our society will be less and less," he says. "We don't live in a box. We are in the culture. We are around the culture, and sometimes we have to preach against the culture."
Price teaches men how to become better fathers and helps first-time drug offenders turn their lives around. But he says the church's role in the black community has changed. Back in the 1960s, pastors dominated their neighborhoods — churches were the place where African-Americans shared their entire lives.
"If I can sum it up ... I think we don't have a faith like we used to as a people. We've just, we've become so fragmented," says the Rev. Anthony Johnson, grandson of Alabama civil rights leader N.H. Smith Jr.
A Charge from the Pulpit
Over the past few years, megachurches have become more popular in black communities, just as they have in white communities. These megachurches have amassed influence and wealth partly because of their sheer number of parishioners. Some have created satellite churches and broadcast their gospel on television.
Many who were part of the civil rights movement and their heirs lament the trend.
"There still needs to be a voice crying out in the wilderness," Price says. "There still needs to be a charge from the pulpit to ignite people, to prick the consciousness of our brothers and sisters and to keep the mirror up in America's face, to let them know that they do have a responsibility to the least of these."

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Reply Sat 13 Jan, 2018 06:22 pm

Here is one of the more rousing accounts of King, LBJ and Selma I have ever read. I like to paste this stuff here, because links eventually vanish, but the site would not let me.
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Reply Sun 14 Jan, 2018 04:46 pm
MLK, Jr, timeline
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Reply Mon 15 Jan, 2018 06:39 am
Well, it's time for the Walt Disney MLK Day Parades. Wink wink. But it's better to keep his name alive in the expectation that some will be curious enough to read up on the real person behind the holiday than to just cynically shrug it off.
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Reply Mon 15 Jan, 2018 07:09 am
Check this out, Edgar!


Bernie spoke at Ebenezer Baptist . I’d never seen it.
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Reply Mon 15 Jan, 2018 07:12 am
I remember Dys reading me the riot act when I simplified a King quote and knew next to nothing about King’s democratic socialism and views of capitalism.
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Reply Mon 15 Jan, 2018 07:27 am


A speech, in part:

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence

By Rev. Martin Luther King
4 April 1967

Speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church in New York City

[Please put links to this speech on your respective web sites and if possible, place the text itself there. This is the least well known of Dr. King's speeches among the masses, and it needs to be read by all]


I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join with you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together: Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The recent statement of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: "A time comes when silence is betrayal." That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.

The truth of these words is beyond doubt but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover when the issues at hand seem as perplexed as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty; but we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation's history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history. Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don't mix, they say. Aren't you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.

In the light of such tragic misunderstandings, I deem it of signal importance to try to state clearly, and I trust concisely, why I believe that the path from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church -- the church in Montgomery, Alabama, where I began my pastorate -- leads clearly to this sanctuary tonight.

I come to this platform tonight to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation. This speech is not addressed to Hanoi or to the National Liberation Front. It is not addressed to China or to Russia.

Nor is it an attempt to overlook the ambiguity of the total situation and the need for a collective solution to the tragedy of Vietnam. Neither is it an attempt to make North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front paragons of virtue, nor to overlook the role they can play in a successful resolution of the problem. While they both may have justifiable reason to be suspicious of the good faith of the United States, life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.

Tonight, however, I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the NLF, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents.

The Importance of Vietnam

Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps the more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would never live on the same block in Detroit. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years -- especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

For those who ask the question, "Aren't you a civil rights leader?" and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957 when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: "To save the soul of America." We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:
Reply Mon 15 Jan, 2018 09:04 am
This speech is one of the basics that determined my take on the war. I had been considering reenlisting in the Army to do my part "defending" our liberty, as I stepped off my Navy ship for good. But news reports in some newspapers and this bit of writing put me firmly in the Peace Movement, where I still happen to be.
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Reply Mon 15 Jan, 2018 04:39 pm
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