Today is Martin Luther King Day, a day where we honor the memory and legacy of MLK. Who was ahead of his time. Today I am going honor him here and talk about him and how he impacted me. I will be using some different events, quotes, and sayings as reference and commenting below. My comments will be italicized… here we go!
King is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.
Even though Martin Luther King was a Christian minister he believe in Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings of using your voice to send a message… and avoiding violence. Which I thought was very wise of him.
He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963.
Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech is one of my favorite speeches of all time.
On October 14, 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance.
MLK recieving the Nobel Peace Prize was much deserved because he wanted to send a message that racial inequality existed then and the African American race was tired (and 56 years after his I Have A Dream speech still exists) and knowing that bothers me.
In his final years, he expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty and the Vietnam War.
I want to say that his war on poverty is still ongoing. Martin Luther King wanted to have a world of peace and find diplomatic solutions until all diplomatic options have been exhausted.
He alienated many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled “Beyond Vietnam”. J. Edgar Hoover considered him a radical and made him an object of the FBI’s COINTELPRO (syllabic abbreviation derived from COunter INTELligence PROgram) FBI agents investigated him for possible communist ties, recorded his extramarital liaisons and reported on them to government officials, and on one occasion mailed King a threatening anonymous letter, which he interpreted as an attempt to make him commit suicide.
His “Beyond Vietnam” speech was about his anti war stance. As a result this speech rubbed some of his allies the wrong way, also the FBI started investigating him as a threat to the country. That is crazy that they would deem a man who is using peaceful protests as a message a threat. I understand that times were different then.
King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971; the holiday was enacted at the federal level by legislation signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor, and a county in Washington was rededicated for him. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.
We have Martin Luther King Day exists because of another Republican president.
In March 1955, Claudette Colvin—a fifteen-year-old black schoolgirl in Montgomery—refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in violation of Jim Crow laws, local laws in the Southern United States that enforced racial segregation. King was on the committee from the Birmingham African-American community that looked into the case; E. D. Nixon and Clifford Durr decided to wait for a better case to pursue because the incident involved a minor.
Nine months later on December 1, 1955, a similar incident occurred when Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus. The two incidents led to the Montgomery bus boycott, which was urged and planned by Nixon and led by King. The boycott lasted for 385 days, and the situation became so tense that King’s house was bombed. King was arrested during this campaign, which concluded with a United States District Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle that ended racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses. King’s role in the bus boycott transformed him into a national figure and the best-known spokesman of the civil rights movement.
I am happy that MLK organized the bus boycott that resulted it the Browder v. Gayle ruling that helped to end segregation on all Montgomery, Ala. buses. King’s role in the bus boycott made him a national name and spokesman of the civil rights movement.
King believed that organized, nonviolent protest against the system of southern segregation known as Jim Crow laws would lead to extensive media coverage of the struggle for black equality and voting rights. Journalistic accounts and televised footage of the daily deprivation and indignities suffered by Southern blacks, and of segregationist violence and harassment of civil rights workers and marchers, produced a wave of sympathetic public opinion that convinced the majority of Americans that the civil rights movement was the most important issue in American politics in the early 1960s.
MLK wanted to use peaceful protests to send a message that was loud and clear that would cause the press to take notice.
King organized and led marches for blacks’ right to vote, desegregation, labor rights, and other basic civil rights. Most of these rights were successfully enacted into the law of the United States with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Martin Luther King’s Views
As a Christian minister, King’s main influence was Jesus Christ and the Christian gospels, which he would almost always quote in his religious meetings, speeches at church, and in public discourses. King’s faith was strongly based in Jesus’ commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself, loving God above all, and loving your enemies, praying for them and blessing them. His nonviolent thought was also based in the injunction to turn the other cheek in the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus’ teaching of putting the sword back into its place (Matthew 26:52). In his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, King urged action consistent with what he describes as Jesus’ “extremist” love, and also quoted numerous other Christian pacifist authors, which was very usual for him. In another sermon, he stated:
Before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the Gospel. This was my first calling and it still remains my greatest commitment.
You know, actually all that I do in civil rights I do because I consider it a part of my ministry.
I have no other ambitions in life but to achieve excellence in the Christian ministry.
I don’t plan to run for any political office. I don’t plan to do anything but remain a preacher.
And what I’m doing in this struggle, along with many others, grows out of my feeling that the preacher must be concerned about the whole man.MLK’s Birmingham Jail Letter
King’s private writings show that he rejected biblical literalism; he described the Bible as “mythological,” doubted that Jesus was born of a virgin and did not believe that the story of Jonah and the whale was true.
Veteran African-American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin was King’s first regular advisor on nonviolence. King was also advised by the white activists Harris Wofford and Glenn Smiley. Rustin and Smiley came from the Christian pacifist tradition, and Wofford and Rustin both studied Gandhi’s teachings. Rustin had applied nonviolence with the Journey of Reconciliation campaign in the 1940s, and Wofford had been promoting Gandhism to Southern blacks since the early 1950s.
King had initially known little about Gandhi and rarely used the term “nonviolence” during his early years of activism in the early 1950s. King initially believed in and practiced self-defense, even obtaining guns in his household as a means of defense against possible attackers. The pacifists guided King by showing him the alternative of nonviolent resistance, arguing that this would be a better means to accomplish his goals of civil rights than self-defense. King then vowed to no longer personally use arms.
In the aftermath of the boycott, King wrote Stride Toward Freedom, which included the chapter Pilgrimage to Nonviolence. King outlined his understanding of nonviolence, which seeks to win an opponent to friendship, rather than to humiliate or defeat him. The chapter draws from an address by Wofford, with Rustin and Stanley Levison also providing guidance and ghostwriting.
King was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and his success with nonviolent activism, and as a theology student, King described Gandhi as being one of the “individuals who greatly reveal the working of the Spirit of God”. King had “for a long time … wanted to take a trip to India.” With assistance from Harris Wofford, the American Friends Service Committee, and other supporters, he was able to fund the journey in April 1959. The trip to India affected King, deepening his understanding of nonviolent resistance and his commitment to America’s struggle for civil rights. In a radio address made during his final evening in India, King reflected, “Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity.”
King’s admiration of Gandhi’s nonviolence did not diminish in later years. He went so far as to hold up his example when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, hailing the “successful precedent” of using nonviolence “in a magnificent way by Mohandas K. Gandhi to challenge the might of the British Empire … He struggled only with the weapons of truth, soul force, non-injury and courage.”
World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable.
All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew.
Nonviolence is a good starting point.
Those of us who believe in this method can be voices of reason, sanity, and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion.
We can very well set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace can be built.Martin Luther King
Another influence for King’s nonviolent method was Henry David Thoreau’s essay On Civil Disobedience and its theme of refusing to cooperate with an evil system. He also was greatly influenced by the works of Protestant theologians Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich, and said that Walter Rauschenbusch’s Christianity and the Social Crisis left an “indelible imprint” on his thinking by giving him a theological grounding for his social concerns.
King was moved by Rauschenbusch’s vision of Christians spreading social unrest in “perpetual but friendly conflict” with the state, simultaneously critiquing it and calling it to act as an instrument of justice. He was apparently unaware of the American tradition of Christian pacifism exemplified by Adin Ballou and William Lloyd Garrison King frequently referred to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as central for his work. King also sometimes used the concept of “agape” (brotherly Christian love). However, after 1960, he ceased employing it in his writings.
Even after renouncing his personal use of guns, King had a complex relationship with the phenomenon of self-defense in the movement. He publicly discouraged it as a widespread practice, but acknowledged that it was sometimes necessary. Throughout his career King was frequently protected by other civil rights activists who carried arms, such as Colonel Stone Johnson, Robert Hayling, and the Deacons for Defense and Justice.
Activism and Involvement with Native Americans
King was an avid supporter of Native American rights. Native Americans were also active supporters of King’s civil rights movement which included the active participation of Native Americans. In fact, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) was patterned after the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund. The National Indian Youth Council (NIYC) was especially supportive in King’s campaigns especially the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968. In King’s book “Why We Can’t Wait” he writes:
Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race.
Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society.
From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy.
We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population.
Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade.
Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or to feel remorse for this shameful episode.
Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it.Martin Luther King, Why We Can’t Wait
King assisted Native American people in south Alabama in the late 1950s. At that time the remaining Creek in Alabama were trying to completely desegregate schools in their area. The South had many egregious racial problems: In this case, light-complexioned Native children were allowed to ride school buses to previously all white schools, while dark-skinned Native children from the same band were barred from riding the same buses. Tribal leaders, upon hearing of King’s desegregation campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, contacted him for assistance. He promptly responded and through his intervention the problem was quickly resolved.
In September 1959, King flew from Los Angeles, California, to Tucson, Arizona. After giving a speech at the University of Arizona on the ideals of using nonviolent methods in creating social change. He put into words his belief that one must not use force in this struggle “but match the violence of his opponents with his suffering.” King then went to Southside Presbyterian, a predominantly Native American church, and was fascinated by their photos.
On the spur of the moment Dr. King wanted to go to an Indian Reservation to meet the people so Reverend Casper Glenn took King to the Papago Indian Reservation. At the reservation King met with all the tribal leaders, and others on the reservation then ate with them. King then visited another Presbyterian church near the reservation, and preached there attracting a Native American crowd.
He later returned to Old Pueblo in March 1962 where he preached again to a Native American congregation, and then went on to give another speech at the University of Arizona. King would continue to attract the attention of Native Americans throughout the civil rights movement. During the 1963 March on Washington there was a sizable Native American contingent, including many from South Dakota, and many from the Navajo nation. Native Americans were also active participants in the Poor People’s Campaign in 1968.
King was a major inspiration along with the civil rights movement which inspired the Native American rights movement of the 1960s and many of its leaders. John Echohawk a member of the Pawnee tribe and the executive director and one of the founders of the Native American Rights Fund stated:
Inspired by Dr. King, who was advancing the civil rights agenda of equality under the laws of this country, we thought that we could also use the laws to advance our Indianship, to live as tribes in our territories governed by our own laws under the principles of tribal sovereignty that had been with us ever since 1831. We believed that we could fight for a policy of self-determination that was consistent with U.S. law and that we could govern our own affairs, define our own ways and continue to survive in this societyJohn Echohawk, Executive Director and Founder of the Native American Rights Fund
As the leader of the SCLC, King maintained a policy of not publicly endorsing a U.S. political party or candidate: “I feel someone must remain in the position of non-alignment, so that he can look objectively at both parties and be the conscience of both—not the servant or master of either.” In a 1958 interview, he expressed his view that neither party was perfect, saying, “I don’t think the Republican party is a party full of the almighty God nor is the Democratic party. They both have weaknesses … And I’m not inextricably bound to either party.” King did praise Democratic Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois as being the “greatest of all senators” because of his fierce advocacy for civil rights causes over the years.
King critiqued both parties’ performance on promoting racial equality:
Actually, the Negro has been betrayed by both the Republican and the Democratic party. The Democrats have betrayed him by capitulating to the whims and caprices of the Southern Dixiecrats.
The Republicans have betrayed him by capitulating to the blatant hypocrisy of reactionary right wing northern Republicans. And this coalition of southern Dixiecrats and right wing reactionary northern Republicans defeats every bill and every move towards liberal legislation in the area of civil rights.Martin Luther King Jr.
Although King never publicly supported a political party or candidate for president, in a letter to a civil rights supporter in October 1956 he said that he had not decided whether he would vote for Adlai Stevenson II or Dwight D. Eisenhower at the 1956 presidential election, but that “In the past I always voted the Democratic ticket.” In his autobiography, King says that in 1960 he privately voted for Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy:
I felt that Kennedy would make the best president. I never came out with an endorsement. My father did, but I never made one.” King adds that he likely would have made an exception to his non-endorsement policy for a second Kennedy term, saying “Had President Kennedy lived, I would probably have endorsed him in 1964.Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1964, King urged his supporters “and all people of goodwill” to vote against Republican Senator Barry Goldwater for president, saying that his election “would be a tragedy, and certainly suicidal almost, for the nation and the world.”
King supported the ideals of democratic socialism, although he was reluctant to speak directly of this support due to the anti-communist sentiment being projected throughout the United States at the time, and the association of socialism with communism. King believed that capitalism could not adequately provide the basic necessities of many American people, particularly the African-American community.
King stated that black Americans, as well as other disadvantaged Americans, should be compensated for historical wrongs. In an interview conducted for Playboy in 1965, he said that granting black Americans only equality could not realistically close the economic gap between them and whites. King said that he did not seek a full restitution of wages lost to slavery, which he believed impossible, but proposed a government compensatory program of $50 billion over ten years to all disadvantaged groups.
He posited that “the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils.” He presented this idea as an application of the common law regarding settlement of unpaid labor, but clarified that he felt that the money should not be spent exclusively on blacks. He stated, “It should benefit the disadvantaged of all races.”
On being awarded the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Margaret Sanger Award on May 5, 1966, King said:
Recently, the press has been filled with reports of sightings of flying saucers. While we need not give credence to these stories, they allow our imagination to speculate on how visitors from outer space would judge us.
I am afraid they would be stupefied at our conduct. They would observe that for death planning we spend billions to create engines and strategies for war. They would also observe that we spend millions to prevent death by disease and other causes.
Finally they would observe that we spend paltry sums for population planning, even though its spontaneous growth is an urgent threat to life on our planet. Our visitors from outer space could be forgiven if they reported home that our planet is inhabited by a race of insane men whose future is bleak and uncertain.
There is no human circumstance more tragic than the persisting existence of a harmful condition for which a remedy is readily available. Family planning, to relate population to world resources, is possible, practical and necessary.
Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess.
What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of the billions who are its victims…Martin Luther King
Actress Nichelle Nichols planned to leave Star Trek in 1967 after its first season, wanting to return to musical theater. She changed her mind after talking to King who was a fan of the show. King explained that her character signified a future of greater racial harmony and cooperation. King told Nichols, “You are our image of where we’re going, you’re 300 years from now, and that means that’s where we are and it takes place now. Keep doing what you’re doing, you are our inspiration.” As Nichols recounted, “Star Trek was one of the only shows that [King] and his wife Coretta would allow their little children to watch. And I thanked him and I told him I was leaving the show. All the smile came off his face. And he said, ‘Don’t you understand for the first time we’re seen as we should be seen. You don’t have a black role. You have an equal role.'”
I honestly could keep going on and on about the incredible icon that is Martin Luther King Jr. Thank you for reading. I will see you soon.