Archive for January 20th, 2014

20
Jan
14

Martin Luther King Jr: Revolutionary

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Alex Haley: Alex Haley’s 1965 Playboy Interview With Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Haley: As one who grew up in the economically comfortable, socially insulated environment of a middle-income home in Atlanta, can you recall when it was that you yourself first became painfully and personally aware of racial prejudice?

King: Very clearly. When I was 14, I had traveled from Atlanta to Dublin, Georgia, with a dear teacher of mine, Mrs. Bradley; she’s dead now. I had participated there in an oratorical contest sponsored by the Negro Elks. It turned out to be a memorable day, for I had succeeded in winning the contest. My subject, I recall, ironically enough, was “The Negro and the Constitution.” Anyway, that night, Mrs. Bradley and I were on a bus returning to Atlanta, and at a small town along the way, some white passengers boarded the bus, and the white driver ordered us to get up and give the whites our seats. We didn’t move quickly enough to suit him, so he began cursing us, calling us “black sons of bitches.” I intended to stay right in that seat, but Mrs. Bradley finally urged me up, saying we had to obey the law. And so we stood up in the aisle for the 90 miles to Atlanta. That night will never leave my memory. It was the angriest I have ever been in my life.

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I shall never forget the grief and bitterness I felt on that terrible September morning when a bomb blew out the lives of those four little, innocent girls sitting in their Sunday-school class in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. I think of how a woman cried out, crunching through broken glass, “My God, we’re not even safe in church!” I think of how that explosion blew the face of Jesus Christ from a stained-glass window. It was symbolic of how sin and evil had blotted out the life of Christ. I can remember thinking that if men were this bestial, was it all worth it? Was there any hope? Was there any way out?

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Haley: Do you still feel this way?

King: No, time has healed the wounds—and buoyed me with the inspiration of another moment which I shall never forget: when I saw with my own eyes over 3,000 young Negro boys and girls, totally unarmed, leave Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church to march to a prayer meeting—ready to pit nothing but the power of their bodies and souls against Bull Connor’s police dogs, clubs, and fire hoses. When they refused Connor’s bellowed order to turn back, he whirled and shouted to his men to turn on the hoses. It was one of the most fantastic events of the Birmingham story that these Negroes, many of them on their knees, stared, unafraid and unmoving, at Connor’s men with the hose nozzles in their hands. Then, slowly the Negroes stood up and advanced, and Connor’s men fell back as though hypnotized, as the Negroes marched on past to hold their prayer meeting. I saw there, I felt there, for the first time, the pride and the power of nonviolence.

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Haley: Your dissatisfaction with the Civil Rights Act reflects that of most other Negro spokesmen. According to recent polls, however, many whites resent this attitude, calling the Negro “ungrateful” and “unrealistic” to press his demands for more.

King: This is a litany to those of us in this field. “What more will the Negro want?” “What will it take to make these demonstrations end?” Well, I would like to reply with another rhetorical question: Why do white people seem to find it so difficult to understand that the Negro is sick and tired of having reluctantly parceled out to him those rights and privileges which all others receive upon birth or entry in America? I never cease to wonder at the amazing presumption of much of white society, assuming that they have the right to bargain with the Negro for his freedom. This continued arrogant ladling out of pieces of the rights of citizenship has begun to generate a fury in the Negro. Even so, he is not pressing for revenge, or for conquest, or to gain spoils, or to enslave, or even to marry the sisters of those who have injured him.

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What the Negro wants—and will not stop until he gets—is absolute and unqualified freedom and equality here in this land of his birth, and not in Africa or in some imaginary state. The Negro no longer will be tolerant of anything less than his due right and heritage. He is pursuing only that which he knows is honorably his. He knows that he is right. Few white people, even today, will face the clear fact that the very future and destiny of this country are tied up in what answer will be given to the Negro. And that answer must be given soon.

More of this powerful and enlightening interview here

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TheObamaDiary: Like a beacon, MLK Day in the middle of all those GOP hate days…

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Martin Luther King Jr. sits for a police mugshot after his arrest for directing a citywide boycott of segregated buses on February 24, 1956.

20
Jan
14

Service

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President Barack Obama and his daughter Sasha join fellow volunteers as they fill burritos at the DC Central Kitchen charity in honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday

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Continue reading ‘Service’

20
Jan
14

Martin Luther King Jr.: Leader, Icon, Man Of The People

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WSBTV: 29 Facts About Martin Luther King Jr.

He was born Jan. 15, 1929, as Michael King Jr. His father was Michael King Sr. But in the early 1930s, after a trip to Germany, he changed his name to Martin Luther, in honor of the theologian who initiated the Protestant Reformation. His son thus became Martin Luther King Jr. His family members would continue to call him Mike or M.L.

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On Sept. 20, 1958, King was in Harlem signing copies of his first book, Stride Toward Freedom. A 42-year-old Georgia native named Izola Ware Curry, walked up to him and asked if he was Martin Luther King Jr., to which he replied yes. “I have been looking for you for five years,” Curry said, before plunging a letter opener into King’s chest. It was never clear why Curry, who was committed to a hospital for the criminally insane, stabbed King. On April 3, 1968, King fully recounted the event in his historic “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” speech, which included the famous passage: “The X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge on my aorta, the main artery, and once that’s punctured you drown in your own blood. That’s the end of you. It came out in the New York Times the next morning that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died.”

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King married Coretta Scott on June 18, 1953. King met Scott during his first year at Boston University. She was a New England Conservatory of Music. Martin Luther King Sr. performed the ceremony in the yard of the Scott home in Perry County, Alabama. After the reception, the new couple spent their honeymoon night in a black funeral home in Marion, Al., because no white hotel would register them. They would have four children — Yolanda, Martin Luther King III, Dexter and Bernice. Coretta Scott King, who carved a significant legacy in her own right, died in 2006. Yolanda King died in 2007.

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In 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize. At the age of 35, he was the youngest person to ever win the Peace Prize. He remains the youngest man ever honored. He donated the $54,000 prize money — about $400,000 today — to the ongoing civil rights movement.

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King is a Grammy winner. He posthumously won in 1971 for Best Spoken Word Album for “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.” The speech from which the album was made was delivered April 30, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City.

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In 1963, following the likes of Charles Lindbergh, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and his spiritual mentor Mahatma Gandhi, King became the first African-American to be named Time magazine’s Man of the Year. Ethiopian leader Haile Selassie was named in 1936. The only other African-American to get the honor was Barack Obama, who was named twice.

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King is the only non-president to have a memorial installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Covering four acres, the memorial opened to the public on Aug. 22, 2011, on the edge of the Tidal Basin, near the Lincoln Memorial.

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In the summer of 1944, at the age of 15, King and a group of Morehouse students traveled to Simsbury, Conn. to work on a tobacco farm. The students were paid for their work and were able to spend the summer in the North and in a non-segregated society, which played a significant role in King’s early development. He would later write: “After that summer in Connecticut, it was a bitter feeling going back to segregation. It was hard to understand why I could ride wherever I pleased on the train from New York to Washington and then had to change to a Jim Crow [racially restricted] car at the nation’s capital in order to continue the trip to Atlanta.” He returned in the summer of 1947.

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In late March of 1968, King — against the recommendations of most of his staff — went to Memphis to support striking sanitation workers. A riot broke out during a rally and King returned to Atlanta. Fearing that he would be associated with violence, King returned to Memphis on April 3. As a thunderstorm raged outside, he delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” speech at Mason Temple. On April 4, at about 6 p.m., while he was getting ready to go to dinner, King stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel and told musician Ben Branch to play his favorite song, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.” A King biographer said those were his last words. At 6:01 p.m., a bullet fired from a flop house across the street, cut King down.

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King was arrested more than 30 times for his civil rights activities, including a particularly rough arrest in Birmingham on April 12, 1963. In response to the ongoing protests, a group of white clergy penned a “Call to Unity,” in the local paper. In it, they called King an outsider and agreed that while social injustices existed, the best way to battle racial segregation was through the courts, not in the streets. King responded with his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which he initially started writing in the margins of the newspaper. The letter famously stated: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly… Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider.”

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According to his biographer Clayborne Carson, King wrote three major books during his life: “Stride toward Freedom,” his first book in 1958, focused on his work in Montgomery. “Why We Can’t Wait,” came out in 1964, followed by “Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?” in 1968. Between that time he also release two books made up of meditations and sermons. In his lifetime, Carson estimates that King produced or played a role in producing some 300,000 documents about his life in the form of sermons, letters, speeches and even federal surveillance. One of the largest collections of his papers is at Morehouse College and will soon be housed in the upcoming Civil and Human Rights Museum. Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center is the home to 80,000 pages of writings, letters and notes that King donated to the school in 1964. Dozens of biographies have been written about King. Many of the FBI’s surveillance records, written and audio records, concerning King are currently held in the National Archives, but are sealed from public access until 2027.

More of this extraordinary human being’s and gifted soul’s life here

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