"Non-violence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation."
- Martin Luther King, Jr. 1946
He was born on Tuesday, January 15, 1929 (again, the great ones often seem to be born in the first two months of the year), at the family home in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the first son and second child born to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr., and Alberta Williams King. His paternal grandparents were sharecroppers in Stockbridge, Georgia.
Martin attended Atlanta public schools and advanced to Morehouse College, one of the leading black colleges, at the age of 15. He graduated from Morehouse with a B.A. degree in sociology in 1948, and studied at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania. He was elected president of the senior class and delivered the valedictory address. King won the Pearl Plafker Award for the most outstanding student; and received the J. Lewis Crozer fellowship for graduate study at a university of his choice. He was awarded a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Crozer in 1951.
King took began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University, and studied at Harvard, earning his Ph.D. in 1955. Dr. King married Coretta Scott in 1953. Four children were born of the union.
He had entered the Christian ministry and was ordained in 1948 at age 19. He maintained pastorships at several churches in the succeeding years. In 1959, he resigned and to moved to Atlanta to direct the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. For the next eight years, until his death, he co-pastored with his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church and was President of the S.C.L.C.
After Rosa Parks' started the Montgomery Bus Boycott from 1955 to 1956, Dr. King picked up where she had left off. He was arrested 30 times for his participation in civil rights activities. By 1960, King was a national figure who figured prominently in the Nixon-Kennedy election. Aside from Watergate, Nixon's greatest political mistake may have been failing to intervene in King's release from jail. Kennedy did, and the black vote, fairly evenly split between the two, went solidly to the Democrat. King was named Time's "Man of the Year " for 1963. That was the year he led the famous "March on Washington" and made his "I have a dream" speech. That speech is one of the most quoted in history. Ironically his language about judging "not by the color of their skin" but by the "content of their character" has become the cornerstone of conservative opposition to affirmative action. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was, at 35, the youngest man, the second American, and the third black man to be awarded the Nobel.
Dr. King operated by a concept of somebodiness, which was meant to give every black and poor person the understanding that their lives meant something. It was the purest form of Christian message. It separated itself from politics and compromise. King knew that, in order to succeed, he would have to reach a substantial portion of white America. While he was an international figure, King did not fall into the trap of celebrity. He very easily could have cashed in on his celebrity status in exchange for money and the trappings of fame.
He realized that he lived in a great country and was determined to see America live up to its creed. The laws and traditions of freedom for his people were set in place. The most important work had already been set in motion by the Founding Fathers, in writing a Constitution just waiting for full ratification. Abe Lincoln had already led this country through a devastating Civil War to bring freedom to his people. Dr. King could have gone on an end run, choosing to use liberal political and foreign media outlets to make his points, leaving his people to fight in the trenches. Instead, King took his fight straight into the heart of the Deep South. He went face-to-face with the very people whose hearts and minds had to be changed in order for his dream to be fulfilled. It was an act of courage that ranks with anything in American history. King was in danger all the time, and he knew it. He never flinched.
He advocated the message of Christ, the most beautiful and irresistible Word in human history. He loved his "enemies." The hatred of Southern bigots could be turned into love by Christ's message, he said. The Christian theme played a huge part in the conversion of millions of whites to King's cause. The very white racists who spurned black freedom often were Baptists who went to church on Sundays themselves. They read the Bible, and had to face themselves and their consciences. In their hearts, one by one and by the millions, they had to admit that what was happening to blacks was dead wrong. King did not use the rhetoric of guilt to make his points. He used the language and examples of Christ. It worked.
What made King truly great, and what brought millions of whites to him, was his use of Gandhi's technique of non-violence. By the mid-1960s, radical elements had erupted in black America. The Black Panthers on the West Coast, the Black Muslims on the East Coast, and in between fiery speakers like Stokeley Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver ("Violence is as American as apple pie") were advocating virtual race war or self-imposed segregation. None of these ideas appeared very optimistic. King had faith in the white race, which came from his Christianity.
King was a great man, but a man nevertheless. He regularly had sex with the many women who made themselves available to him during his many travels. Some of King's own men were troubled by this. Overall, it was excused because he faced great pressures and needed an outlet. In later years, some of those aides publicly spoke about King's infidelities, and were excoriated by the black community, who preferred to maintain his image as a saintly one. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy used the same kinds of wiretaps to spy on King that G. Gordon Liddy used to spy on the Democrat National Committee. Kennedy discovered disturbing information, which was that Communists infiltrated King's organization. The information was presented to King, who unlike Nelson Mandela was never a Communist. King's main concerns were not focused on Cold War fears, although he did go out of his way to oppose the war in Vietnam. He was given the opportunity to clear the small Communist influence out of his organization, and did so, although it forced him to remove people he loved and trusted. Any Communist infiltration of the S.C.L.C. was peripheral to the goals of de-segregation, but he understood that if his movement was identified as a Communist front it would be hurt irreparably.
J. Edgar Hoover was no fan of King. He wiretapped him and had damaging information to use as blackmail if he ever felt he needed it. He was appalled at King's adultery, in light of his pious public statements. He said he was a "degenerate tomcat." The Communists in King's inner circle concerned Hoover, but the FBI director also knew that the man was developing a strong national following. He deferred to the politicians on the issue. Their stance was to present the evidence to him and let King handle it his way. That is what happened.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 went to Congress as a result of King's Selma to Montgomery march. In 1968, he traveled to Memphis and made his last speech. Amazingly, it appears now as if King knew his death was imminent. It the speech, called "I've Been to the Mountaintop," he all but predicted his own demise. He old the crowd that he had had a vision of sorts in which his dreams, and those of American blacks, were realized. His "Letter from Birmingham Jail" ranks among the important American documents.
James Earl Ray shot Dr. King standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. Ray was arrested in London two months later and returned to Tennessee to stand trial. In 1969, before coming to trial, he entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to 99 years in the Tennessee State Penitentiary. In death, King became a martyred icon, although his greatness was the kind that would have shone through despite the vagaries of long life. King offered himself to Democrats and liberals, and no doubt leaned politically to the Left. He and Robert Kennedy are often identified for the idealistic statements they made. King was killed only a few days after LBJ announced he would not run for President in 1968. Had King and RFK not been assassinated, they no doubt would have formed a formidable combination, supporting each other during the 1968 campaign. It is highly doubtful that Richard Nixon would have won.
King did not suffer fool's easily. He was a serious man, but fair and driven by genuine Christian ethics. Over the years, as the face of America's social and political structures changed, it is my belief that he would not have maintained a lockstep approach to Democrat causes.
As affirmative action became a major debating point, King likely would have given reserved support for it, but his words on the Mall would have reminded him that while previous injustice gave credence to the principle of it, it also had the potential of becoming an abused concept.
King's public years were all spent working with Democrats, but he and Nixon would probably have formed a working relationship. King would have recognized honesty and decency, and he most likely would have worked closely with anybody, including conservatives, who did the right thing when it came to civil rights. This is a hopeful concept, but the reality is it may have been subjugated by political considerations.
The Democrats would have considered King a prize. He very likely would have been asked to run for President. He would have been a strong contender as early as 1972, but probably later. He might have been initiated by a Senate or gubernatorial run. King was an ambitious man with plenty of ego. He might have publicly demurred, playing the Presidential Hamlet while letting "the people" draft him in a traditionally populist manner, but if he could have been President, my bet is that he would have gone for it.
Once in the arena of electoral politics, King would have found himself playing to the traditional interest groups of the Democrat party. His womanizing would have become public fodder. His legacy may have been great and far-reaching, depending on how he navigated the roiling waters of the game, but King would have been hard-pressed to give credence to sensible conservative positions. Once his power base was firmly established, perhaps then, he would have been in a position to do so. One hopes.
King's legacy is, of course, the establishment of political and social change that has allowed black Americans (and by proxy blacks throughout the world) freedom to pursue lives without the stain of vicious bigotry. However, those who followed Dr. King were not so scrupulous. One finds it hard to believe that if he came back to Earth today and saw what Jesse Jackson is doing, King would approve. Surely he would lose any respect he ever had for Jackson, who was one of his "young Turks." Unfortunately, while others who fought with Dr. King have gone on to important careers, Jackson is the face of "black leadership." The setbacks of American blacks are in part his fault.
Jackson did good work in the years after King's assassination. In 1984 he ran for the Democrat nomination for President, and he provided a voice to the Walter Mondale/ Gary Hart race that needed to be heard. His message of personal responsibility, and advocacy for a life avoiding drugs, was true blue. But in the succeeding years, Reverend Jackson became a charlatan of the first order.
The Montgomery bus boycott showed that economic boycotts hurt the pocketbook, which hurts the most. Jackson learned how to use strong-arm tactics against American corporations to achieve his "goals." If, for instance, the Coca-Cola Company did not have enough black employees to fit Jackson's desires, he would organize strikes of his followers against Coke products, complete with pickets and major media. In return for avoiding such spectacles, companies learned to meet Jackson's proscribed quota's while paying off Jackson.
Jackson's brother murdered a man, but political pull has kept it on the quiet while the brother made millions involving himself in Jackson's scams. Jackson used his muscle to help a friend maintain a nightclub without adhering to fire codes. When the place burned down and people died, the press did not point these facts out. Jackson became
millionaire and involved himself In every quasi-legal race scam of the past 20 years. Jackson's original Christian ethics were perverted by years of alliance with the Democrat party. This led him from nominal patriotism to a place where he has now painted himself in the colors of virtual American traitor, kow-towing to terrorists, despots, Communists and, of course the liberal's favorite murderer and mass jailer, Fidel Castro.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism