Martin Luther King Jr.

 

No one man made more of an impact in the American civil rights era than Martin Luther King Jr. He was a man who was an almost perfect example of what a religious preacher should say and do, constantly preaching from the pulpit what he, himself, and others joining him, were doing. He wasn’t perfect— no man is, but he said what he meant, preached what he said and made an example of a lifestyle every preacher should take note of and also attempt to duplicate.

“Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That’s the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system.”—Martin Luther King Jr.

In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.” —Martin Luther King, speaking about right-to-work laws in 1961

 

Martin Luther King Jr stood in front of 2,000 people at a Mason Temple, on a stormy night, on  April 3, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee where he was supporting the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike but, then he made an impromptu speech and in that speech he would seemingly predict his own death: 31 hours later.
     He had led sit-in protests to desegregate lunch counters; he had been on the many Freedom Rides to end Jim Crow on interstate buses and subsequently led the Montgomery Alabama bus boycott, in December of 1955 that began a protracted campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience to protest segregation that would create attention to his civil rights movement the world over.

     During 1956, a group of Southern senators and congressmen signed the “Southern Manifesto,” vowing resistance to racial integration by all “lawful means.” Resistance heightened in 1957–1958 during the crisis over integration at Little Rock’s Central High School. At the same time, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights led a successful drive for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and continued to press for even stronger legislation. NAACP Youth Council chapters staged sit-ins at whites-only lunch counters, sparking a movement against segregation in public accommodations throughout the South in 1960. Nonviolent direct action increased during the presidency of John F. Kennedy, beginning with the 1961 Freedom Rides.

     Hundreds of demonstrations erupted in cities and towns across the nation. National and international media coverage of the use of fire hoses and attack dogs against child protesters precipitated a crisis in the Kennedy administration, which it could not ignore. The bombings and riots in Birmingham, Alabama, on May 11, 1963, compelled Kennedy to call in federal troops.

     On June 19, 1963, the president sent a comprehensive civil rights bill to Congress. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28 roused public support for the pending bill. And when MLK delivered his “I have a Dream,” speech that evening, it caused thunderous roars of approval at hearing the truth spoken to power, as innumerable numbers of protesters joined the movement. After the president’s assassination on November 22, the fate of Kennedy’s bill was in the hands of his vice president and successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, and the United States Congress and 13 months later, on the White House lawn, LBJ would sign it.

     And now, as MLK stood, about to deliver a speech, he thought of the enactment of the federal civil rights bills, the chance to deliver the I Have a Dream speech in Washington, the showdown in Selma over voting rights, and the outpouring of community support in Memphis for the strike that had brought him there on this stormy night. He shook slightly, as his body was electrified by something akin to the feeling of being overtaken by the holy spirit but then, suddenly, the holy spirit seemed to leave him, as he opened his mouth and shook again, feeling the fear of what he knew was Satan at his best, meaning his worst, but he closed his eyes tightly and the fear disappeared as the spirit returned and he turned towards the audience and spoke. Near the end of his speech he said: “We’ve got some difficult days ahead,”  “But it really doesn’t matter to me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop, and I don’t mind.

     “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life – longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now.

     “I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land.

     “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.

     “And so I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything; I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

     The next day, Dr King stood on the balcony of his hotel room, and was shot in his right cheek. The bullet broke his jaw, went through his spinal cord, and killed him almost instantly.

 

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people
But it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone

Has anybody here seen my old friend John?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people
But it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone

Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people
But it seems the good die young
But I just looked around and he’s gone

Didn’t you love the things they stood for?
Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?
And we’ll be free
One day soon it’s gonna be
One day

Has anybody seen my old friend Bobby?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’
Up over the hill
With Abraham, Martin and John—lyrics by Dion DiMucci