Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Civil Rights Movement


Civil Rights Movement 


March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963, Washington, DC


Civil Rights Movement was a 20th Century extension of 19th Century abolitionism that sought for racial equality in the United States primarily through nonviolent protest.  Following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), civil rights activists attempted to end entrenched segregationist practices. The movement gathered strong northern support when Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ralph Abernathy led a boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama bus system after Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955.  In the early 1960's College Student activists joined in the  nonviolent coordinating committee  boycotts and sit-ins to desegregate many public facilities. These  nonviolent methods of Mohandas K. Gandhi forced the desegregation of department stores, supermarkets, libraries, and movie theaters  The former Confederate States of America remained adamant in its opposition to desegregation measures with southern citizens violently opposing protesters that were attacked and occasionally killed. 



By: Stanley Yavneh Klos

  • First United American Republic: United Colonies of North America: 13 British Colonies United in Congress was founded by 12 colonies on September 5th, 1774 (Georgia joined in 1775)  and governed through a British Colonial Continental Congress.  Peyton Randolph and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief;
  • Second United American Republic: The United States of America: 13 Independent States United in Congress was founded by 12 states on July 2nd, 1776 (New York abstained until July 9th), and governed through the United States Continental CongressJohn Hancock and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Third United American Republic: The United States of America: A Perpetual Union was founded by 13 States on March 1st, 1781, with the enactment of the first U.S. Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, and governed through the United States in Congress Assembled.  Samuel Huntington and George Washington served, respectively, as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief; 
  • Fourth United American Republic: The United States of America: We the People  was formed by 11 states on March 4th, 1789 (North Carolina and Rhode Island joined in November 1789 and May 1790, respectively), with the enactment of the U.S. Constitution of 1787. The fourth and current United States Republic governs through  the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate in Congress Assembled, the U.S. President and Commander-in-Chief, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  George Washington served as the Republic's first President and Commander-in-Chief.

In April of 1963, Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was jailed in Alabama and eight clergyman wrote him this letter:



We the undersigned clergymen are among those who, in January, issued "an appeal for law and order and common sense," in dealing with racial problems in Alabama. We expressed understanding that honest convictions in racial matters could properly be pursued in the courts, but urged that decisions of those courts should in the meantime be peacefully obeyed.


Since that time there had been some evidence of increased forbearance and a willingness to face facts. Responsible citizens have undertaken to work on various problems which cause racial friction and unrest. In Birmingham, recent public events have given indication that we all have opportunity for a new constructive and realistic approach to racial problems.


However, we are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders. We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely.



We agree rather with certain local Negro leadership which has called for honest and open negotiation of racial issues in our area. And we believe this kind of facing of issues can best be accomplished by citizens of our own metropolitan area, white and Negro, meeting with their knowledge and experience of the local situation. All of us need to face that responsibility and find proper channels for its accomplishment.



Just as we formerly pointed out that "hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions," we also point out that such actions as incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not contributed to the resolution of our local problems. We do not believe that these days of new hope are days when extreme measures are justified in Birmingham.

We commend the community as a whole, and the local news media and law enforcement officials in particular, on the calm manner in which these demonstrations have been handled. We urge the public to continue to show restraint should the demonstrations continue, and the law enforcement officials to remain calm and continue to protect our city from violence.

We further strongly urge our own Negro community to withdraw support from these demonstrations, and to unite locally in working peacefully for a better Birmingham. When rights are consistently denied, a cause should be pressed in the courts and in negotiations among local leaders, and not in the streets. We appeal to both our white and Negro citizenry to observe the principles of law and order and common sense.


Bishop C.C.J. Carpenter, D.D., LL.D., Episcopalian Bishop of Alabama
Bishop Joseph A. Durick, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Mobile, Birmingham
Rabbi Milton L. Grafman, Temple Emanu-El, Birmingham, Alabama
Bishop Paul Hardin, Methodist Bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference
Bishop Nolan B. Harmon, Bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the Methodist Church
Rev. George M. Murray, D.D., LL.D, Bishop Coadjutor, Episcopal Diocese of Alabama
Rev. Edward V. Ramage, Moderator, Synod of the Alabama Presbyterian Church in the United States
Rev. Earl Stallings, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama


 For More Information go to 
America's Four United Republics




Martin Luther King, Jr. replied, i
n the form of a letter, on April 16, 1963, to the Clergymen.  This  LETTER FROM BIRMINGHAM JAIL summed up the 20th Century Civil Rights Movement in a most eloquent fashion:



MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN:


While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.



I think I should indicate why I am here In Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against "outsiders coming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here I am here because I have organizational ties here.



But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.



Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. 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. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham's economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants --- for example, to remove the stores humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. 

As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self-purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves : "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?" "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?" We decided to schedule our direct-action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic withdrawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.


Then it occurred to us that Birmingham's mayoralty election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene "Bull" Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run-off we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run-off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct-action program could be delayed no longer.


You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.




The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue. 


One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken .in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the new city administration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor. will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.


We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait"has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."


We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and"colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes"boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you go forever fighting a degenerating sense of"nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. 

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may want to ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?"The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all"


Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I-it" relationship for an "I-thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and awful. Paul Tillich said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression 'of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.


Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.



Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?



Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest. 
I hope you are able to ace the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.


Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.


We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was"illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws. 



I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to"order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.



I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fan in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with an its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
 


In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. 
I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this 'hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.


You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At fist I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best-known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."



I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the "do-nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.


If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble-rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black-nationalist ideologies a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.


Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides--and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.


But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus."Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists. 


I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some---such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle---have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation. 
Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a non segregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.


But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative .critics who can always find. something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of Rio shall lengthen.


When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leader era; an too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.
 



In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.



I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious. irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say:"Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, on Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: "What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?" 
Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? l am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.


There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being"disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators" But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide. and gladiatorial contests.


Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Par from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.



But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it vi lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust. 
Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ecclesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom, They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jai with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.


I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham, ham and all over the nation, because the goal of America k freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation-and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands. 
Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.


It is true that the police have exercised a degree of discipline in handing the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather "nonviolently"in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."
 


I wish you had commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. There will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. There will be the old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: "My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest." There will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience' sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.



Never before have I written so long a letter. I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?



If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.


I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.


Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,


Martin Luther King, Jr.



King's letter ignited the protest efforts of his fellow activists all across the nation, which culminated in a March on Washington, D.C., in 1963 to support civil rights legislation. The march was organized by a coalition of several civil rights organizations that had different approaches and different agendas. The "Big Six" organizers were James Farmer, of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); Martin Luther King, Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); John Lewis, of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); A. Philip Randolph, of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; Roy Wilkins, of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); and Whitney Young, Jr., of the National Urban League.  The stated demands of the march were the passage of meaningful civil rights legislation; the elimination of racial segregation in public schools; protection for demonstrators against police brutality; a major public-works program to provide jobs; the passage of a law prohibiting racial discrimination in public and private hiring; a $2 an hour minimum wage; and self-government for the District of Columbia, which had a black majority.

The March was followed three months later with the very sad assassination of John F. Kennedy.  President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Texan Dixiecrat,  took up the cause with Republican Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen who persuaded enough Senators to stop a filibuster of the bill. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2nd and this victory was followed by the Voting Rights Act in 1965. In the late 1960's militant groups such as the Black Panther Party split off from the civil rights movement resulting in black ghetto riots reaching a crescendo after  King's assassination.  This caused many supporters to withdraw from the movement. In the succeeding decades, Civil Rights leaders gained power through elective office which led to substantive economic and educational gains through affirmative action.


Civil Rights Act  

July 2, 1964




Senators Everett Dirksen and Hubert Humphrey and Speaker of the House John McCormack watch as President Lyndon Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act, July 2, 1964, The White House, Washington, DC

National Archives and Records Administration, Lyndon B. Johnson Library


This act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964, prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal. This document was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.

In a nationally televised address on June 6, 1963, President John F. Kennedy urged the nation to take action toward guaranteeing equal treatment of every American regardless of race. Soon after, Kennedy proposed that Congress consider civil rights legislation that would address voting rights, public accommodations, school desegregation, nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, and more.



Despite Kennedy’s assassination in November of 1963, his proposal culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson just a few hours after House approval on July 2, 1964. The act outlawed segregation in businesses such as theaters, restaurants, and hotels. It banned discriminatory practices in employment and ended segregation in public places such as swimming pools, libraries, and public schools.



Passage of the act was not easy. House opposition bottled up the bill in the House Rules Committee. In the Senate, opponents attempted to talk the bill to death in a filibuster. In early 1964, House supporters overcame the Rules Committee obstacle by threatening to send the bill to the floor without committee approval. The Senate filibuster was overcome through the floor leadership of Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, the considerable support of President Lyndon Johnson, and the efforts of Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois, who convinced Republicans to support the bill.

For additional information about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with related documents, visit the National Archives’ Digital Classroom Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan.


A Republican Account


REPUBLICANS PASSED THE FIRST CIVIL RIGHTS ACT, IN 1866

By: Human Events --- 4/17/2012 03:01 PM

Thanks to Republicans beginning to appreciate the heritage of our Grand Old Party, it has become better known that Republicans in Congress supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act much more than did the Democrats. Indeed, the legislator most responsible for breaking the Democrat filibuster was a Republican senator, Everett Dirksen. 



And now, the question that should be before us: How did that landmark legislation come to be? The answer to that is a source of pride for all Republicans today.

The origin of the 1964 Civil Rights Act can be traced back to the Reconstruction era. That was when the Republican Party enacted the first civil rights act ever, the 1866 Civil Rights Act. Never heard of it? Democrat history professors would rather you didn’t. With that law, Republicans took a big step toward making Abraham Lincoln’s vision for “a new birth of freedom” a reality.

Ominously, the assassination of the Great Emancipator had left the presidency to his Democrat vice president, Andrew Johnson. Senator Lyman Trumbull (R-IL), co-author of the 13th Amendment banning slavery, also wrote the 1866 Civil Rights Act. Republican support was nearly unanimous, while Democrats were unanimously opposed. This would be the first time Congress overrode a presidential veto of a significant bill.

The law conferred U.S. citizenship on all African-Americans, according them “full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property as is enjoyed by white citizens.” Despite Democrat objections, Republicans made sure African-Americans had the right to own property, engage in business, sign contracts and file lawsuits.

Andrew Johnson refused to enforce this law in the southern states, so it had little effect there. However, many racially discriminatory laws in the North were repealed or struck down as a result.

Sixty-four of eighty Democrats in the House of Representatives had voted against the 13th Amendment. And so, Republicans feared that once the southern states were back in the Union, a Democrat majority along with a racist Democrat in the White House might undo all they had accomplished for African-Americans. What if they repealed the new Civil Rights Act?

To keep that law safe from a future Democrat Congress, Republicans enshrined its precepts in Section 1 of the 14th Amendment. Another point of pride for the GOP is that Republicans voted unanimously for the 14th Amendment, while Democrats voted unanimously against it.

Republicans followed this success with several more civil rights acts during the Ulysses Grant administration, including one that effectively outlawed the Ku Klux Klan. The next step was the brainchild of one of our party’s greatest heroes, Senator Charles Sumner. He wrote the 1875 Civil Rights Act, which anticipated the 1964 Civil Rights Act with its ban on racial discrimination in public accommodations. He had been pushing for the bill for years. On his deathbed, he told a former Attorney General: “You must take care of the civil rights bill – my bill, the civil rights bill – don’t let it fail.”

Though the law came a decade too late to have much of an impact in the Democrat-controlled South, many discriminatory practices in northern states were eliminated. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 1883. The majority opinion declaring that 14th Amendment guarantees did not extend to acts by private citizens and businesses was the reason the 1964 Civil Rights Act would have to be based more tenuously on the federal government’s authority to regulate interstate commerce.

Nine decades would pass before the Republican Party was able to enact further civil rights legislation. President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law the 1957 Civil Rights Act, whose author was a former chairman of the Republican National Committee. Enforcement was improved by the GOP’s 1960 Civil Rights Act.

Three years later, Republican congressmen introduced a bill guaranteeing equal access to public accommodations. The Kennedy administration countered with a weaker version of this bill, which then became the basis for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Sadly, it was Democrat defiance of the civil rights movement that postponed so much progress, from 1866 until 1964. To quote my own book, “The more we Republicans know about the history of our party, the more the Democrats will worry about the future of theirs.”

This article is adapted from Back to Basics for the Republican Party, Michael Zak’s history of the GOP from the Republican point of view. See www.grandoldpartisan.com for more information.




A Democratic Account

The Conservative Fantasy History of Civil Rights
By Jonathan Chait
   

Ronald Reagan, Strom Thurmond, and other civil rights heroes. Not pictured: black people.

The civil rights movement, once a controversial left-wing fringe, has grown deeply embedded into the fabric of our national story. This is a salutary development, but a problematic one for conservatives, who are the direct political descendants of (and, in the case of some of the older members of the movement, the exact same people as) the strident opponents of the civil rights movement. It has thus become necessary for conservatives to craft an alternative story, one that absolves their own ideology of any guilt. The right has dutifully set itself to its task, circulating its convoluted version of history, honing it to the point where it can be repeated by any defensive College Republican in his dorm room. Kevin Williamson’s cover story in National Review is the latest version of what is rapidly congealing into conservatism’s revisionist dogma.

The mainstream, and correct, history of the politics of civil rights is as follows. Southern white supremacy operated out of the Democratic Party beginning in the nineteenth century, but the party began attracting northern liberals, including African-Americans, into an ideologically cumbersome coalition. Over time the liberals prevailed, forcing the Democratic Party to support civil rights, and driving conservative (and especially southern) whites out, where they realigned with the Republican Party.

Williamson crafts a tale in which the Republican Party is and always has been the greatest friend the civil rights cause ever had. The Republican takeover of the white South had absolutely nothing to do with civil rights, the revisionist case proclaims, except insofar as white Southerners supported Republicans because they were more pro-civil rights.

One factoid undergirding this bizarre interpretation is that the partisan realignment obviously took a long time to complete — Southerners still frequently voted Democratic into the seventies and eighties. This proves, according to Williamson, that a backlash against civil rights could not have driven southern whites out of the Democratic Party. “They say things move slower in the South — but not that slow,” he insists.

His story completely ignores the explicit revolt by conservative Southerners against the northern liberal civil rights wing, beginning with Strom Thurmond, who formed a third-party campaign in 1948 in protest against Harry Truman’s support for civil rights. Thurmond received 49 percent of the vote in Louisiana, 72 percent in South Carolina, 80 percent in Alabama, and 87 percent in Mississippi. He later, of course, switched to the Republican Party.

Thurmond’s candidacy is instructive. Democratic voting was deeply acculturated among southern whites as a result of the Civil War. When southern whites began to shake loose of it, they began at the presidential level, in protest against the civil rights leanings of the national wing. It took decades for the transformation to filter down, first to Congressional-level representation (Thurmond, who Williamson mentions only in his capacity as a loyal Democrat, finally switched to the GOP in 1964), and ultimately to local-level government. The most fervently white supremacist portions of the South were also the slowest to shed their Confederate-rooted one-party traditions. None of this slowness actually proves Williamson’s contention that the decline of the Democratic Party in the South was unrelated to race.

Williamson concedes, with inadvertently hilarious understatement, that the party “went through a long dry spell on civil-rights progress” — that would be the century that passed between Reconstruction and President Eisenhower’s minimalist response to massive resistance in 1957. But after this wee dry spell, the party resumed and maintained its natural place as civil rights champion. To the extent that Republicans replaced Democrats in the South, Williamson sees their support for civil rights as the cause. (“Republicans did begin to win some southern House seats, and in many cases segregationist Democrats were thrown out by southern voters in favor of civil-rights Republicans.”) As his one data point, Williamson cites the victory of George Bush in Texas over a Democrat who opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He correctly cites Bush’s previous record of moderation on civil rights but neglects to mention that Bush also opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Williamson does feel obliged to mention Barry Goldwater’s opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but defends it as a “principled” opposition to the “extension of federal power.” At the same time, he savages southern Democrats for their opposition to the 14th and 15th Amendments, Reconstruction, anti-lynching laws, and so on. It does not seem to occur to him that many of these opponents also presented their case in exactly the same pro-states' rights, anti-federal power terms that Goldwater employed. Williamson is willing to concede that opponents of civil rights laws have philosophical principles behind them, but only if they are Republican. (Perhaps is the process by which figures like Thurmond and Jesse Helms were cleansed of their racism and became mere ideological opponents of federal intrusion.)

To the extent that the spirit of the all-white, pro-states' rights, rigidly “Constitutionalist” southern Democrats exists at all today, Williamson locates it not in the nearly all-white, pro-states' rights, rigidly “Constitutionalist” southern Republicans, but rather in the current Democratic Party. This is possibly the most mind-boggling claim in Williamson’s essay:

Democrats who argue that the best policies for black Americans are those that are soft on crime and generous with welfare are engaged in much the same sort of cynical racial calculation President Johnson was practicing when he informed skeptical southern governors that his plan for the Great Society was “to have them niggers voting Democratic for the next two hundred years.” Johnson’s crude racism is, happily, largely a relic of the past, but his strategy endures. 

The strategy of crude Democratic racism endures! That this strategy has sucked in more than 90 percent of the black electorate, and is currently being executed at the highest level by Barack Obama (who — at this point, it may be necessary to inform Williamson — is black) suggests a mind-blowing level of false consciousness at work among the African-American community.

Williamson does stumble on to one interesting vein of history, but completely misses its import. In the course of dismissing Goldwater’s 1964 opposition to the Civil Rights Act, he notes that the Republican Party declined to fully follow his lead. The party platform, he notes, called for “full implementation and faithful execution of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” He does not mention that this language came after party conservatives rejected amendments with stronger language endorsing “enforcement” of the civil rights law and describing the protection of the right to vote as a “constitutional responsibility.” (A bit of this story can be found in Ben Wallace-Wells’s fantastic piece on George Romney in the current print issue, and more in Geoffrey Kabaservice’s “Rule and Ruin.”)

It is true that most Republicans in 1964 held vastly more liberal positions on civil rights than Goldwater. This strikes Williamson as proof of the idiosyncratic and isolated quality of Goldwater’s civil rights stance. What it actually shows is that conservatives had not yet gained control of the Republican Party.

But conservative Republicans — those represented politically by Goldwater, and intellectually by William F. Buckley and National Review — did oppose the civil rights movement. Buckley wrote frankly about his endorsement of white supremacy: “the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically.” More often conservatives argued on grounds of states’ rights, or freedom of property, or that civil rights leaders were annoying hypocrites, or that they had undermined respect for the law.

Rick Perlstein surveyed the consistent hostility of contemporary conservatives to the civil rights movement. Ronald Reagan, like many conservatives, attributed urban riots to the breakdown in respect for authority instigated by the civil rights movement’s embrace of civil disobedience (a “great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order, and people started choosing which laws they'd break, thundered Reagan”). Buckley sneered at the double standard of liberal Democrats — in 1965, he complained, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey attended the funeral of a white woman shot by the Klan for riding in a car with a black man, but did not attend the funeral of a white cop shot by a black man. The right seethed with indignation at white northern liberals, decrying the fate of their black allies while ignoring the assaults mounted by blacks against whites.

And of course this sentiment — exactly this sentiment — right now constitutes the major way in which conservatives talk about race. McKay Coppins has a fine story about how conservative media has been reporting since 2009 on an imagined race war, a state of affairs in which blacks routinely assault whites, which is allegedly being covered up by authorities in the government and media. “In Obama's America, the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering,” said Rush Limbaugh in 2009.

We should not equate this particular line of hysteria with Buckley-esque defenses of white supremacy, or even with Goldwater-esque concern for states’ rights. The situation is obviously far more different than it is similar. Conservatives are not attacking measures to stop lynching or defending formal legal segregation. The racial paranoia of a Rush Limbaugh or an Andrew Breitbart – Williamson defends both – is far less violent or dangerous than the white racial paranoia of previous generations. That undeniable progress seems to be more tenable ground for Williamson to mount his defense of conservatism and race. Conservatives ought to just try arguing that, while conservatives were wrong to perceive themselves as victims of overweening government and racial double-standards before the civil rights movement triumphed, they are right to do so now.
They need to try something different, anyway. The pseudo-historical attempt to attach conservatism to the civil rights movement is just silly. Here's another idea: Why not get behind the next civil rights idea (gay marriage) now? It would save future generations of conservative apparatchiks from writing tendentious essays insisting the Republican Party was always for it.

Teaching With Documents


Court Documents Related to Martin Luther King, Jr., and Memphis Sanitation Workers  - Courtesy of the National Archives

Background

The name of Martin Luther King, Jr., is intertwined with the history of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s in the United States. The Montgomery bus boycott, the freedom rides, the Birmingham campaign, the March on Washington, the Selma march, the Chicago campaign, and the Memphis boycott are some of the more noteworthy battlefields where King and his followers--numerous in numbers, humble and great in name-- fought for the equal rights and equal justice that the United States Constitution ensures for all its citizens. King, building on the tradition of civil disobedience and passive resistance earlier expressed by Thoreau, Tolstoy, and Gandhi, waged a war of nonviolent direct action against opposing forces of racism and prejudice that were embodied in the persons of local police, mayors, governors, angry citizens, and night riders of the Ku Klux Klan. The great legal milestones achieved by this movement were the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In the later 1960s, the targets of King's activism were less often the legal and political obstacles to the exercise of civil rights by blacks, and more often the underlying poverty, unemployment, lack of education, and blocked avenues of economic opportunity confronting black Americans. Despite increasing militancy in the movement for black power, King steadfastly adhered to the principles of nonviolence that had been the foundation of his career. Those principles were put to a severe test in his support of a strike by sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. This was King's final campaign before his death.

During a heavy rainstorm in Memphis on February 1, 1968, two black sanitation workers had been crushed to death when the compactor mechanism of the trash truck was accidentally triggered. On the same day in a separate incident also related to the inclement weather, 22 black sewer workers had been sent home without pay while their white supervisors were retained for the day with pay. About two weeks later, on February 12, more than 1,100 of a possible 1,300 black sanitation workers began a strike for job safety, better wages and benefits, and union recognition. Mayor Henry Loeb, unsympathetic to most of the workers' demands, was especially opposed to the union. Black and white civic groups in Memphis tried to resolve the conflict, but the mayor held fast to his position.

As the strike lengthened, support for the strikers within the black community of Memphis grew. Organizations such as COME (Community on the Move for Equality) established food and clothing banks in churches, took up collections for strikers to meet rent and mortgages, and recruited marchers for frequent demonstrations. King's participation in forming a city-wide boycott to support the striking workers was invited by the Reverend James Lawson, pastor of the Centenary Methodist Church in Memphis and an adviser to the strikers. Lawson was a seasoned veteran of the civil rights movement and an experienced trainer of activists in the philosophy and methods of nonviolent resistance.

At that time King was involved in planning with other civil rights workers the Poor People's Campaign for economic opportunity and equality. He was also zigzagging by airplane through the eastern United States meeting speaking engagements and attending important social events as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Nevertheless, King agreed to lend his support to the sanitation workers, spoke at a rally in Memphis March 18, and promised to lead the large march and work stoppage planned for later in the month.

Unfortunately the demonstration on March 28 turned sour when a group of rowdy students at the tail end of the long parade of demonstrators used the signs they carried to break windows of businesses. Looting ensued. The march was halted, the demonstrators dispersed, and King was safely escorted from the scene. About 60 people had been injured, and one young man, a looter, was killed. This episode prompted the city of Memphis to bring a formal complaint in the District Court against King, Hosea Williams, James Bevel, James Orange, Ralph Abernathy, and Bernard Lee, King's associates in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

The outbreak of violence deeply distressed King. In the next few days he and fellow SCLC leaders negotiated with the disagreeing factions in Memphis. When assured of their unity and commitment to nonviolence, King came back for another march, at first scheduled for April 5. In the meantime, U.S. District Court Judge Bailey Brown granted the city of Memphis a temporary restraining order against King and his associates. But the SCLC's planning and training for a peaceful demonstration had intensified. Lawson and Andrew Young, representing the SCLC, met with the judge April 4 and worked out a broad agreement for the march to proceed April 8. The details of the agreement would be put into place the next day, April 5.

This was the message that Young conveyed to King as they were getting ready to go out to dinner. Moments later, on that evening of April 4, 1968, as King stepped out of his motel room to join his colleagues for dinner, he was assassinated.

Other Resources

Books

Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-1963. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.
Branch, Taylor. Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-1965. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998.
Carson, Clayborne, et al., eds. The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader: Documents, Speeches, and Firsthand Accounts from the Black Freedom Struggle, 1954-1990. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.
Fairclough, Adam. Martin Luther King, Jr. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995.
Garrow, David. Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. New York: William Morrow, 1986.
Halberstam, David. The Children. New York: Random House, 1998.
Hampton, Henry, and Steve Fayer. Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s. New York: Bantam Books, 1990.
King, Martin Luther, Jr. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Edited by Clayborne Carson. New York: Warner Books, 1998.
King, Martin Luther, Jr. The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. Edited by James Washington. New York: HarperCollins, 1986.
Williams, Juan. Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.

Videos and Software

Eyes on the Prize: A History of the Civil Rights Movement (12 one-hour videotapes). ABC Laserdisc.
Encarta Africana. Microsoft CD-ROM.

Web Sites

The Web site of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Project at Stanford University (http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/) includes links to biography, articles, chronology, and reference sources about King. This site also has links to key King documents.
Celebrating Black History Month on the Web has a site, organized by the University of Colorado, with a broad range of information at http://www-libraries.colorado.edu/ps/gov/us/blackhistory.htm.
Civil Rights Museum has an Interactive Tour link at http://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/gallery/movement.aspthat gives a survey of civil rights for African Americans from the colonial period to the present.


Dad, why are you a Republican?


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