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Black Leadership Analysis

This is an unofficial Spiral Dynamics blog. It is not endorsed by D. Beck PhD.

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blackleaderanalysis

This site will use Ego Development Theory to analysis various leaders and problems in the black community. Ego Development Theory is a value meme classification first invented by Clare W. Graves and expanded by Natasha Todorovic, Christopher Cowan, and Don Edward Beck.

Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Resolution

The first attempt to resolve the bus boycott happened on December 7, 1955. City leaders met with members of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). MIA listed their demands as:

  1. Guarantee of courteous treatment
  2. Passenger seated on a first come first serve basis
  3. Employment of black bus drivers on routes that had mostly black people

The city leaders explained they could not meet the demands because the city can’t change state segregation law. Also, the bus drivers were unionized, and they could not fire the current drivers without a backlash. One of the city leaders admitted that they could not let black people feel that they won something over whites. The meeting adjourns with no resolution.

MIA decided to go around the city government. A private company out of Minnesota, National City Lines owned the Montgomery bus lines. That company owned and operated buses in several cities that were segregated and unsegregated. King wrote a letter explaining MIA’s position. The company responds by dispatching a vice-president and two other officials to Montgomery.

A second meeting commenced on December 12, 1955. MIA realized that demanding black drivers to be hired was not feasible. The third demand was changed to accepting applications from black bus drivers. When a vacancy arose, the company should hire a black driver. The next meeting had three representatives from the bus company, a mayoral delegation that included two black people, the mayor, and leaders from MIA.

Once the meeting started the vice president of the bus company sided with the mayor in favor of segregation. The stance of the VP surprised King because he seemed sympathetic to MIA’s cause during phone conversations. The mayor proposes that a small delegation be created to arrive at an agreeable compromise. The proposed delegation would have ten members, seven from the mayoral committee that included two black people and three members of MIA. Of course, MIA would not agree to this. The group settled on ten members of the mayoral committee including the two black people invited by the mayor and six MIA members.

The mayoral committee purposed that the buses have the first two rows of the bus reserved for whites and the last two for blacks. There would be a sign denoting both sections. Neither race could have more than eight seats reserved at any time. The middle seats would be temporarily occupied until the a passenger of another race comes in and needs the seat.

MIA, of course, rejected this proposal. Having racial signs on the bus would be humiliating. It was a step backward. One of the attendees proposed they reconvene after Christmas. The mayor committee recommends MIA call off the boycott as a sign of goodwill. Neither resolution was passed.

They reconvened on December 19, 1955, but meeting ended in a giant argument. The mayoral committee accused King of being obstructionist. The mayoral committee tried to pit the leaders from Montgomery against King who was from Atlanta. Ralph Abernathy stood in defense of King.

On January 22, 1956, The Montgomery Adviser was set to publish an article that said a settlement had been reached. The supposed multi-racial committee agreed that the bus would have a white section reserved in the front, black section reserved in the back, and an all black rush hour bus. The article was set to run the following day.

King had to get to work quickly to get the word out that the story was fake. He also had to find out if some MIA members or other black preachers had undermined the group. All MIA ministers had to tell their congregations that the boycott was still on and the article was fake. King set out Saturday night to tell the black folks that frequent bars and night clubs. The article was set to release Monday. All of black Montgomery continued the boycott next week. All the ministers in Montgomery denied cutting a deal with the mayor.

Now that a resolution could not be agreed to outside of court, the only thing left was a federal lawsuit. The case went to the district court on May 11, 1956. In a 2 -1 decision the court declared that bus segregation was unconstitutional. The city official appealed to the Supreme Court.

The city filed a motion calling the carpool created as an alternative to the bus was illegal. A grand jury indicted 100 people including Dr. King for conspiracy to sabotage a business. There was a separate case to determine if the carpool was unlawful.

So November 12, 1956, is special for two reasons. The first is the city was granted the injunction to outlaw carpool. The second was Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation is unconstitutional.

Even after the court ended segregation, the white citizens of Montgomery did not stop. The Ku Klux Klan rode that night in the black section of town. However, this time the black people were not afraid. No one shut themselves inside; they continued as if no one is there. The KKK left in disillusion.

The city of Montgomery had one month to comply with the Supreme Court decision. King begins by giving classes on how to interact on the new integrated bus. He encourages his congregational to act in love even after the victory. Never rub the fact you can sit anywhere in the face of white people. Try to sit in empty rows and avoid sitting by whites. No white church or organization was willing to educate their members on how to interact on the new integrated bus.

The White Citizen Council threatened violence if buses were integrated. On December 20, 1956, the integration order hit Montgomery. Eight days later a reign of terror ensued. White supremacists fired on city buses. Two black women were assaulted leaving the bus. The house and church of King’s best friend and adviser Ralph Abernathy were bombed. The city council contemplated dissolving the bus system.

Seven white men were arrested for a bombing conspiracy on January 31, 1957. After the arrests, city leaders determined that the bus system was now safe. A sense of normalcy was restored in the city, and the MIA was allowed to embark on new projects.

King ended the book with a list of projects to further integrate Montgomery. The plans include the city parks, minor league baseball team, and schools. He is optimistic and believes the city is changing. However, those that want justice have to keep persevering.

Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Conflict

The book began in January 1954. Dr. King was in Boston working on his Ph.D. thesis. He was newly married to a woman he met in Boston from Marion, AL, Coretta Scott. They were looking to move back to help in the fight against segregation. Many churches from all over the country were vying to make King their pastor. However, an offer from Dexter Ave Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL could not be refused.

Montgomery was known as the cradle of the Confederacy. Birmingham hosted the inauguration of Jefferson Davis and the served as the Confederacy’s first capital. A system of segregation that kept them out of critical industries stifled the economic development of black people in the town. The one exception was an integrated Army base. Montgomery was also home to an HBCU, Alabama State University.

Various human rights organizations planted the first seeds of integration. One of the integrationist groups was the Alabama Council on Human Relations. The council was interracial and focused on educating whites on the plight of blacks. There was also the NAACP which worked to bring court cases to make integration illegal. Many saw the goals of these two groups as opposed. However, King saw that the law could constrain individuals until education could enlighten them. Therefore he united these and other Alabama civil rights groups into the Citizens Coordinating Committee.

The first rumblings of a bus boycott came with the Fall 1955 arrest of Claudette Colvin. The teenager was not only arrested for refusing to give up her seat but was assaulted by the police while being arrested. The boycott never materialized because of disorganization in the various civil rights organizations. Black people also feared retaliation for speaking out. It became apparent that King had to build public consensus.

December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving her seat up to a white person on a city bus. The Women’s Political Council which Rosa Park led was the first to call for a boycott. Leaders from the various organizations agreed to take action. Fliers are printed up saying the boycott will start Monday, December 5, 1955. The newly formed Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) with Dr. King as the president will lead the boycott.

Alternatives must be created to get around town to ensure the maximum amount of participation. King convince everyone the 18 black-owned taxicab companies to commit their 250 cars to the struggle. Cabs would charge the same fee as the bus to get people back and forth to work. Others were even more improvisational, using donkeys and horse carts for transportation.

Once law enforcement got wind of the taxi coalition, work began to stop them. There was a law saying that a taxi had to charge at least $0.45 for the fare. The police commissioner decided on December 9, 1955, to start enforcing it. Now that the $0.10 boycott rate was made illegal a “Plan B” needed to be formed.

So over the weekend, MIA elicits 300 hundred volunteers to participate in a carpool system. Ninety dispatch locations were created all over the city and ready by the next Monday. Most of the stations were at local churches, and church vans were also used in the effort.

These drivers needed financial support. MIA embarked on an international press campaign that included speaking engagements in various cities. Donations come in from as far away as Tokyo. In the year-long boycott, they received over $250,000.

The carpool made the bus boycott possible. Many black Montgomerians could not walk to work due to age or disability. So those that wanted to stop the boycott understood they had to stop the carpool. Police began harassing drivers and riders. Police arrested passengers for hitchhiking while waiting at stops. Drivers were ticketed and arrested for minor traffic violations. King himself was arrested driving a few MIA members back to their homes after the meeting. The charge was going 30 mph in a 25 mph zone. Many carpool drivers had their insurance companies threaten to suspend coverage. Dr. King had to get his insurance from Lloyd’s of London.

Their perseverance in carpooling did not stop the Montgomery government from sabotaging the movement. A local club owner allowed the MIA to use his club during off hours as an office. The city threatened to pull his liquor license in retaliation. Harassment of the town forced MIA to change locations many times.

There were also efforts to turn King’s followers against him. Pamphlets and leaflets were created that portrayed King as attempting to get rich and famous on the backs of good Montgomerians. Those that live in Montgomery will pay the future cost of this outside agitator. Those that wrote the pamphlets labeled themselves concerned negro citizens, but most people knew they were Klansmen.

The most egregious attempt to intimidate King was the bombing of his home on January 30, 1956. Dr. King was not home at the time; his family was there alone. He rushes from the MIA meeting to confirm they are ok. Coretta’s father comes from Marion upon hearing the news. He offers to take his daughter and grandchildren back to Marion where they would be safe. Coretta refuses to leave Dr. King’s side showing her level of commitment.

Once Montgomery heard news of the bombing of Dr. King’s house bombing a mob of angry boycott supporters assembled in front of his house. Many of the supporters were armed and would not disperse when police told them to. King took the bullhorn told the crowd that his home was now safe and there was no need to stay. He reminded them of how important it was for the movement to remain non-violent. The crowd soon dispersed.

Members of the white citizens’ council dug up a law that made it illegal to conspire to sabotage a business. Montgomery courts gathered a grand jury and indicted 100 people including Dr. King for conspiracy to undermine a business. King turns himself into authorities February 22.

The defense team attempted to make the case that the boycott was to stop injustice not put the bus company out of business. Many Montgomerians came to give testimony of the abuse they received at the hands of bus drivers. The judge was unmoved and sentences King to 386 days of hard labor and a $500 fine. The sentence would have been worse, but the judge had leniency because King stopped a riot the night of the house bombing.

In the end, King will be victorious. However, it is important to remember what he and his supporters had to endure. It also serves as a lesson in what the system will do to maintain itself. Ultimately, this is the level of conflict one needs to survive to make a positive social change.

All Labor Has Dignity

This book chronicles King’s speeches and interactions with Unions between 1957 to 1968.

The chief obstacles to America fulfilling its promise are war, poverty, and racism. These three evils are intertwined and once person deeply understand them the lines between them are blurred. The forces that create, perpetuate, and defend the institutions are also aligned.

The three evils manifest as an ultra-right coalition: big business, military, and reactionaries in both parties. It is essential for students of Dr. King to remember he had opposition from both parties. This ultra-right coalition was formed because they used similar goals and tactics. The same way police are used to intimidate civil rights protesters the military threatens people in Vietnam. These entities work together to garner public support and maintain control.

More informally the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizen’s council weld power in opposition to the progressive agenda. He made clear both organizations were two sides of the same coin. The White Citizen’s Council would not use violence or racial slurs, but they would use legal means to undermine the civil rights movement. The White Citizens Council was more socially acceptable, so they could expose racist rhetoric in public that would aid the Ku Klux Klan in recruitment. Both organizations promoted regression and inequality in America.

To combat the ultra-right an ultra-left coalition needed to be formed from the civil rights, academia, the church, and labor movement. These movements are natural allies. Most black people are members of the working class. So labor rights, wage floors, old age medical care are vital to living freely in America. Labor will benefit from desegregation because there will not be a more vulnerable class of workers willing to break picket lines. Traditionally, black people would scab segregated unions. If labor allows people of all races to join the unions will be stronger.

Unions were some of the early financial supporters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Unions having access to well-employed people could crowdfund easily and quickly. The capital was put to good use in the Birmingham Campaign and the Montgomery Bus Boycott to name a few areas.

Fortunately, union funds did not stop King from speaking on racism and segregation in the unions. King implored the United Autoworkers Union to desegregate its local affiliates during an anniversary dinner he was asked to speak. His critique of discrimination in unions extended to the America Federation of Unions the largest and most powerful at the time.

King also praised many unions that had a history of integration and fighting for Civil Rights outsized the Union. The United Package Worker Union of America (UPWA) was an example of an integrated activist union. The UPWA even ran integrated schools in Appalachia. The CIO was not only integrated; it united workers from all trades. His affiliation with these radical unions led to much adversity for King.

Throughout King’s career, he was smeared as a Communist for his support of unions that were started by Communists. This book explains how many unions purged themselves off communists by the 1950s. Also, labor organizer Stanley Levison was considered to be a communist. The author that compiled the speeches in this book explains Levison cut ties with the Communist Party in 1957 before he met King. So King has no contact with Communists or the Communist Party.

All social ills were not merely due to policy. Automation ballooned unemployment by taking away lower skilled jobs. Blacks disproportionately occupied these jobs. White workers also felt this contraction in labor but not to the same extent as blacks. King proposed a universal basic income (UBI) to ease the effects of high unemployment. The government would peg UBI to median income, not the lowest income level.

UBI is the centerpiece of a comprehensive committed anti-poverty program. Previous anti-poverty programs targeted a single aspect of poverty such as housing or food. These programs were embarked on by groups that were not fully committed to seeing the program through. The federal government is the only entity big enough to address these issues in a holistic and sustained manner.

The Vietnam War in addition to being fundamentally immoral hindered the building of the welfare state. It diverted most of the countries resources into subverting Vietnam’s national will. Because the population wanted to support the troops and stand in solidarity against the enemy, the social justice movement was hampered. Many Americans felt a united front needed to be maintained and any internal strife should be postponed until peacetime.

The last speech in the book is “To The Mountain Top” given the day before King died. He explains how the Civil Rights Movement is just part of a larger world movement for justice. Starting with Plato, he gives a summary or Western history bending toward justice and landing right here with us at the Mason Temple in Memphis. He realized he would not make it there with us. However, we are to soldier on and continue his work.

Where Do We Go From Here? : America Now and Later

What is the Political Plan?

America in the late 1960s was a land of much racial progress and stagnation. On the one hand, you had Brown V Board making school segregation illegal. On the other, you only had 90% of schools in segregation over a decade later. Most white people cheered the end of racial segregation in interstate travel. Those same white people would object to their child marrying a black person. Voting rights act of 1965 ushered in new hope and opportunity. At the same time the lack of hope an opportunity lead to the Watts Riots the same year.

The Watts Riots were especially perplexing. The Voting Rights Act 1965 which most people thought was the goal of the Civil Rights Movement had just been passed. It was perplexing to most whites why there was so much unrest in the black community at this point.

King assures us the riot was not the result of the Civil Rights Movement. It was the culmination of years of frustration and stagnation that people in the urban ghettos faced. The establishment of a serious, long-term, comprehensive anti-poverty program will prevent further unrest. This program would need to be nationwide.

The Civil Rights Movement had reached a turning point. The first phase ended with the signage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. The first phase was implemented to win black people a basic level of dignity. Now the Civil Rights Act must focus on bringing forth equality. By equality, King meant an improvement of the material condition of blacks relative to whites.

By moving from decency to equality, King knew he would lose some white allies many of whom wanted to make the racial wealth gap less visible not close it. Many of these white allies thought blacks were asking for too much or a true anti-poverty program would bankrupt the country. King uses data from the Office of Economic Opportunity to show the country can comfortably afford a comprehensive anti-poverty program. Also, increasing the standard of living and wages of black Americans helps the entire country. As a practical example, King shows the salaries of whites in the South is depressed because black labor is kept at poverty wages.

The future of the Civil Rights Movement will be a coalition of poor people from all races, ethnicities, religions, and regions of the country. The fate of all ethnic groups in the country are intertwined and unless we act as a unit nothing will be accomplished. As a unit, a comprehensive anti-poverty plan can be pushed forward in Congress.

Politics to advance humanity did not stop on Americas shores. King advocated for foreign aid and opposed military intervention. America and Western Europe were bastions of revolution. Now those same powers oppose independence in the third world. The West must take their mantle as leaders in freedom.

What is the plan to build brotherhood?

King understood policy alone will not solve the race problem. Blacks and Whites had to see their fate as intertwined. Both races had to embark on a re-education program on race to build understanding. Black people had already begun this process, yet whites lag behind. It is a symbol of their sense of superiority that they feel they have so little to learn.

The book gives a brief history of how the concept of race was born as a justification for slavery. Institutions of religion, education, and government were co-opted into the white supremacist framework. Slavery made America split in its intentions. On the one hand, it was home to liberty and democracy. One the other it perpetuated a racial hierarchy for economic gain.

America has always had a considerable contention of people against racial equality. The Civil Rights Movement did not awaken or embolden the racist that were already here. Racism was endemic in both conservatives and liberals.

The conservative racism expresses itself in outright violence toward black people in the form of lynchings and church bombings. It also expresses itself in obstruction of laws meant to aid black people.

Liberal racism is expressed by those that are more interested in keeping the peace than expanding equality. Racist liberals hide their obstruction in wanting to avoid undue tension. King reminds us that all tension is not bad. Some tension is needed to expose the evils of segregation and inequality.

Many critics of the Civil Rights Movement argued the advancement of black people brought on a white backlash. King was clear in rebutting that racism has always existed in America. Securing the rights of black people is the best way to combat racism. King gives examples of how the failure to enforce anti-segregation law has embolden racists and their organizations.

What can white allies do?

The Civil Rights Movement was not only meant to change America; it was intended to alter black America. For too long, black people lost faith in themselves as agents of change in their own life. Many accepted that they were inferior to whites. The Civil Rights Movement was also about letting black people see they can change the government and build a sense of self-pride.

A few years before the book was published the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) an organization that aided King in many protests, kicked all the whites out of their organization. The reason was whites often took leadership roles because they had more education and experience. Blacks could never develop leadership skill if this continued so the leaders of SNCC kicked the white people out.

King vehemently disagreed with removing whites from Civil Rights organizations wholesale. It would be a travesty to all the whites that had died in the movement up to this point. However, he did agree that blacks need to hold leadership positions in their organizations. If not blacks will view the movement as whites coming to save them. King implored whites to leave leadership in these organizations to black people. Black people need the psychological boost as well as the practical leadership skills. These leadership skills could be applied to business or politics in the future.

Strength to Love

Strength to Love is a collection of sermons written when pastoring at churches in Montgomery and Atlanta. There are also three sermons written while King was in jail. The sermons that were written in jail will be highlighted with a star (*).

A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart

To be a good Christian one must marry idealism and realism. Realism characterized by a “tough-mind” is defined as incisive thinking, realistic appraisal, and decisive judgement. Idealism characterized by a “soft-heart” is the ability to empathize and love in the form of agape. Tough-mindedness alone leads a person to be cold and detached. Soft-heartedness alone drives someone to be gullible and timid.

There is a lengthy discussion on the false conflict between religion and science. King asserts they are not in conflict, but complementary. They use different methods that lead to different types of truth. So it is acceptable for Christians to offer historical and philosophical critique of the Bible. Both types of truth are necessary to navigate the current world.

He also talks about how science has been perverted to lead people to believe black people are genetically inferior. King asserts disparity in wealth and education are the result of policy current and historical injustice.

Nonviolent resistance is the synthesis of idealism and realism. In that, it realizes blacks will not be able to defeat the most powerful military the world has ever known but still needs to fight for its dignity.

Transformed Nonconformist

Christians are charged with mimicking the life of Jesus which was a life of non-conformity. Christians should be moved by their convictions and a fear of social reprisal. The current state of the world will not allow a true Christian to live a “well-adjusted” life.

Many in the field of psychology say mental and emotional health is reflected by conformity to society. With conformity comes a large social circle, wealth, and comfortable life. Jumboism, is how Dr. King defines the zeitgeist of the age, the need to grow in numbers and be part of something large. Modern day churches have a large quantity of low-quality worshipers.

On Being a Good Neighbor

It takes more than following a creed to be Christian. One must actively manifest their faith in the world. One must show the same universal altruism the Samaritan showed. On the road to Damascus. The Samaritan did not worry in the injured Israelite saw him negatively. He just helped even though doing so would mean he could be ambushed and robbed himself.

Interestingly King says even in the Bible G-d didn’t always show this love. In the Old Testament G-d commands Israel not to kill other Israelites, but slaughter Philistines. Ethnic level morality was not only in Israel. It was in the way Greeks took care of aristocracy and not slaves. The current manifestation of ethnic level morality was American racism.

The following quote shows how Dr. King viewed the relationship between laws and morality:

“Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless…But acknowledging this, we must admit that the ultimate solution to the race problem lies in the willingness of men to obey the unenforceable. ”

*Love in Action*

This sermon was based around the Bible verse “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” He explains how those that perpetuate racism and discrimination are not fully aware of the hurt they cause. Then entreats Christians to offer limitless forgiveness.

King offers the example of Socrates’ execution as an example of respectable men not understanding what they did. The men that executed Socrates did not understand his concept of G-d. Socrates’s G-d had philosophical depth and went beyond traditional concepts and superstitions. King also gives the example of the same ills befalling those that persecuted Christians in the Roman Empire.

There is another discussion on what we today call racial realism, the idea that science supports the notion of black inferiority. He specifically mentions the work of Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, and Melville J. Herskovits in debunking the claim.

War has outlived its usefulness in Dr. King’s estimation. In the past, it was needed as a negative good to ensure dictators did not take over the world. Now with the invention of nuclear weapons, war could kill all life on earth. The world needs new methods to solve conflict.

*Loving Your Enemies*

Those outside the Christian religion see ‘loving your enemies” as impractical and/or weak. These people do not understand the concept of forgiveness. Forgiveness means an adverse action no longer affects the future relationship. It is no longer block in future interaction. The goal in Christian conflict is not humiliating to the enemy, but to it fosters love and understanding.

Love is often misunderstood. There are three types of love. Eros which is a yearning for union with G-d. Phillia which is reciprocal love between men, friendship. Lastly, there is Agape which is a love for all humanity as your brother. Often outsiders consider “love your neighbor” as “like your neighbor.” Like is a sentimental affection. It is impossible to like someone that actively works to harm you.

Lastly loving your enemies is not only beneficial for the other person. It is advantageous to the person doing the forgiving. Loving your enemies helps to build a relationship with G-d. Hate is cancerous and erodes vital unity and the agape love naturally inside the individual.

Knock at Midnight

In this speech, King urges the congregation to action by explaining society is at a midnight hour. He tells of conformity and comfort are the principle values of most people. It is the churches job to refocus these people. The loss of morality has lead to a mentality of “survival of the slickest.”

The church in recent years has become pro-war. The membership has swollen, but the quality of worship has not. The black church is burning with emotionalism and has turned worship into entertainment. The white church is freezing with classism in direct opposition to the teaching of Christ. The church should not be the master or slave of government, but its critic and conscious.

At the end of the speech, he announces the Supreme Court has deemed bus segregation unlawful.

The Man Who Was a Fool

King presents the Bible story of a rich man Jesus called a fool. He didn’t do this just because the man was rich. The man was called a fool because he mismanaged his wealth through lack of charity. The man saw himself as an island unconnected to those around him. His worldly possessions held more importance than the well-being of his brothers. By not taking his duty to his fellow man seriously, he acted like he was the creator not a creation. There is not a single event in a day that is not dependent on the community working together.

King makes a case against materialism and humanism. Materialism, the idea we are matter randomly organized, can easily be disproven by the complexity and beauty of the universe. Humanism, the idea humans are the greatest creation and destine for good, can be easily disproven by our modern world making us less happy. We have tons of labor-saving devices, but work harder for less reward. Also, science gave us the atomic bomb, proving science is as good as those the weld it.

This speech was updated in 1967. The 1967 version is far more popular.

The Death of Evil on the Seashore

This speech was given on the second anniversary of the Brown v. Board of education victory. He models history as chiefly a struggle between good and evil. The concept of an eternal struggle between good and evil is echoed not only in Christianity, but in Hinduism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Platonism. King retells the story of Moses parting the Red Sea and its closing when the Egyptian tried to enter. The evil Egyptians died on the Seashore.

Good is inevitably going to win the fight. The evidence is not only Supreme Court decisions like Brown v Board. It can also be found in the successful struggle for independence in Africa in Asia.

He ends with giving the congregation reassurance that they are on the right side of history and to continue to struggle with oppressors using love.

Three Dimensions of a Complete Life

Already summarized in Measure of a Man

*Shattered Dreams*

St. Paul’s life is used in this speech as an analogy for having a great dream differed. St. Paul planned to travel to Spain to spread the gospel but is abducted by Romans and executed in a Roman jail. St. Paul never realized his greatest dreams.

Not achieving goals can make people react in a few different ways. One can become bitter and cynical. The cynicism will cause the most harm to the person that holds it in the form of physical ailments. One can sink into fatalism, the belief there is no choice in life, and give up. The last option is to accept the bad while holding on to hope.

King believes there is an ultimate destiny for man, but man gets a level of freedom within that ultimate destiny. Due to G-d granting a degree of freedom to man he allows evil to exist on earth.

Gandhi was mentioned in this work as a historical figure that was not allowed to see a free unified India. Other historical figure mentioned were Woodrow Wilson, Handel, and Abraham Lincoln

What is Man?

Summarized in Measure of a Man

How Should a Christian View Communism

All Christian pastors must talk about Communism. Communism is a growing influence spreading over Asia, Africa, and Europe. As a philosophy, it rivals Christianity and is its biggest competition.

Communism is opposed to Christianity. In Communism, the state is central to reality, with the goal being the end of class. There are no moral absolutes in Communism so any method including violence and propaganda can be used to gain power. Because there are no moral absolutes Communism leads to authoritarian governments in practice. All personal liberty is suspended because the most important social entity is the state, not the individual.

Even though King is against Communism, he agrees with many of their criticisms of modern society. The church has lost the prophetic voice, that inspired Roman nobles to give up their life of luxury for persecution. Many Christians are more focused on heavenly freedom than human freedom. The otherworldliness has prevented Christian criticism of racism, poverty, and classism. Therefore Marx’s critique of religion as the “opiate of the people” sticks.

King’s goal is to establish The Kingdom of G-d, which is neither an individual or collective enterprise. The Kingdom is the synthesis of both universal truths.

Our God is Able

G-d is the center of the Christian universe. Many want to make man the center and science the new religion. Nothing man made can compare to the wonder of the natural universe. Science has led to the atomic bomb which puts us all at risk. Man can not save himself without divine intervention.

In Christian philosophy, evil is real, and G-d will conquer it. There is real-world evidence of history bending toward good. The ultimate defeat of fascism in WWII and the end of colonialism in the global south show that good typically prevails. Segregation will soon be added to the list.

He then goes into a personal story from his own life. The first 24 year of it was lived in ease due to his parent’s stability and wealth. When he began leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott his life changed radically. Death threats were constant. One night after a particularly frightening call he could not sleep. He went to the kitchen made coffee and paced the floor. He prayed to G-d for strength. Suddenly, King feels G-d’s presence. That event gave him enough strength to soldier on.

Later that month his house was bombed. No one was hurt, but King was able to take the news in stride. He knew he would be protected by a higher power.

Antidotes to Fear

Fear is ever growing in modern society. Some fear is good and keeps us out of trouble. Other fears force us to innovate. However, the fast pace of contemporary society can lead to constant fear.

King prescribes the antidotes to fear: introspection, courage, love, faith. Introspection will help in deciphering rational from irrational fear. Soldiering on in the face of fear is courage. Love is defined as mutual trust and goodwill. King gives the example of mutual nuclear disarmament. Faith is building an inner resilience to adversity based on spirituality.

Love was especially important to King. He explains as black people grow in political influence whites will fear retaliation. Blacks must reassure white people their fear is unfounded. Blacks want to forgive and forget and move forward in love.

To end the speech he takes time to remember an elderly woman named Mother Pollard. She was an activist in the Montgomery campaign remembered for the quote, “My feet’s is tired but my soul is rested”. After a meeting in which King was putting on a strong front to hide his inner fear and depression, Mother Pollard pulled him aside. She asked if something was wrong, he assured her he was fine. She realized he was covering and reminded him he had the full support from the team, but more importantly, he had the support of G-d. King was forever grateful.

The Answer to a Perplexing Question

The perplexing question is: “How can evil be cast out of the world?”

There are two views debunked by King. The first is the humanistic view that man can cast out evil with his ability. Modern society assumes the advances in science and technology will inevitably lead to a better future. The humanistic ideal is proven false by the current state of the world. The other model is G-d will solve our problems when he is ready, and man has no responsibility. This ideal leads Christians to become otherworldly. It also reduces G-d to a “cosmic bellhop” serving your every wish. The correct view is man acting as a tool of G-d will bring about change.

There is a brief aside in which King explains why he does not believe in infant damnation. Once one rejects the view that man has no capacity for good, one can accept that an infant is not tarnished with sin at birth. Therefore if a child dies, he will not go to hell. It is essential to understand King’s position on this issue to explain why he is pro-choice.

Paul’s Letter to American Christians

King creates a mock epistle in this essay. In it, Paul writes a letter to American Christians illustrating many points. “Paul” chides us in advancing in science but regressing in morality. Our church is divided into many denominations and by race. All divisions in the church are counterproductive. Also, America has high-income inequality with the top 0.1% owning 40% of the wealth.

Pilgrimage to Nonviolence

This essay is an explanation on how King grew past his fundamentalist upbringing. Seminary introduced him to liberal theology. This version of theology stressed reason and criticized the Bible.

There was one issue King had trouble grasping, the idea that man was inherently good. There were too many examples of men rationalizing bad behavior for King not to see reason as tarnished by sin.

Even though liberal theology had flaws, King could not go back to fundamentalism or neo-orthodoxy. It was too pessimistic on the nature of man and led followers to otherworldliness.

His disillusion with the nature of man led him to study social gospel, which is the study of how religion is used to enact change in society. In this study, Mohandas Gandhi was a giant. His idea of satyagaha, love force, was the Christian doctrine of “turn the other cheek.” Now he had a real-world example of non-violence that worked.

Non-violence was not only crucial for American race relations but international conflict. There was a time when war was needed to stop dictators from spreading. However, now with the advent of atomic weapons, war was just too dangerous. Nonviolence had to be the main conflict resolution method in the future.

The Measure of a Man

The book The Measure of a Man is summary of lectures given at the at the 1958 Conference of Christian Education. Those that attended the event loved what Dr. King had to say so much that they asked him to create the book.

King starts by fundamentally defining what a man is. Man, in his analysis, is both physical and spiritual. Individuals must cultivate both natures. Deplores those that see man as merely an animal. In this camp he puts, naturalist, materialist, and Marxist. The other camp he considers fundamentally Greek. Plato believed the soul must liberate itself from the body to fully develop. Jesus said man could not live on bread alone. The biblical quote supports the idea that the physical (bread) is needed in conjunction with other elements.

An explanation of how man is inherently a sinner follows. Man having a dual nature can choose good or evil. He knows what is right and chooses to do evil in spite of this knowledge. Because man chooses evil, he loses some of the image of G-d. To redeem himself, he needs the grace of G-d.

Many theologians lose site of man being a sinner because they see man as naturally progressing to a higher state. Depth psychology tries to confuse the issue as a conflict between phobia and desire. Ultimately, there is little real evidence of either view. Man chooses to do wrong.

King also has an interesting take on Western Civilization. He sees Western Civilization as rooted in egalitarianism and humanitarianism. The current manifestations of colonialism, segregation, and oppression is a diversion from these values. The mission of King is to return Western Civilization to its values.

The factors of a great life are length, breadth, and height. By length, King means not a life with a long duration, but one in which a person reaches a multitude of goals. For a life of longevity one must have self-love and strive to perfect a craft. King’s definition of breadth is a concern for fellow man and actively moving to improve the lot of others. Height is the connection to G-d and spiritual development. If one of these elements are missing our life is headed for folly.

This book shows King wasn’t a Democrat, Republican, Marxist, or Capitalist, but a Christian. Christianity was the root of all Dr. King’s philosophy and action. Many internet commentaries attempt to downplay King’s Christianity or deny he was Christian. A small sample of his writing would prove otherwise.

Why We Can’t Wait: History

The book details the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement (CRM) of 1963. Birmingham was considered the most segregated city in the United States of America. Nine years after Brown v. Board only nine percent of the black children went to integrated schools. Steady growth in the economy did not affect black life as blacks had two times the unemployment of whites. To add to unemployment troubles automation and discrimination in the construction industry added to unemployment.

The CRM had gotten off to an auspicious start with the 1958 Montgomery Bus Boycott. The 1962 campaign in Albany, GA was far less successful in spite of the fact five percent of the black population was willing to be jailed for freedom. Many were looking on the CRM as a flash in the pan that was soon to fizzle out.

In 1962 virulent racist and segregationist Eugene “Bull” Connor was the City Commissioner of public safety. He saw his job as maintaining the status quo and quelling protests. George Wallace, governor of Alabama, supported Connor’s stance. To aid these men in their mission in “state’s rights,” the Alabama legislature created a law that said no foreign corporation could operate in Alabama. Therefore the NAACP, SCLC, SNCC could not have a formal presence in Alabama.

To combat the political climate, Fred Shuttlesworth created the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACHR). The ACHR had many successful boycotts. The white citizens’ mob responded by bombing his house. However, with perseverance, the ACHR was able to become an affiliate with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference headed by Dr. King.

The SCLC began planning to aid Birmingham in the summer of 1962. The now-famous Gatson Motel was the site of the initial planning meetings. The SCLC would lead a protest to integrate shopping centers in Birmingham. The national convention of the SCLC would be held in Birmingham to show solidarity. Also, a boycott would follow in the spring of 1963 culminating Easter weekend. The first mobilization of protests would happen the first week of March. Protests would slowly build to a massive demonstration April 14.

The 1962 SCLC convention had a profound effect. Once business owners realized the best Civil Rights leaders in the nation would all be in Birmingham they needed to pacify the ACHR. The ACHR and local business owners held negotiations to reduce the chance of mass protests during or immediately after the SCLC convention. The business owners remove Jim Crow signs while the SCLC was in town. However, once they left the owners reneged on the deal and put the signs back up. The momentary capitulation of the business owners shows how powerful the SCLC was in the early 1960’s.

Unfortunately, the political climate would not allow for the first execution of this plan. A mayoral election was early March that included Bull Connor. If a protest happened during the mayoral election, Connor would be emboldened, and the white citizens in Birmingham would gravitate toward him. The mayoral election went into a run-off, so the protests were postponed even later. Bull Connor officially lost April 3 protest began two weeks later.

Connor and his supporters had not given up. They filed an injunction to leave the current City Commissioners in office until 1965. Another injunction was filed to stop all protesting by the ACHR until their right to protest had been litigated in court. The injunction to stop all protest guaranteed protesters could be arrested even if the protest was peaceful.

The fact that all the protesters would be arrested after April 10 but Dr. King at a crossroads. If he were to participate in the protest and be arrested there would be no one well connected enough to raise bail for the rest of the protesters. The SCLC was low on funds because of the protests that happened earlier in the month. The SCLC and ACHR debate if Dr. King going to jail will benefit the movement. In the end, Dr. King made the decision to go to jail. Ralph Abernathy, Dr. King’s aide and friend, accompanied him to jail. It will be in the Birmingham jail he writes his famous letter.

Dr.King and Ralph Abernathy stayed in jail for eight days before being bonded out. They left to organize a new wave of protest in which children would be the main participants. Many criticized using kids as reckless. However, these same kids suffer the humiliation of segregation every day. Having them confront the violence head-on is not a far stretch.

As jails filled up, the City Commissioners has few options, but violence. The police used their infamous hoses and dogs. Their efforts were supplement by domestic terrorist using bombs. Kennedy had to bring in federal troops to restore peace.

Ultimately a coalition of citizen and business owners had to be formed for negotiations. The protesters demanded:

  1. Desegregation of private business
  2. Non-discriminatory hiring in business and industry. Black clerks and salesman had to be hired within 60 days
  3. Dropping all charges on all jailed protester
  4. Creation of a biracial committee to work our timetable for further desegregation

The coalition finally came agreed, and the protests ended. A few days later the Alabama Supreme Court forced the City Commissioners to leave office and let the officials elected in April take office. May 23, 1963, a new City Commission took office.

Relationship with Presidents

Eisenhower proved to King he was personally invested in advancing Civil Rights through many meetings. However, Eisenhower has a hard time communicating his passion to the public. Also, his rigid conservatism only allowed for small incremental change. Dr. King did not see a way to defeat Jim Crow without sweeping change to the power structure.

In the 1960 election, King did not endorse John Kennedy. King admits he liked many aspects of Kennedy’s platform and was grateful for his help in King’s release from jail earlier that year. However, King felt Kennedy was an untested politician. The Civil Rights Movement was fledging, and if Kennedy reneged on his platform, the movement could have ended.

Dr. King described a strained relationship with John Kennedy. Kenndy did run on a pro-CRM platform but abandoned the movement in 1961 and 1962 due to his small margin of victory. In 1963, JFK saw that public opinion shifted and began to support Civil Rights again.

Dr. King said he would have supported JFK in 1964 had he lived. Not because King felt Kennedy had fundamentally changed, but the Civil Rights movement was fundamentally stronger. If Kennedy were to abandon Civil Rights again, the movement would survive.

Lyndon Johnson had an intense involvement in Civil Rights intellectually and emotionally. LBJ rekindled King’s faith in the ability of white southerners to change. King attributes LBJ for inspiring him to write an article for “The Nation” magazine on changing attitudes in the South.

Why We Can’t Wait: Philosophy

Dr. King is careful to point out that the current Civil Rights Movement (CRM) is just part of a struggle of freedom happening all over the world throughout all of history. The revolutions in Africa and Asia that created new independent governments was an extension of the same struggle. Ultimately, oppressed people all over the world were beginning to stand up for themselves and fight back against tyranny.

Within the confines of American history, the Civil Rights Movement is the third revolution. The first and second are the American Revolution and the Civil war respectively. Oppressed people in all walks of life have fought for freedom. The black people are no different, and their struggle has been continual.

Many outsiders to the Civil Rights Movement see it as a sudden happening caused by outside agitators. Their evidence is that the black people they knew did not complain about their plight. Dr. King reminds these people that blacks are heavily penalized for talking about their experience. Also, most blacks would assume whites would not care about what they go through.

The method employed by the Dr. King led branch of the CRM was non-violent direct action (NVDA). In NVDA, members would purposely violate the law in such large numbers the jails would fill. Once the jail filled the unjust law would become unenforceable. Also, the oppressor would have to use his violence in public on a large scale. His use of force would show he was unjust to the greater society and increase support for the movement in the general public.

It is important to remember, Dr. King did not see his movement as a replacement for efforts within the courts and government. It was essential to have people sympathetic to the CRM in places of power. It was also essential to support NAACP efforts to fight discrimination in court. To obtain freedom, all three methods had to be deployed.

Dr. King defines freedom as social, political, and economic redress. From a social and political aspect, the rest of America would begin to respect black people because they won their freedom in the face of the most powerful government in the world. The victory would be due to African American’s ability to strategize and have restraint in the face of violence. The victory would disprove the stereotypes and allow African Americans to move through society in a more free manner.

Economic equity would come with black people obtaining positions of power due to the collective effort. These positions of power will not be tokenism, which Dr. King deplores. He defines tokenism as letting a few blacks have power to pacify the masses and slow the CRM. Dr. King supported efforts to give black people economic stability on a mass scale through set-asides. He mentions efforts in India to support Dalits. India had a reservation system that allowed for Dalits to get preferential treatment in hiring and college admittance. So from this book, it is safe to assume he would have supported Affirmative Action.

The principle tool blacks had in their arsenal was the strong faith of black people. Black America had one of the most active religious traditions in the country. The negro spiritual was the hallmark of this tradition. Dr. King was chiefly relying on a supernatural strength to propel blacks to freedom.

The organization Dr. King headed, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was centered around ten points.

  1. Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus
  2. Remember always that the nonviolent movement seeks justice and reconciliation, not victory
  3. Walk and Talk in the manner of love for God is love
  4. Pray daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free
  5. Sacrifice personal wishes in order that all men might be free
  6. Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy
  7. Seek to perform regular service for others and for the world
  8. Refrain from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart
  9. Strive to be in food spiritual and bodily health
  10. Follow the directions of the movement and the captain of demonstration

Once the foundations of the organization were set the goal is to have many enthusiastic members that were also committed to non-violence. Meetings would include great speakers, the ability for members to explain how they have been personally harmed by Jim Crow, and singing. The singing was very important as Dr. King believed these songs held almost supernatural powers in bolstering faith.

To achieve egalitarianism in the country, the CRM had to be egalitarian itself. Within the movement, a doctor would be looked at the same as a janitor. A senator the same as a garbage worker. Leadership roles and rank would be limited. Instead, members would be encouraged to participate. By standing off to the power structure directly, they would build self-esteem. This self-esteem would supplement the supernatural forces behind their back.

The CRM had an uphill fight with obstacles placed by more than just racist Southern whites. Many black leaders felt that SCLC protest was too radical and could cause more backlash than good. Also, many whites even in the South disagreed with Jim Crow but were afraid to speak up. Apathy and fear in the general public were obstacles worse than overt racism.

Expressed in Letter from a Birmingham jail is the need for people to not stay on the sidelines. The struggle had reached a point were active participation was needed by all supporters. Minor differences in preferred tactics or philosophy can’t keep someone from full support. The 1960’s was not the time for conciliation. It was time to fight.

The methodology for the SCLC was:

  1. Gather information to determine if discrimination was happening
  2. Negotiated with those in power
  3. Self- purification to grow in the faith and resilience for a prolonged fight
  4. Direct action to create tension to force those in power to the negotiation table

It is important to remember King’s goal was negotiation from a place of power. The South as it was in the 1960’s was not willing to negotiate with black people. NVDA would be a mechanism for pressure

Many critics asked how Dr. King could condone breaking the law from an ethical standpoint. King reminds us of the goal of law and order was to establish justice. So injustice laws should not be obeyed. He also makes a distinction between unjust laws by nature such as segregation and unjust laws in practice such as parading without a permit. There is nothing naturally wrong with requiring a permit for parade, unless the permits are specifically held from Civil Rights protesters.

Black people were justified in using extreme methods to achieve freedom. Freedom is his God-given right and should be granted upon birth. Those outside the movement who say black should wait for a more convenient time put their own comfort above other’s self- determination. Also, time is neutral and its passage will not aid or hurt the movement in an of itself. It is the job of those in the movement to make the best use of time. Ultimately, tame time to their advantage.

Alternative Methods for Freedom

Dr. King did briefly discuss alternative methods to freedom done by famous black leaders.

Booker T. Washington taught black people to let down their buckets where they were. Ultimately don’t fight for change just get the best-skilled labor jobs offered now and save as much money as possible. Ultimately, this strategy is not resistance at all.

W.E.B DuBois supported the concept of the talented tenth. The idea was that if the most talented ten percent of blacks took it upon themselves to uplift the race the rest of black society could become stable. The idea of the ten percent leading the race would create a black aristocracy that may not behave any better than their white counterpart.

Marcus Garvey believed that any attempt at integration was doomed. The only hope was to relocate black America to Africa and build an independent nation. However, most black people had been rooted in America for hundreds of years and had few resources for relocation.

The recent phenomenon of the Nation of Islam (NOI) had a similar strategy as Garvey. Instead of relocating to Africa, blacks would build a separate nation in America. Most of the members were disillusioned by the lack of militancy in the CRM. The NOI was still small and few outside of large cities knew about it. The movement was fueled by resentment that would grow and become a danger to all Americans unless America embraces Civil Rights.

The final plan that was not necessary headed by any one leader called for poor blacks and whites to unite over their shared poverty. Efforts to advance this movement were always thwarted by the fact whites did not want to give up the privilege, assumed or real, of being white.

Dr. Martin Luther King Library

This is a list of summaries of books written by MLK.

Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Conflict

Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Resolution

Stride Toward Freedom: Philosophy

The Measure of a Man

Strength to Love

Why We Can’t Wait: Philosophy

Why We Can’t Wait: History

All Labor Has Dignity

Where Do We Go From Here?: Black Power

Where Do We Go From Here?: America Now and Later

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