Black Leadership Analysis

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

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

Dr. King and Malcolm X Agree on Kennedy’s Death

As a product of historical revisionism, the public has begun to see Dr. King and Malcolm X as polar opposites. Dr. King is seen as a capitulate and begging white people for acceptance. Malcolm X is seen as someone staunchly focused on self-determination and separation. In reality, their philosophies are closely linked. One example of that was their views on the death of John F Kennedy.

Dr. King said in the book Why We Can’t Wait the following on Kennedy’s death:

The unforgivable default of our society has been its failure to apprehend the assassins (of murdered Civil Rights leaders). It is a harsh judgment, but undeniably true, that the cause of the indifference was the identity of the victims. Nearly all were Negroes. And so the plague spread until it claimed the most eminent American, a warmly loved and respected president.

These words show that King understood Kennedy as a victim of racialized violence, that Kennedy had a hand in helping spread. Some of the Civil Rights leaders King’s mentions as being killed were killed during Kennedy’s presidency. So King is saying that America’s history of racialized violence killed Kennedy.

The infamous “Chickens Coming Home to Roost” quote was given after Malcom X complete a speech in December of 1963. A reporter asked how he felt about Kennedy’s death. In response he said the following:

Being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never made me sad; they only made me glad.

The Nation of Islam silenced him for 90 days for this remark. Once the period of silence was over Malcolm X explained to reporters what he meant. He told the reporter he saw the assassination as the result of racialized violence that had been prominent in America since its founding. The same thing Dr. King said.

So King and Malcolm X differed in oratory style, not philosophy. Their philosophy is strikingly similar once one reads both men.

While on the subject of the “chickens come home to roost” quote. It was given after a speech called God’s Judgement of White America. The lecture explains his stance on separation.

Many internet commentators have misrepresented what Malcolm X meant by separation. The commentators say Malcolm X wanted black people to separate without getting their share of wealth from the America they helped to build. The reader can find a link to the full speech below.

Malcolm X wanted blacks to confront the power structure to obtain their share of the wealth America had accumulated on our labor. The wealth could be used to go back to Africa or build an independent nation in America.

To not petition America for our fair share wealth is not militant or radical. It is a capitulation. So again King and X both believed in reparations. The difference is the method of compensation. X wanted to build a separate nation. King wanted to make a welfare state in America that included other races.

Chickens Come Home Speech

Claudette Colvin and Respectability Politics

One of the unhealthy manifestations of social justice in the Blue Meme is respectability politics. Here we are defining respectability politics as advocating for black people that fit a mainstream view of acceptability. Mainstream defined as wealthy, chaste, orderly, and conformist. The story of Claudette Colvin shows of these mainstream standards that are set upon us by outsiders prevents advocating for all black people.

Claudette Colvin was a high schooler that had stopped straightening her hair one year before the not giving up her seat on a Montgomery bus. She lived in Montgomery Alabama when the Civil Rights Movement was heating up. Local black leaders had been looking for a way to challenge the city bus segregation law for years. The leaders had built resources and expertise that would be instrumental in 1955.

In March of 1955, Claudette boards a bus in front of the church Dr. King pastored. After a few stops more white passengers board, but there are no seats available for these passengers. The bus driver ordered Claudette to move to allow the whites to sit. Claudette said she felt the spirit of the ancestors pushing her down in her seat and she refused to move.

The bus driver called the police. When they entered they said “We have had trouble with that “thing” before.” They move closer and order her to leave. She refuses again. The grab her to drag her off the bus. In the scuffle, she scratched the officer. In an interview year later Claudette said she does not remember doing so and the scratch was not intentional. Whether the scratch was deliberate or not she was charged with, disorderly conduct, violating segregation law, and assault on an officer.

On the way to lock-up the police joke about her bra size and call her a “nigger-bitch.” They do not take her to juvenile hall which would be warranted if she was 17. They took her to an adult jail. She spends three hours there before her mother and pastor bail her out. Her father sat up all night with a loaded shotgun waiting for KKK retaliation.

The NAACP began working on her case immediately. She was introduced to Rosa Parks who was running a youth bible study. Claudette joined the Bible study and started to help in the civil rights movement. In court, they were able to overturn the two counts of disorderly conduct and violating segregation law, but assault on an officer stuck.

Many in the black community shunned Claudette as a troublemaker. The NAACP never publicly advocated for Claudette, so many black citizens were not fully aware of the importance of what she did. She says she entered a mild depression. The condition was exacerbated by her pregnancy later that year. Once the NAACP found out she was pregnant, she definitely could be the face of the boycott campaign. She was left pregnant and alone.

In fall of that year, Rosa Parks follows the footsteps of Claudette and refuses to give her seat up. Rosa a light-skinned, relatively well-educated, adult was a much better face of the movement. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was ultimately a success, but Claudette’s early sacrifice was forgotten.

Years later in an NPR interview, Claudette was asked why she could not be the face of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She says being pregnant would have been a distraction to the movement. However, another reason that Rosa was a better pick as a light-skinned woman with straight hair. Her look was more palatable to blacks and whites with a European standard of beauty. Having a dark-skinned woman with natural hair would not play well in the media.

Claudette’s contributions did not stop. The NAACP asked her to be part of a Supreme Court case against the Montgomery Bus System to end legal segregation in transportation, Browder v. Gayle. She again testified at the local, state, and national level putting herself and her new baby at risk. Once the NAACP won the case, they did not invite her or any other of the four plaintiffs to the celebration.

Claudette decided that her life may be better if she moved to the north. She began a career and never spoke about her part in the Civil Rights movement until 2004. A book written by Phil Hoose on her life was published in 2009 and won the national book award.

Respectability is an area social justice activist in the blue meme and those that understand a blue meme audience struggle. Yes, it is essential that our collective best foot is put forward when trying to win allies from outside the community. However, we must remember that those within the community need aide even if they are in difficult circumstances. 1955 would not have been an optimal time to tackle segregation and teen pregnancy. Yet, we have to find a way to prevent similar stories in the future.

Buy Colvin’s Biography Here


Teen Vogue Article

BBC Article

Black Past Article


Radio Diaries


Russia Today

Was Dr. King a Republican?

“When a Hollywood performer, lacking distinction even as an actor [Ronald Reagan], can become a leading war-hawk candidate for the presidency, only the irrationalities induced by a war psychosis can explain such a melancholy turn of events.”
Dr. King on Ronald Reagan 1967

The article is a response to many other articles and Facebook comments I have seen painting Dr. King as a conservative. The comments normally center around a few points.

  • King was registered as a Republican at the time of death
  • King never endorsed Kennedy or Johnson
  • King advocated for equality, so he would not be for Affirmative Action

King was not a conservative, and his writings prove such. All these points can be explained by a cursory reading of his work and common sense. I will take these points on individually in this blog post.

Why did King register as a Republican?

The obvious reason is King spent most of his formative years in the South and most Southern Democrats were Dixiecrats. It would make no sense for any southern black person to be part of the Democratic party. In the 1950s when Dr. King would have first been allowed to vote Republicans were amicable to Civil Rights.

The only Republican president Dr. King interacted with was Eisenhower. He said in the book Why We Can’t Wait that Eisenhower was sympathetic to his cause. However, his conservatism prevented him from making the radical change needed to move forward on Civil Rights. If the fundamental power structure does not change only small, local, incremental change can happen. Ultimately, conservatism was not conducive to Civil Rights.

Why didn’t Dr. King endorse Kennedy or Johnson?

In the book Why We Can’t Wait , Dr. King explains his relationship to Kennedy. He says he was grateful that Kennedy negotiated for his release from jail in 1960, but Kennedy was a young politician. King saw the Civil Rights Movement as new and fragile. Endorsing Kennedy could be dangerous if Kennedy turns on the movement. That is why he never endorsed Kennedy in 1960. In the same book, he says he would have supported Kennedy if he had lived until the next election.

Johnson began his political career as a staunch Dixiecrat. Kennedy picked him as a vice president to secure the southern vote. When Kennedy died most of black America was terrified because they did not trust Johnson to care about their interest.

Fortunately, Johnson had a change of heart after working closely with King and Kennedy. Again in Why We Cant Wait King says Johnson restored his hope in the white southerner. King said Johnson was genuinely connected to Civil Rights and was on the right track.

Johnson and King parted ways on the issue of Vietnam. King’s belief in non-violence extends to other countries. King was extremely vocal on the issue of Vietnam even though most of America saw his view as unpatriotic. So King did not endorse Johnson because King was to his left, not right.

Would King have supported Affirmative Action?

King talked at length in his writings about economic redress to black people. He reasoning was redressing the systematic oppression that has destroyed black people is no different from other forms of redress and redistribution. For example, federally subsidized mortgages that were solely given to whites was a way to redistribute wealth to poor people to make them middle class. The GI Bill was implemented because the state understood they had put their veterans in harm’s way and took away important earning years. Giving veterans health care, college tuition, and other advantages were needed to put them on par with others who did not suffer the hardship of war.

As part of his demands from the Birmingham campaign, the SCLC demand the department stores have a certain percentage of black salesmen. The non-discrimination hiring program extended to Birmingham industry. So King advocated and implemented an Affirmative Action program in his lifetime.

Would Dr. King have been a Democrat?

Dr. King deplored party politics. This is an excerpt from Why We Can’t Wait

Negroes have traditionally positioned themselves too far from the inner arena of political decision. Few other minority groups have maintained a political aloofness and nonpartisan posture as rigidly and as long as Negroes…For some time, this reticence protected the Negro from corruption and manipulation by political bosses. The cynical district leader directing his ignorant flock to vote blindly at his dictation is a relatively rare phenomenon in Negro life. The very few Negro political bosses have no gullible following.

In a press conference in the late 1960s King affirmed that he had no interest in politics. He saw his role as an outside agitator and politics would muddy the waters of his mission. The official stance of the SCLC was never to endorse a candidate.

Civil Rights was Dr. King’s political party. He would side with whichever party would advance the cause of Civil Rights. To have a hard stance concerning political party would be counterproductive. Any party can support or abandon the cause. Black people have to be independent.

Why Does This Matter?

It is essential that we as black people study our leaders in their own words. Many people within and outside our community have attempted to appropriate our leaders for their gain. The historical revisionism of Dr. King as a conservative or capitulater has caused us to discount his teachings. Dr. King had one of the most comprehensive understandings of social justice. Without his knowledge, we will be left to reinvent the wheel continually.

“Inside Dr. Kings Final Radical Year” by W. Pepper HERE

King Press Conference Late 1960’s

Houston Group Says Martin Luther King Was A Republican by M. Ashford-Grooms HERE

No Martin Luther King Was Not a Republican by J. Legum HERE

King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968. Why We Can’t Wait. New York :New American Library, 1967. Print.

King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968. All Labor Has Dignity. New York :New American Library, 2012. Print.
MLK Was A Republican and Other Myths by J.Blake HERE

Powered by

Up ↑