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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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Leader Analysis

The Government Surveillance of MLK

The Soviet Revolution of 1918 put Capitalist all over the world on notice. The idea of the poor banding together to overthrow the rich was terrifying to the world establishment. In America, the group most likely to foment that type of rebellion was African Americans. Army Intelligence began an extensive investigation of all black liberation organization.

Black people had been organizing for civil rights since the Civil War. After Reconstruction there were numerous efforts to retain and expand voting rights, education access, and employment opportunities. Army Intelligence began surveying these efforts for Communist influence in 1917.

The first member of Dr. King’s family with an FBI file was Reverend A.D. Williams, King’s maternal grandfather. He was pastor at Ebeneezer Baptist Church, which was known as an institute of agitation in the Atlanta area. Williams was the first president of the Atlanta NAACP. Martin Luther King Sr. inherited both the government surveillance and the pastor-ship in 1931. Scrutiny was increased by the government as Daddy King became involved with the National Negro Congress (NNC). At the time the government believed the NNC was working with the Soviets to overthrow the government and build a black ethno-state.

Army Intelligence began a file of Martin Luther King Jr in 1947 during his freshman year in college. King Jr was involved in the intercollegiate council and one of the facility liaison’s was a suspected communist.

One of Dr. King’s early connections to the Communist movement was Stanley Levison. It was true that Levison was connected to the communist party early on but broke all ties in 1957 before he met King. Many members of the American Communist party left once that saw the atrocities committed by the Soviet Union. Levison did help secure funds for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) through other former Communists.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had an independent effort to investigate Communist in the black liberation movement. J. Edgar Hoover made his personal feelings know on the black liberation movement known in a 1958 Congressional testimony. He believed the Civil Rights Movement was a ploy to allow Communists to infiltrate and take over America. As the work of Lerone Martin shows, the Bureau had a coordinated effort to implant conservative pastors in white and black churches that support the status quo. They also kept a close eye of revolutionary pastor such as Dr. King.

In 1962, an FBI investigation was done to determine if Dr. King and other Civil Rights Leaders had contact with communist. The investigation proved that the Civil Rights Movement had not been infiltrated. In fact, the movement was too religious to be influenced by atheists.

Later in the same year King criticize the FBI, calling them a tool of White Supremacy. He went even further in saying that a segregationist couldn’t investigate an integration movement in impartial manner. Hoover responded by calling King a Communist in from of the National Women’s Press Club. This personal feud between Hoover and King will last the rest of King’s life. The FBI’s investigation and sabotage of King was fueled by personal vengeance, not any provable ties to the Communist Party.

The next associate King was affiliated with that was said to have communist ties was Stokley Carmichael. Carmichael was a chairman in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was know for criticizing King’s stands on non-violence. The intelligence community alleged that Carmichael was working with the Organization of Latin American Solidarity (OLAS), which was training black guerrillas in Cuba.

King was very clear on his feelings about Stokley Carmichael. Both men believed in stopping interventionist wars and advancing Civil Rights. Carmichael never advocated racism or direct violence in front of Dr. King. King also did not view Carmichael’s position on black separation as racist. He understood Carmichael’s position did not come from the belief that whites were inferior but frustration in the advancement of a movement. Essentially, Carmichael did not want to be surrounded by people that meant him harm. So violence would only be part of Carmichael’s movement if white infringed on black self-determination. King made clear he would not advocate for violence under any circumstance.

Excerpts from conversations that were recorded by Army Intelligence that were published in a 1993 article by the Memphis Commercial Appeal show King advocated for non-violence when talking to Carmichael. King was steadfast in the position that the black man had a place in America and the destiny of all Americans was tied together. So again Martin Luther King showed no ill will toward the government.

The FBI went on a smear campaign of King led by Solomon Michaux. FBI henchmen would attack King’s credentials as a clergyman. Rumors began that King was not only adulterous, but a sex addict. Other henchmen claimed King only used the position as preacher for political advantage. The most sinister act in this campaign was sending king an “anonymous” bundle of tapes with a letter. The tapes were audio of someone having sex. The letter stated that these tapes would be pegged to Dr. King to destroy his name if he did not leave the spotlight or commit suicide.

King made two attempts to squelch the animosity between him and Hoover. In 1964, the men met to personally discuss the Civil Rights Movement. Hoover flew into a rage and went on an hour long diatribe attacking King. In 1965, King sent a delegation of pastors to make the case that King and the SCLC did not have communist ties. Hoover and the rest of the Bureau denied any crusade to sabotage or discredit King.

Many throughout the years have speculated that King was assassinated by government force or James Earl Ray did not act alone. The first investigation to absolve the Memphis police Department was 1977. It was followed by the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1979. The most prominent investigator is Dr. William Pepper. Dr. Pepper was the man that aided in King coming to his anti-war Vietnam stance. Also, Pepper got King involved with the National Conference for new Politics. To date, Dr. Pepper has written three books on the governments role in the King assassination.

In 1999, a Civil lawsuits was levied against Loyd Jowers. Jowers was a cook in the restaurant below the boarding house Ray stayed at and allegedly fired the fatal shot. This trial concluded Jowers and a host of government agencies conspired to kill King

The Department of Justice conducted a counter investigation in 2000 to debunk the results of the Jowers trial. The summary of the investigation can be found online and in the “Source” links below. Ultimately, they dismiss evidence in the trial as hear-say evidence and point to inconsistencies in the testimonies since the time of King’s death. The report never denies the FBI surveiled King and his family or conducted a defamation campaign. The report denies direct government involvement in King’s death set in motion by Hoover or Johnson. Most people that study the investigation find it odd that King was killed one year to the day of his famous anti-war Riverside Church speech. The report from the year 2000 came to the same conclusions as government investigations in 1977 and 1979, that James Earl Ray was the lone shooter.

Sources

  1. “Army Feared King Secretly Watched Him” by S Tompkins Memphis Commercial Appeal 3-21-1993 HERE
  2. Bureau Clergyman: How the FBI Colluded with an African American Televangelist to Destroy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr by L. Martin Religion and American Culture 2018
  3. “New Book Looks at Martin Luther King Jr’s Dangerous Friendship” on KPBS News uploaded 01-15-2015 This is an interview with author Ben Kain
  4. “King’s New York Connection: MLK Jr’s Friendship with Stanley Levison”by M Schuerman http://www.wnyc.org
  5. “Stanley David Levison” http://www.kinginstitute.stanford.edu
  6. “Martin Luther King’s Dangerous Friendship” by B. Kamin http://www.foward.com/culture
  7. “The FBI and Martin Luther King” by D. Garrow http://www.theatlantic.com
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVZscDBP2XE
  9. June 2000 Investigation of the Recent Allegations Regarding the Assissination of Dr. Martin Luther King HERE
  10. National Archives Record of 1979 House Select Committee on Assissinations HERE

Was Dr. King Green Meme?

Dr. King’s philosophy is centered in the Green Meme as described by Clare Graves, Don Beck, and his students. The Green Meme is characterized by building cross-cultural bridges, working to develop a social safety net, and ending war. The Green meme casts aside old lines that divide between race, religion, and ethnicity to build a new coalition. Building coalitions were the center of King’s life.

King’s version of Civil Disobedience was called Non-Violent Direct Action. In this method, people would refuse to comply with unjust laws. By mass disobedience, protesters would flood the local judicial system. Once the jails were filled, and the courts were backed up, those in power would have to free the prisoners or expunge the cases. On the grander scale politicians locally and nationally would see how many voters were willing to be jailed would be motivated to enact policy initiatives. The groundswell of support would motivate the politicians to adopt more liberal stances. The change in popular opinion along with progressive legislation would end segregation law.

Non-Violent Direct Action was different than the method used by the NAACP which was court action. An example of NAACP methodology would be Thurgood Marshall’s strategy in Brown v Board. Marshall would find state-level cases in which state law forbid someone from going to a quality school due to race. The client had to exceed the standards of admission and conform to mainstream standards of respectability. Not only would Marshall bring a strong case to the court, but he would also make sure the local paper covered the case. Once enough precedents were created on a state level, he was able to present Brown v Board to the Supreme Court.

NAACP campaigns did work. However, the only people involved were lawyers and clients. Both usually came from the more aristocratic class of black America. So even if an average black person benefited from the abolition of the law, they would feel like they were saved, not that they had affected change in their life. Also, if the only people that are defended by the NAACP were relatively aristocratic, there would be resentment in the masses of black people. The NAACP method succeeded in changing law, but it did not create a new community.

The other method was armed rebellion. Insurrection had never been done on a large scale by black Americans. The reason is that a minority could not have beat what is the best military in the world by the 1950s. Most black people would never even attempt insurrection because there is little likelihood of success. An attempt would end in a quixotic story for black people and another excuse to discriminate for whites. In the end we would have an even more divided nation.

King’s method could bring together many factions of the black liberation struggle and white America. Because it is based on an action and not a philosophy, people with different belief systems could participate. Also, people of different ages, education levels, regions of the country could come together for the cause. Even if one did not want to participate, they could respect the protester’s sacrifice. The peaceful protest would also challenge commonly held negative stereotypes of black people. In the end, there would be a movement led by black people that proves and supplements their dignity and self-reliance.

Challenging authority is a marker of the Green Meme. Peaceful protest directed at the institutions of injustice is a healthy way to pressure those in power. His demonstrations are still seen in a positive light today because they targeted at the institution causing the suffering. The bus was segregated, so the boycott was directed at the bus company. The city of Memphis wouldn’t pay black garbage workers equally, so there was a march to city hall. A study of King could prevent current activists from protesting obscure ideas in places not directly responsible.

Most in the mainstream media concentrate on King’s ability to find white allies. These connections are not to be discredited. Stanley Levison, ex-communist turned humanist, was instrumental in early funding. The coalitions built with Catholic, Jewish, and white Protestants were vital in spreading King’s message. But undoubtedly his most important collaboration was with John Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson. Through them, he was able to enact the most important civil rights legislation for housing, voting, and travel.

Few people know of King’s effort to connect with more radical factions of the black liberation struggle. The most high profile of these instances was his ability to have a joint march with the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. Both organizations wanted armed guards on the march. King acquiesced because he understood the importance of unity. The March Against Fear was a success.

An even more obscure instance of King’s ability to build bridges was with the Memphis Invaders. The Invaders were a local black liberation organization analogous to the Black Panthers. They got the name Invaders because they were accused of taking over the Student Union at LeMoyne – Owen College. They were also accused of starting the riot that ended Dr. King’s first march through Memphis. When King returned to Memphis he understood he needed the Invaders on his side.

He got the Invaders to agree to be marshals in the non-violent march. By making them responsible for keeping the peace, he removed an element of possible violence. Remember the SCLC did not consent to involve the Invaders. Most members of King’s organization saw the Invaders as street thugs. King saw them as young men trying to find themselves. The Invaders are still active in the community today, and they credit their continued success to their mentorship by Dr. King.

Another aspect of the Green Meme is being anti-war, and King was an exemplar in the peace movement. He first came out against the war in a 1967 speech in Riverside Church. His involvement in the Center for New Politics and The Poor Peoples Campaign provided a vehicle to get this message to the masses. To prove his point, he criticized those that praise his non-violent movement in the Dixie and support violence against the North Vietnamese. He understood that military expenditures deplete capital that could be used for public good.

His stance on the war, but him at odds with Lyndon Johnson and the Democratic Party. The Democrats had just signed the civil rights bill and were poised to do even more for the movement. Many, especially in the SCLC, wanted King not to take a stance on Vietnam. It took a generation even to get an audience with a president that was interested in helping. There was little King could do to stop the war, so there is no reason to risk the entire movement.

King stuck to principle and opposed the war. His anti-war stance led to people calling him a traitor and unpatriotic. It also gave many Democrats ammunition to turn Johnson on King. Ironically, exactly one year after the Riverside Church speech King was killed.

King centered his life around knocking down barriers of race and building a society based on love. Non-violence was a way of life that should permeate through the personal, community, and international relations. Love and Non-violence are a hallmark of a healthy version of the Green Meme. The Green Meme also challenges authority and traditional social structures. Peaceful protests are a healthy way to accomplish this goal. In the end, King built a more inclusive society.

Lewis (Louis) H. Michaux

On August 4, 1895, John and Blanche Michaux gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. The original name for the child was William Lonnell, but over the years his name changed to Lewis Henry Michaux. Lewis was the most rambunctious and unruly of his nine siblings. In spite of the child’s rebelliousness, he was able to form a close bond to his father. This bond would serve Lewis well over the years.

John Michaux was known as a successful businessman in the Newport News area. He owned and operated a saloon and a store. To secure funds and suppliers for these businesses he often had to have questionable and compromising relationships with whites in the area. Many blacks saw John as an Uncle Tom. John won a level of autonomy in an era few blacks had much power, that outweighed the compromises he made to acquire that freedom.

Blanche Michaux suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, at least that is what she would have been diagnosed with if she lived today. She would often have spells in which she would cry hysterically for hours on end. In 1908, the family had to send her to a mental institution. After leaving the mental hospital, John never treated her the same. John saw her like another child and was often abusive toward her.

To say a tumultuous home life caused Lewis’s rebelliousness would only be partially correct. Lewis began to work outside the law once he realized working as an agricultural laborer would never lead to financial stability. He first took a job picking fruit for $0.20 a day and realized the owners exploited his labor. So he decided to mimic those at the top of the agricultural industry. He began taking livestock and supplies and selling them on the black market. Lewis was caught stealing a bag of peanuts in 1915. The sentence was twenty lashings, but he did not cry out.

Marcus Garvey was profoundly influential in the 1920s. Lewis became a supporter and student of the famed leader that taught:

  1. Black self-reliance and voluntary separation
  2. Building black-owned business
  3. Learning to love yourself before interacting with the greater society.

Lewis and John would talk for hours on Garvey’s methodology. Garvey was one of the few black leaders that had substantial support amount working class black people. Lewis admired Garvey’s ability to relate to the common man.

John died in 1922. Neither Lewis or his brother Solomon had any interest in running the saloon or store. Solomon took his inheritance and put it toward his new Gospel Spreading Church. Lewis went to Philadelphia with $1000 from the store’s register to start a gambling parlor in Philadelphia. Their little brother Norris accompanied Lewis.

The gambling parlor became quite the Philadelphia attraction. Lewis made a mint serving some of Philadelphia’s most prominent citizens. Unfortunately, things turned south in 1925. Norris was accused of cheating in dice and shot. Police arrive on the scene. Norris went to the hospital, but Lewis was arrested. During the arrest, Lewis smarted off to the policeman. The police hit Lewis and broke his glasses. A shard of glass goes through Lewis’s eye. From that day forth Lewis had a glass eye.

Solomon Michaux as a locally famous preacher by this time and was able to pull strings to get Lewis out of jail. Lewis saw that he has a second chance at life and decided to join The Gospel Spreading Church. Solomon found Lewis a wife, Willie Ann, and made him deacon at the Newport News branch. After a few years, Lewis served as business manager at the Philadelphia branch.

The church served as a stabilizing force in Lewis’s life. However, religion couldn’t subdue his rebellious spirit. He read the Bible, but the Bible is just one of many books. Like Garvey, Lewis believed that black people spend too much time worrying about the afterlife. Having stability and wealth in this life should be paramount. After a series of public arguments with various members of the church, Lewis decided to leave. His wife chose the church over her husband. Lewis relocated to New York City.

Like any good brother Solomon never gave up on his little brother. By 1938, Solomon was working on his National Memorial to Negro Progress. Solomon believed Lewis would be a perfect person to recruit people to join the farmers’ co-op connected to the memorial. After one year Lewis convinced no Harlemites to move to the Virginia co-op.

Ever since leaving the church, Lewis became more interested in educating black people. He saw a lack of education as the biggest problem in the black community. Blacks could gain the confidence to be effectual in the world once they could learn from our plethora of experience across the globe. Garvey’s perspective on self-actualization primarily inspired him to start his bookstore. Luckily, the old office for the National Memorial was on prime real estate, right across the street from the Hotel Theresa.

Just like any other businessman, Lewis needed capital. He first went to his brother that had a fruitful ministry. Solomon’s wife would not allow him to give Lewis the $500 he needed to start the store. Instead, Solomon quietly paid the rent on the property at 2107 Seventh Ave (A.C. Powell Blvd) until his brother could take over. Lewis then went to a banker. The banker did not believe black people read enough to patron a bookstore. Lewis didn’t give up and contacted one of his brother’s business associates Major Richard Wright. The major gave him the $500 in 1939.

From starting with a pushcart in 1939, Michaux has a fully stocked bookstore by 1946. What is unique about his bookstore is if someone had no money they can read in a back room. The store became a hangout for Harlem intellectuals. Everyone from Langston Hughes to Nikki Giovanni had book signings there. Lewis would go out on his pushcart every day with his rhyming slogans to drum up business.

One of the people that enjoy his catchy slogans is a woman named Bettie Logan. She was around twenty years younger than Lewis, but they hit it off as soon as they started dating in 1952. In 1955, they married and had a child Lewis Michaux Jr.

Malcolm X met Lewis back in the 1940s when Malcolm was “Detroit Red.” Malcolm went to jail and emerged as a Nation of Islam minister. He was given charge of Muslim Mosque No 7 in Harlem. When Lewis saw him again in 1958, he could not believe his eyes.

The Nation of Islam was proposing a similar plan for Black America as Marcus Garvey. The way Malcolm presented it was more charismatic than his predecessor. Youth gravitated to him like no other black leader before. Malcolm was a permanent fixture in the National Memorial African Bookstore. When he broke from the nation of Islam Lewis gave him a donation to start Muslim Mosque Inc.

In 1968, the state of New York decided to buy the block that hosts the bookstore. Governor Rockefeller himself made sure the store stayed open by moving it a few blocks to 101 West 125th St. It became tough to keep the store going in a new location. To add to the trouble, doctors diagnosed Lewis with throat cancer in 1973. His wife runs the store in hopes that Lewis would recover soon. The state then decided to build another government building at the store’s new location. Lewis has no friends in the state house at this time, and the store closed in 1975. Lewis passed in 1976.

Sources
No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel by Vaunda Michaux Nelson 2004

Buy a copy HERE

Lewis Michaux Series

Lewis Michaux Biography

What Happened to Black Bookstores

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.

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.

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