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Black Leadership Analysis

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Civil Rights Movement

Dr. King and Ambedkar Agree on Communism

Two names are synonymous with social justice in their respective countries, Bhimrao Ambedkar and Dr. Martin Luther King. Both men were considered radicals in their time and even smeared as Communists. Anyone that reads what these men wrote understands the ridiculousness of the accusation.

Ambedkar was an advocate for untouchables, now known as Dalits. As a Dalit himself, Ambedkar faced many hardships. He overcame them to become educated at Columbia University in New York. He returned to India in the late 1920s. He worked to give Dalit’s voting rights, access to water, and education. In advocating for Dalits, he often found himself at odds with Gandhi. Despite political opposition, Ambedkar wrote the Indian Constitution. Toward the end of his life, he promoted Buddhism and held a mass conversion of Dalits to the faith in 1956. He died of natural causes a few months later.

The story of Dr. King is far better known to Americans. King was born in the American South and suffered through segregation. Like Ambedkar, he went to prestigious schools such as Morehouse and Boston College. The Montgomery Bus boycott was King’s first civil rights campaign. While aiding a sanitation workers strike in Memphis, he was gunned down.

The rise of Communism is one of the most important events of the early twentieth century. Communism was billed as the dawn of a new classless Utopia. Unfortunately, the actual implementation in Soviet Russia proved Communism was far from the mother of paradise.

Ambedkar and Dr. King wrote on the subject in their lifetime. Ambedkar’s The Buddha or Karl Marx and Dr. King’s “How Should a Christian View Communism” echo similar themes. A later version of King’s view on Communism is “Can a Christian Be Communist?”. Both works fundamentally rebuke Communism as antithetical to their religion. Due to Communism’s lack of moral absolutes, violence is used to suppress dissent. The result is a totalitarian government with no individual freedom.

Even though both men denounced Communism, they did not dismiss its critique of religion out of hand. Both agreed that the standard form of their faith was “otherworldly.” Most practitioners distracted themselves from the material lack in their life with spiritual pursuits. These religious endeavors foster an unhealthy individualism and a disconnection from social justice.

Ambedkar’s Buddhism and Dr. King’s Christianity were not the mainstream versions of either religion. The clergy of Burma rejected Ambedkar’s attempt to become a lay teacher. Fundamentalist Christians, white and black, opposed Dr. King. Instead, both men forged a new path for their religion infused with social justice. Their advocacy was their spiritual path.

The two works can be found below:

How Should a Christian View Communism

Can a Christian be Communist?

The Buddha or Karl Marx

David Hartful Sr

1971 High School Protest

David Hartful began his senior year by making the honor roll the first semester. The second semester he decided not only to improve his future but the future of all the black kids going to high school in Murfreesboro now and in the future. He and other concerned Black students decide to create Murfreesboro Central High’s first Black Student Union.

The first order of business was to have a ceremony honoring Dr. Martin Luther King. He was assassinated only three years earlier. The first ceremony was at Central High School on April 2, 1971. The second was open to the public and held at First Baptist Church on April 4, 1971.

Later that month the students stage a sit-in at the high school. They wanted better treatment and more opportunities at the high school. The list of demands were:

  1. Two more black cheerleaders
  2. A black speaker at commencement
  3. A black speaker at commencement ceremony
  4. More black literature in the library
  5. More black teachers and coaches

Their actions got the attention of the faculty and the school board. In a Saturday school board meeting, they were able to make their demands and talk about what it was like to be a black student at the recently integrated school. They saw white students being punished more leniently than black students. Many of their concerns were similar to the concerns we have today.

The school board did have some push back. For example, Mrs. Richard Reeves said many blacks have excelled and Central High and cited, David Hartful, as an example. Forever, they ultimately realized they had to capitulate. Principal Swafford said the following:

“This situation would not be where it is if the black students who came to see me on Wednesday morning had not demanded. They not only demanded action, but made it clear I don’t have much time to make up my mind”

The school board did not comply with the demand to give the BSU two black cheerleaders. They compromised at two new cheerleaders, one black and one white. David Hartful was allowed to speak at commencement. His speech can be found on this website.

Jerry Anderson Foundation

Jerry Anderson was a star athlete from Murfreesboro, TN and Vice President of the black student union. After graduation, he went to the University of Oklahoma, where he was a star cornerback. During his college football career, he led the Sooners to the 1974 and 1975 National Championships. He later went on to play in the National Football League as a Cincinnati Bengals and the Canadian Football League.

Football was not Anderson’s only passion. He wanted to help people and especially children. His first act of selflessness came during the Tulsa flood of 1984. Anderson rescued two people trapped in vehicles. However, he was haunted because there was one he could not save. After his football career was over, Anderson headed back to Tennessee to pursue a degree. He wanted to get a job helping children.

On Memorial Day of 1989, Anderson decides to go fishing with two young family members. At the same time, two other boys, Pooh McFarlan and Johny Lodgson decided to fish nearby. The two boys fishing nearby decide they need to move to catch more fish. There was an old dam nearby that was underwater because the river was swollen. The boys decided to cross to the other side of the river by walking on the dam.

When the boys were walking on the damn, one slipped and fell into the river. The current was so strong he started to be pulled underwater. The other boy attempted to save the first, and he fell. Anderson sees the boys in the whirlpool and jumps in the river to save them. The boys that came with Jerry ran to call 911.

Anderson swam out to the whirlpool and was able to toss both boys out of the whirlpool so they can swim to shore. Jerry watched as both boys swam safely to shore. Unfortunately, Jerry would not be able to save himself. He attempts to swim out of the whirlpool, but can’t free himself. He comes up for air three times before losing the battle. A paramedic arrives on the scene, but it is too late. Jerry’s body was exhumed and transported to the hospital. He was declared dead on arrival.

The death of Anderson hit the class of 1971 very hard. Plans began to create someway to honor him. It was decided to create a foundation to help underprivileged children. The scope would begin as local and would grow nationally. The first project the group embarked upon was getting a pool named after Anderson in a low-income part of town. With that mission in mind, The Jerry Anderson Memorial Foundation was born in October 1989.

From the beginning, the foundation had influential Tennesseans on the board and serving as officials. On the board was a Kiwanis Club Governor, County Executives, the President of First City Bank, and a State Representative.

Murfreesboro NAACP eventually absorbed the Jerry Anderson Foundation. They were successful in buying computers for the Boys and Girls Club in 1991. Even without a formal foundation, the class of 1971 has not stopped helping the community. Their reunion in 2006 resulted in a fundraiser to buy books for school children.

Promise for the Future

In the world, everything that marks an end, also marks a beginning. The end of one day is the commencement of another. The end of one task is the beginning of a new one. The tree blossoms, bears fruit, sheds its foliage, and immediately begins preparation for another crop.

Today means different things for each of us. To some it is the commencement of higher education to others it is a career in the world of work.

Select a goal and work earnestly toward it. Know what you want and shape your course of study toward that end. We as graduating students, must not only achieve our goals but bring our honors and awards back to our community, not limiting our help, but to help others help themselves, bridging the gap between one another.

Our parents, teachers, and others have attempted to equip us well. They have tried to instill in us the principle of hard work, honesty, and ambition that would lead to better standards. These are qualities that are essential for us to achieve our respective goals.

We have enjoyed that blessing, which Tennessee has bestowed upon us – free education. To us has been given freely that which great men of the past have obtained only with many sacrifices and much labor.

The future holds a promise. I wonder just what that promise may be. Your future of the next generation is in our hands. It matters little where we were born, or if our parents were rich or poor, but whether we live an honest life and hold our integrity firm in our clutch, I tell you my brother, it matters much.

The late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the greatest men that lived in our time. He had a dream that we should further our educational capacities in order to build a better community and to have a brighter tomorrow. If not here, where, if not now, when if not you who. Remember the future of the world is limited by ourselves.

Solomon Michaux

November 07, 1884 to October 20, 1968

Notable Events

  • Founded the Gospel Spreading is Church of God
  • Hosted gospel radio show “Happiness Hour”
  • Coordinate with FBI to undermine Martin Luther King
  • Erected a monument for Negro Progress
  • Secured federally subsides housing called Mayfair Mansions
  • Credited for song “Happy Am I”
  • Pioneer in television and radio ministry
  • Real Estate Mogul
  • First Preacher to have his own TV show

Solomon Michaux was born in Newport News on November 7, 1884. His father owned a grocery that young Solomon would work in his younger years. Luckily, Solomon inherited his father’s business savvy and in 1906 he was able to land a government contract to supply the local defense department with groceries.

With the success from his early business venture, he was able to move him and his young wife Mary Eliza to Hopewell, VA. There he and a colleague founded Everybody’s Mission in 1917. The mission was affiliated with the Church of Christ which ordained him. Those tent revivals proved Michaux’s ability as an evangelist.

In 1919, Michaux founded the Gospel Spreading Church of God. This stout bible believing church that thought segregation had no place in the house of the lord. In 1929, Michaux and other congregants were arrested for having an integrated church service. After a short stint in jail Michaux was released with more religious zeal than ever. He went on to found seven more churches.

The revivals of the Church of God were mostly integrated. Michaux was one of the most popular preachers in the country. One revival in Berlin, PA was attended by 10,000 white men. The Washington Evening Star referred to him as a national power. He even packed DC’s Major League Baseball Stadium in 1951. So in many ways he was a pioneer in integration of worship.

Michaux’s business acumen was not satisfied with spreading the gospel. He embarked on a massive real estate venture in Virginia in 1936. At its peak, it encompassed 1,100 acres in a farmers co-op. The goal was to create cooperative complex that would have hundreds of five-acre farms black people could buy. It would be a stand-alone municipality with administration buildings, museums, schools, and entertainment. A monument to the Negro’s loyalty to the white man would be at the entrance. The project was never fully successful, but black farmers operated a few of the farms until early 2000.

His prominence as a church founder lead opportunities to spread the “good news” in many different forms. WJSV of Alexandria Va broadcast a gospel show “Happiness Hour” with Michaux as the host. The show was so successful it expanded to 50 CBS affiliates. His ultimate gospel broadcasting was a television show on the DuMont Television Network from 1947 to 1949. It was one of the first broadcasts hosted by a black man.

Michaux’s show was known for the jazzy gospel tunes such as “Happy Am I”. The show was upbeat and designed to improve the mood of a person going through hardship. A person was to serve G-d through being happy no matter what their circumstances.

A patriotic conservative pro-establishment theology undergrided Michaux’s show and preaching style. As a result of the conservative ideology Michaux came to oppose the March on Washington in 1963 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. He also lauded FBI director J. Edgar Hoover as a soldier of G-d. Martin Luther King was accused of being godless and a Communist stooge. G-d ordained the current order and man should not interfere with the divine order.

The “Happiness Hour” was popular in black America. However, blacks began to sour on Michaux after two public stunts. The first was an open letter 1964 lauding Hoover and demonizing King. In traditional fashion,Michaux defends the current order and those, like Hoover, work to preserve it. In the letter, Michaux praises the FBI’s work to find perpetrators of violence toward blacks and whites. King is characterized as a rabble-rouser causing more harm than good. Most of the black press defended King against Michaux and he began to loose popularity.

The last straw was Michaux’s protest against the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1965. The Baltimore conference was protested by more than 100 Church of G-d members. Black America viewed this protest as largely staged and saw Michaux as a puppet.

Washington, DC owes much of its history to Solomon Michaux. In addition, to owning the “Happy Times” restaurant, he was instrumental in the founding of Mayfair Mansions. This housing development was the only Federally subsidized middle-class housing development in the country. Opening in 1946 , Mayfair Mansions was declared a National Historic Site in 1989.

A stroke claimed Michaux’s life in 1968. Three thousand people attended his funeral. He was loved regionally in the DC area. But nationally he was seen as a sell-out. As the late 1960s made black liberation more militant and conservative preachers were seen as race traitors. Eventually, Michaux faded into obscurity.

Due to a freedom of information act request in 2017, it was discovered that Michaux was part of a FBI program to influence clergy. The landmark work of Lerone Martin was first published in Religion and Politics Fit for Polite Company and Religion and American Culture details Michaux’s role in the FBI plot. The story was also reported in the New York Times and Kolumn Magazine. These articles brought Michaux’s name back from obscurity.

The FBI realized religion is an important tool in social justice. Therefore, those that promoted a theology that supported the status quo needed to be promoted. The Bureau commission clergymen of many faiths and races to promote a conservative political agenda. Solomon Michaux was one of those pastors. His ability at evangelizing through television and radio made him a stand-out. His blackness validated the conservative theology in a way a white pastor could not. The fact a black man agreed that no social movement or change is needed meant that his life and social circle nobody was suffering.

Now it is important to realize Michaux actually was a conservative Christian. His theology before he began working for the bureau in 1939 was also conservative. He believed the Bible did not sanction segregation or discrimination. However, the black man as a group does exist at a lower state. Slavery was one mechanism to civilize black people and bring them up to par with with whites. Segregation and current discrimination was just part of that process. Because Michaux had this philosophy the Bureau recruited him for collaboration.

In Michaux’s theology, the races will only integrate with Jesus comes into the heart of all individuals. The primary unit of social change is the individual. So any attempts to force change on people was outside the will of G-d. All movements for social change including the Civil Rights Movement could only be led by godless communist.

Analysis

To call Michaux a sell-out or Uncle Tom would be too easy. In Spiral Dynamics terminology, he is a Blue Meme Upper Left Reductionist. He sees the entire problem of segregation stemming from individual moral failings. King took a four quadrants approach. Upper Left represented by his spiritual growth. Upper Right represented by Nonviolent Direct Action. Lower Left represented by the foundations and philosophy of the various organizations started by King. The Lower Left represented by the left-wing policies he pursued.

Another difference between King and Michaux was what they believed caused the present racial hierarchy. King believed the present racial hierarchy was the result of the “fall of man”. Michaux saw it as a result of G-d’s divine providence. So both men saw integration as an positive end, but Michaux believed the current situation was needed to develop black people.

Key Take-Aways

Christianity like all other religions is neutral in the fight for social justice. What makes a religion a force in the fight is the way it is interpreted. Giving spiritual leaders a proper political education and political leaders a proper spiritual education is key in proper leadership. The two fields can’t be separated. The general public must understand how all these elements factor into their ability to obtain freedom.

Sources

  1. https://www.thechurchofgodatwilliamsburg.org/eldermichaux.htm
  2. https://www.encyclopedia.com/african-american-focus/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/michaux-solomon-lightfoot
  3. https://blackpast.org/aah/michaux-elder-solomon-lightfoot-c-1885-1968
  4. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/02/us/black-evangelist-elder-michaux-opposed-dr-king.html
  5. https://religionandpolitics.org/2018/04/03/new-documents-reveal-how-the-fbi-deployed-a-televangelist-to-discredit-martin-luther-king/
  6. http://www.kolumnmagazine.com/2018/04/05/black-evangelist-opposed-dr-king-new-york-times/
  7. “Bereau Clergyman: How the FBI Colluded with and African American Televangelist to Destroy Martin Luther King” by Lerone Martin Religion and American Culture Winter 2018 Cambridge University Press
  8. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/mlks-speech-attracted-fbis-intense-attention/2013/08/27/31c8ebd4-0f60-11e3-8cdd-bcdc09410972_story.html?utm_term=.667499fc9dde

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.

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

Trumpet of Conscience

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