The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
by Clayborne Carson
“From the very beginning I was an extraordinarily healthy child. It is said that at my birth the doctors pronounced me a one hundred percent perfect child, from a physical point of view. I hardly know how an ill moment feels. I guess the same thing would apply to my mental life. I have always been somewhat precocious, both physically and mentally. So it seems that from a hereditary point of view, nature was very kind to me.”
“It is quite easy for me to think of a God of love mainly because I grew up in a family where love was central and where lovely relationships were ever present.”
“My mother confronted the age-old problem of the Negro parent in America: how to explain discrimination and segregation to a small child. She taught me that I should feel a sense of “somebodiness” but that on the other hand I had to go out and face a system that stared me in the face every day saying you are “less than,” you are “not equal to.”
“She made it clear that she opposed this system and that I must never allow it to make me feel inferior. Then she said the words that almost every Negro hears before he can yet understand the injustice that makes them necessary: “You are as good as anyone.”
“Daddy” Martin Luther King, Sr., is as strong in his will as he is in his body. He has a dynamic personality, and his very physical presence (weighing about 220 pounds) commands attention. He has always been a very strong and self-confident person. I have rarely ever met a person more fearless and courageous than my father, notwithstanding the fact that he feared for me.”
“He is a man of real integrity, deeply committed to moral and ethical principles.”
“He is conscientious in all of his undertakings.”
“Even the person who disagrees with his frankness has to admit that his motives and actions are sincere.”
“He never hesitates to tell the truth and speak his mind, however cutting it may be. This quality of frankness has often caused people to actually fear him. I have had young and old alike say to me, “I’m scared to death of your dad.” Indeed, he is stern at many points.”
“But this uncritical attitude could not last long, for it was contrary to the very nature of my being. I had always been the questioning and precocious type. At the age of thirteen, I shocked my Sunday school class by denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Doubts began to spring forth unrelentingly.”
“The climax came when he told me one day that his father had demanded that he would play with me no more. I never will forget what a great shock this was to me. I immediately asked my parents about the motive behind such a statement. We were at the dinner table when the situation was discussed, and here for the first time I was made aware of the existence of a race problem. I had never been conscious of it before. As my parents discussed some of the tragedies that had resulted from this problem and some of the insults they themselves had confronted on account of it, I was greatly shocked, and from that moment on I was determined to hate every white person. As I grew older and older this feeling continued to grow.”
“And he never has. I remember riding with him another day when he accidentally drove past a stop sign. A policeman pulled up to the car and said: “All right, boy, pull over and let me see your license.” My father instantly retorted: “Let me make it clear to you that you aren’t talking to a boy. If you persist in referring to me as boy, I will be forced to act as if I don’t hear a word you are saying.” The policeman was so shocked in hearing a Negro talk to him so forthrightly that he didn’t quite know how to respond. He nervously wrote the ticket and left the scene as quickly as possible.”
“I had also learned that the inseparable twin of racial injustice was economic injustice. Although I came from a home of economic security and relative comfort, I could never get out of my mind the economic insecurity of many of my playmates and the tragic poverty of those living around me. During my late teens I worked two summers (against my father’s wishes—he never wanted my brother and me to work around white people because of the oppressive conditions) in a plant that hired both Negroes and whites. Here I saw economic injustice firsthand, and realized that the poor white was exploited just as much as the Negro. Through these early experiences I grew up deeply conscious of the varieties of injustice in our society.”
“The first time that I was seated behind a curtain in a dining car, I felt as if the curtain had been dropped on my selfhood. I could never adjust to the separate waiting rooms, separate eating places, separate rest rooms, partly because the separate was always unequal, and partly because the very idea of separation did something to my sense of dignity and self-respect.”
“On our way here we saw some things I had never anticipated to see. After we passed Washington there was no discrimination at all the white people here are very nice. We go to any place we want to and sit any where we want to.”
“My days in college were very exciting ones. There was a free atmosphere at Morehouse, and it was there I had my first frank discussion on race. The professors were not caught up in the clutches of state funds and could teach what they wanted with academic freedom. They encouraged us in a positive quest for a solution to racial ills. I realized that nobody there was afraid.”
“When I went to Morehouse as a freshman in 1944, my concern for racial and economic justice was already substantial. During my student days I read Henry David Thoreau’s essay “On Civil Disobedience” for the first time. Here, in this courageous New Englander’s refusal to pay his taxes and his choice of jail rather than support a war that would spread slavery’s territory into Mexico, I made my first contact with the theory of nonviolent resistance. Fascinated by the idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system, I was so deeply moved that I reread the work several times.”
“I became convinced that noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest. The teachings of Thoreau came alive in our civil rights movement; indeed, they are more alive than ever before.”
“As soon as I entered college, I started working with the organizations that were trying to make racial justice a reality. The wholesome relations we had in the Intercollegiate Council convinced me that we had many white persons as allies, particularly among the younger generation. I had been ready to resent the whole white race, but as I got to see more of white people, my resentment was softened, and a spirit of cooperation took its place. I was at the point where I was deeply interested in political matters and social ills. I could envision myself playing a part in breaking down the legal barriers to Negro rights.”
“More and more I could see a gap between what I had learned in Sunday school and what I was learning in college. My studies had made me skeptical, and I could not see how many of the facts of science could be squared with religion.”
“I was well aware of the typical white stereotype of the Negro, that he is always late, that he’s loud and always laughing, that he’s dirty and messy, and for a while I was terribly conscious of trying to avoid identification with it. If I were a minute late to class, I was almost morbidly conscious of it and sure that everyone else noticed it. Rather than be thought of as always laughing, I’m afraid I was grimly serious for a time. I had a tendency to overdress, to keep my room spotless, my shoes perfectly shined, and my clothes immaculately pressed.”
“Man is not made for the state; the state is made for man. To deprive man of freedom is to relegate him to the status of a thing, rather than elevate him to the status of a person. Man must never be treated as a means to the end of the state, but always as an end within himself.”
“Obviously this theory left out the numerous and significant complexities—political, economic, moral, religious, and psychological—which played a vital role in shaping the constellation of institutions and ideas known today as Western civilization.”
“capitalism is always in danger of inspiring men to be more concerned about making a living than making a life. We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity. Thus capitalism can lead to a practical materialism that is as pernicious as the materialism taught by communism.”
“Christian churches, I responded with a definite yes. My reading of Marx also convinced me that truth is found neither in Marxism nor in traditional capitalism. Each represents a partial truth. Historically capitalism failed to see the truth in collective enterprise and Marxism failed to see the truth in individual enterprise.”
“Nineteenth-century capitalism failed to see that life is social and Marxism failed and still fails to see that life is individual and personal.”
“He was there to preach for the Fellowship House of Philadelphia. Dr. Johnson had just returned from a trip to India, and, to my great interest, he spoke of the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. His message was so profound and electrifying that I left the meeting and bought a half-dozen books on Gandhi’s life and works. Like most people, I had heard of Gandhi, but I had never studied him seriously. As I read I became deeply fascinated by his campaigns of nonviolent resistance. I was particularly moved by his Salt March to the Sea and his numerous fasts. The whole concept of Satyagraha (Satya is truth which equals love, and agraha is force; Satyagraha, therefore, means truth force or love force) was profoundly significant to me.”
“Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale. Love for Gandhi was a potent instrument for social and collective transformation. It was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and nonviolence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking.”
“True pacifism is not unrealistic submission to evil power, as Niebuhr contends. It is rather a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love, in the faith that it is better to be the recipient of violence than the inflicter of it, since the latter only multiplies the existence of violence and bitterness in the universe, while the former may develop a sense of shame in the opponent, and thereby bring about a transformation and change of heart.”
“The thing that we need in the world today, is a group of men and women who will stand up for right and be opposed to wrong, wherever it is.”
“She talked about things other than music. I never will forget, the first discussion we had was about the question of racial and economic injustice and the question of peace. She had been actively engaged in movements dealing with these problems. After an hour, my mind was made up. I said, “So you can do something else besides sing? You’ve got a good mind also. You have everything I ever wanted in a woman. We ought to get married someday.”
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People are strongly attracted to him because of his warm personality. He loves people and is always ready to help someone in need. Although reared on a farm, Obie Scott was always concerned about going into business for himself. He finally succeeded and operated a trucking business, a combination filling station and grocery store, and a chicken farm. Despite the reprisals and physical threats of his white competitors, he attempted to get ahead in these various businesses and dared to make a decent living for his family.
“She is an attractive woman, fair in complexion, possessing narrow features and long black straight hair. In knowing her, one soon detects that she is a person of courage, determination, and amazing internal strength. She is deeply devoted to her family, always willing to sacrifice her needs to those of her children. More than anyone else, she taught Coretta her moral and ethical values, not by what she said alone, but also by her example.”
“I have come to see the real meaning of that rather trite statement: a wife can either make or break a husband.”
“I am convinced that if I had not had a wife with the fortitude, strength, and calmness of Corrie, I could not have withstood the ordeals and tensions surrounding the movement.”
“She saw the greatness of the movement and had a unique willingness to sacrifice herself for its continuation. If I have done anything in this struggle, it is because I have had behind me and at my side a devoted, understanding, dedicated, patient companion in the person of my wife. I can remember times when I sent her away for safety. I would look up a few days later, and she was back home, because she wanted to be there.”
“THE THREE DIMENSIONS OF A COMPLETE LIFE” The Length of Life, as we shall use it, is not its duration, not its longevity. It is rather the push of a life forward to its personal ends and ambitions. It is the inward concern for one’s personal welfare. The Breadth of Life is the outward concern for the welfare of others.
The Height of Life is the upward reach toward God. These are the three dimensions of life, and, without the due development of all, no life becomes complete. Life at its best is a great triangle. At one angle stands the individual person, at the other angle stands other persons, and at the tip top stands God. Unless these three are concatenated, working harmoniously together in a single life, that life is incomplete.”
“We must never forget that such a noble organization as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was organized by whites, and even to this day gains a great deal of support from Northern and Southern white persons.”
“While the nature of this account causes me to make frequent use of the pronoun “I,” in every important part of the story it should be “we.” This is not a drama with only one actor. More precisely it is the chronicle of fifty thousand Negroes who took to heart the principles of nonviolence, who learned to fight for their rights with the weapon of love, and who, in the process, acquired a new estimate of their own human worth.”
“We have taken this type of thing too long already,” Nixon concluded, his voice trembling. “I feel that the time has come to boycott the buses. Only through a boycott can we make it clear to the white folks that we will not accept this type of treatment any longer.”
“I jumped in my car and for almost an hour I cruised down every major street and examined every passing bus. At the peak of the morning traffic, I saw no more than eight Negro passengers riding the buses. Instead of the 60 percent cooperation we had hoped for, it was becoming apparent that we had reached almost 100 percent. A miracle had taken place. The once dormant and quiescent Negro community was now fully awake.”
“During the rush hours the sidewalks were crowded with laborers and domestic workers trudging patiently to their jobs and home again, sometimes as much as twelve miles. They knew why they walked, and the knowledge was evident in the way they carried themselves. And as I watched them I knew that there is nothing more majestic than the determined courage of individuals willing to suffer and sacrifice for their freedom and dignity.”
“You know,” she said quietly, “that whatever you do, you have my backing.” Reassured, I went to my study and closed the door. The minutes were passing fast. I had only twenty minutes to prepare the most decisive speech of my life. I became possessed by fear. Now I was faced with the inescapable task of preparing, in almost no time at all, a speech that was expected to give a sense of direction to a people imbued with a new and still unplumbed passion for justice. I was also conscious that reporters and television men would be there with their pencils and sound cameras poised to record my words and send them across the nation.”
“I was now almost overcome, obsessed by a feeling of inadequacy. In this state of anxiety, I wasted five minutes of the original twenty. With nothing left but faith in a power whose matchless strength stands over against the frailties and inadequacies of human nature, I turned to God in prayer. My words were brief and simple, asking God to restore my balance and to be with me in a time when I needed His guidance more than ever. With less than fifteen minutes left, I began preparing an outline. In the midst of this, however, I faced a new and sobering dilemma: how could I make a speech that would be militant enough to keep my people aroused to positive action and yet moderate enough to keep this fervor within controllable and Christian bounds? I knew that many of the Negro people were victims of bitterness that could easily rise to flood proportions. What could I say to keep them courageous and prepared for positive action and yet devoid of hate and resentment? Could the militant and the moderate be combined in a single speech?
“As we stand and sit here this evening and as we prepare ourselves for what lies ahead, let us go out with a grim and bold determination that we are going to stick together. We are going to work together. Right here in Montgomery, when the history books are written in the future, somebody will have to say, “There lived a race of people, a black people, ‘fleecy locks and black complexion,’ a people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights. And thereby they injected a new meaning into the veins of history and of civilization.”
“As I sat listening to the continued applause I realized that this speech had evoked more response than any speech or sermon I had ever delivered, and yet it was virtually unprepared.”
“The movement could no longer continue without careful planning.”
“The response was tremendous” From the beginning of the protest Ralph Abernathy was my closest associate and most trusted friend. We prayed together and made important decisions together. His ready good humor lightened many tense moments.
“Fortunately, a mass meeting was being held that night. There I asked all those who were willing to offer their cars to give us their names, addresses, telephone numbers, and the hours that they could drive, before leaving the meeting. The response was tremendous. More than a hundred and fifty signed slips volunteering their automobiles. Some who were not working offered to drive in the car pool all day; others volunteered a few hours before and after work. Practically all of the ministers offered to drive whenever they were needed.”
“People responded to this philosophy with amazing ardor. To be sure, there were some who were slow to concur. Occasionally members of the executive board would say to me in private that we needed a more militant approach. They looked upon nonviolence as weak and compromising. Others felt that at least a modicum of violence would convince the white people that the Negroes meant business and were not afraid.”
I soon saw that I was the victim of an unwarranted pessimism because I had started out with an unwarranted optimism. I had gone to the meeting with a great illusion. I had believed that the privileged would give up their privileges on request. This experience, however, taught me a lesson. I came to see that no one gives up his privileges without strong resistance. I saw further that the underlying purpose of segregation was to oppress and exploit the segregated, not simply to keep them apart. Even when we asked for justice within the segregation laws, the “powers that be” were not willing to grant it. Justice and equality, I saw, would never come while segregation remained, because the basic purpose of segregation was to perpetuate injustice and inequality.”
“I almost broke down under the continual battering of this argument. I began to think that there might be some truth in it, and I also feared that some were being influenced by this argument. After two or three troubled days and nights of little sleep, I called a meeting of the executive board and offered my resignation. I told them that I would be the last person to want to stand in the way of a solution to the problem which plagued our community, and that maybe a more mature person could bring about a speedier conclusion. I further assured the board that I would be as active in the background as I had been in the position of spokesman. But I had barely finished talking before board members began to urge me from every side to forget the idea of resignation.
“With a unanimous vote of confidence, they made it clear that they were well pleased with the way I was handling things, and that they would follow my leadership to the end.”
“Many times Coretta saw her good meals grow dry in the oven when a sudden emergency kept me away. Yet she never complained, and she was always there when I needed her.
By this time we were passing under the bridge. I was sure now that I was going to meet my fateful hour on the other side. But as I looked up I noticed a glaring light in the distance, and soon I saw the words “Montgomery City Jail.” I was so relieved that it was some time before I realized the irony of my position: going to jail at that moment seemed like going to some safe haven!”
“When I began to look around I was so appalled at the conditions I saw that I soon forgot my own predicament. I saw men lying on hard wood slats, and others resting on cots with torn-up mattresses. The toilet was in one corner of the cell without a semblance of an enclosure. I said to myself that no matter what these men had done, they shouldn’t be treated like this.”
“Shortly after, the jailer came to get me. As I left the cell, wondering where he was going to take me, one of the men called after me: “Don’t forget us when you get out.” I assured them that I would not forget.”
“As I walked out and noticed the host of friends and well-wishers, I regained the courage that I had temporarily lost. I knew that I did not stand alone. After a brief statement to the crowd, I was driven home. My wife greeted me with a kiss. Many members of my church were waiting anxiously to hear the outcome. Their words of encouragement gave me further assurance that I was not alone.”
“From that night on my commitment to the struggle for freedom was stronger than ever before. Before retiring I talked with Coretta, and, as usual, she gave me the reassurance that can only come from one who is as close to you as your own heartbeat.”
of injustice was dark: the “get-tough” policy was taking its toll. But in the darkness I could see a radiant star of unity.”
“As the weeks passed, I began to see that many of the threats were in earnest. Soon I felt myself faltering and growing in fear. One day, a white friend told me that he had heard from reliable sources that plans were being made to take my life. For the first time I realized that something could happen to me.”
“One night at a mass meeting, I found myself saying: “If one day you find me sprawled out dead, I do not want you to retaliate with a single act of violence. I urge you to continue protesting with the same dignity and discipline you have shown so far.” A strange silence came over the audience.
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One night toward the end of January I settled into bed late, after a strenuous day. Coretta had already fallen asleep and just as I was about to doze off the telephone rang. An angry voice said, “Listen, nigger, we’ve taken all we want from you; before next week you’ll be sorry you ever came to Montgomery.” I hung up, but I couldn’t sleep. It seemed that all of my fears had come down on me at once. I had reached the saturation point.”
“By this time the crowd outside was getting out of hand. The policemen had failed to disperse them, and throngs of additional people were arriving every minute. The white reporters were afraid to face the angry crowd. The mayor and police commissioner, though they might not have admitted it, were very pale. In this atmosphere I walked out to the porch and asked the crowd to come to order. In less than a moment there was complete silence. Quietly I told them that I was all right and that my wife and baby were all right.”
“We believe in law and order. Don’t get panicky. Don’t do anything panicky at all. Don’t get your weapons. He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. Remember that is what God said. We are not advocating violence. We want to love our enemies. I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. Love them and let them know you love them.”
“I did not start this boycott. I was asked by you to serve as your spokesman. I want it known the length and breadth of this land that if I am stopped this movement will not stop. If I am stopped our work will not stop. For what we are doing is right. What we are doing is just. And God is with us.”
“As I finished speaking there were shouts of “Amen” and “God bless you.” I could hear voices saying: “We are with you all the way, Reverend.” I looked out over that vast throng of people and noticed tears on many faces.”
“We must have compassion and understanding for those who hate us. We must realize so many people are taught to hate us that they are not totally responsible for their hate. But we stand in life at midnight, we are always on the threshold of a new dawn.”
MARCH 22 King is found guilty of leading illegal boycott and sentenced to $500 fine or 386 days in jail; the case is appealed NOVEMBER 13 U.S. Supreme Court declares bus segregation laws unconstitutional DECEMBER 21 After MIA votes to end boycott, King is one of first passengers to ride desegregated buses
“We continued our drive from the airport and soon arrived at my parents’ house. I went directly upstairs to see my daughter, Yoki, now three months old. The innocence of her smile and the warmth of her affection brought temporary relief to my tension.”
should not go back at this time. There were murmurs of agreement in the room, and I listened as sympathetically and objectively as I could while two of the men gave their reasons for concurring. These were my elders, leaders among my people. Their words commanded respect. But soon I could not restrain myself any longer. “I must go back to Montgomery,” I protested. “My friends and associates are being arrested. It would be the height of cowardice for me to stay away.
“I would rather be in jail ten years than desert my people now. I have begun the struggle, and I can’t turn back. I have reached the point of no return.” In the moment of silence that followed I heard my father break into tears. I looked at Dr. Mays, one of the great influences in my life. Perhaps he heard my unspoken plea. At any rate, he was soon defending my position strongly. Then others joined him in supporting me. They assured my father that things were not so bad as they seemed.”
“White friends, too, came forward with their support. Often they called to say an encouraging word, and when the house was bombed several of them, known and unknown to us, came by to express their regret. Through all of these trying and difficult days, Coretta remained amazingly calm and even-tempered. In the midst of the most tragic experiences, she never became panicky or overemotional. She was always strong and courageous. While she had certain natural fears and anxieties concerning my welfare, she never allowed them to hamper my active participation in the movement. And she seemed to have no fear for herself.”
“However, she was never satisfied being away from me. She always insisted on coming back and staying with the struggle to the end. I am convinced that if I had not had a wife with the fortitude, strength, and calmness of Coretta, I could not have stood up amid the ordeals and tensions surrounding the Montgomery movement. In the darkest moments, she always brought the light of hope.”
The evening came, and I mustered up enough courage to tell them the truth. I tried, however, to end on a note of hope. “This may well be,” I said, “the darkest hour just before dawn. We have moved all of these months with the daring faith that God was with us in our struggle. The many experiences of days gone by have vindicated that faith in a most unexpected manner. We must go out with the same faith, the same conviction. We must believe that a way will be made out of no way.” But in spite of these words, I could feel the cold breeze of pessimism passing through the audience. It was a dark night—darker than a thousand midnights. It was a night in which the light of hope was about to fade away and the lamp of faith about to flicker. We went home with nothing before us but a cloud of uncertainty.
At this moment my heart began to throb with an inexpressible joy. At once I told the news to the attorneys at the table. Then I rushed to the back of the room to tell my wife, Ralph Abernathy, and E. D. Nixon. Soon the word had spread to the whole courtroom. The faces of the Negroes showed that they had heard. “God Almighty has spoken from Washington, D.C.,” said one joyful bystander.
Tuesday, November 13, 1956, will always remain an important and ironic date in the history of the Montgomery bus protest. On that day two historic decisions were rendered—one to do away with the pool; the other to remove the underlying conditions that made it necessary. The darkest hour of our struggle had become the hour of victory. Disappointment, sorrow, and despair are born at midnight, but morning follows.”
“The eight thousand men and women who crowded in and around the two churches were in high spirits. At the first meeting it was clear that the news of the decision had spread fast. Each of the meetings accepted the recommendations of the executive board to call off the protest but refrain from riding the buses until the mandate reached Alabama. It was a glorious daybreak to end a long night of enforced segregation.”
“Concealing the effort it cost them, many walked about as usual; some simply watched from their steps; a few waved at the passing cars. After a few blocks, the Klan, nonplussed, turned off into a side street and disappeared into the night.”
we must not take this as a victory over the white man, but as a victory for justice and democracy.”
“We must act in such a way as to make possible a coming together of white people and colored people on the basis of a real harmony of interests and understanding. We seek an integration based on mutual respect.”
“I had decided that after many months of struggling with my people for the goal of justice I should not sit back and watch, but should lead them back to the buses myself. I asked Ralph Abernathy, E. D. Nixon, and Glenn Smiley to join me in riding on the first integrated bus. They reached my house around 5:45 on Friday morning. Television cameras, photographers, and news reporters were hovering outside the door. At 5:55 we walked toward the bus stop, the cameras shooting, the reporters bombarding us with questions. Soon the bus appeared; the door opened, and I stepped on. The bus driver greeted me with a cordial smile. As I put my fare in the box he said: “I believe you are Reverend King, aren’t you?” I answered: “Yes I am.” “We are glad to have you this morning,” he said. I thanked him and took my seat, smiling now too. Abernathy, Nixon, and Smiley followed, with several reporters and television men behind them. Glenn Smiley sat next to me. So I rode the first integrated bus in Montgomery with a white minister, and a native Southerner, as my seat mate.
“A white woman unknowingly took a seat by a Negro. When she noticed her neighbor, she jumped up and said in a tone of obvious anger: “What are these niggers gonna do next?”
“Also, Montgomery contributed a new weapon to the Negro revolution. This was the social tool of nonviolent resistance. It was a weapon first applied on the American scene and in a collective way in Montgomery. In that city too, it was honed well for future use. It was effective in that it had a way of disarming the opponent. It exposed his moral defenses. It weakened his morale, and at the same time it worked on his conscience. It also provided a method for Negroes to struggle to secure moral ends through moral means. Thus, it provided a creative force through which men could channel their discontent.”
There in the early morning hours we prayed to God together, asking for the power of endurance, the strength to carry on.”
(later the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or SCLC), a permanent organization to facilitate coordinated action of local protest groups. I became the group’s president, a position I still hold.”
“Lord, I hope no one will have to die as a result of our struggle for freedom in Montgomery. Certainly I don’t want to die. But if anyone has to die, let it be me.” The audience was in an uproar. Shouts and cries of “no, no” came from all sides. So intense was the reaction, that I could not go on with my prayer. Two of my fellow ministers came to the pulpit and suggested that I take a seat. For a few minutes I stood with their arms around me, unable to move. Finally, with the help of my friends, I sat down. It was this scene that caused the press to report mistakenly that I had collapsed.”
“At home I addressed the crowd from my porch, where the mark of the bomb was clear. “We must not return violence under any condition. I know this is difficult advice to follow, especially since we have been the victims of no less than ten bombings. But this is the way of Christ; it is the way of the cross. We must somehow believe that unearned suffering is redemptive.” Then, since it was Sunday morning, I urged the people to go home and get ready for church. Gradually they dispersed.”
“With these bombings the community came to see that Montgomery was fast being plunged into anarchy. Finally, the city began to investigate in earnest. Rewards of $4,000 were offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the bombers. On January 31, the Negro community was surprised to hear that seven white men had been arrested in connection with the bombings.”
TELEGRAM TO CORETTA SCOTT KING 14 February 1957 New Orleans, La. MRS CORETTA KING= 309 SOUTH JACKSON ST MONTGOMERY ALA= MY DARLING IT IS A PLEASURE FOR ME TO PAUSE WHILE ATTENDING TO IMPORTANT BUSINESS WHICH AFFECTS THE WELFARE OF THIS NATION AND ATTEND TO THE MOST IMPORTANT BUSINESS IN THE WORLD NAMELY CHOOSING AS MY VALENTINE THE SWEETEST AND MOST LOVELY WIFE AND MOTHER IN ALL THE WORLD AS THE DAYS GO BY MY LOVE GROWS EVEN GREATER FOR YOU WILL ALWAYS BE MY VALENTINE= MARTIN
“During this period, I could hardly go into any city or any town in this nation where I was not lavished with hospitality by peoples of all races and of all creeds. I could hardly go anywhere to speak in this nation where hundreds and thousands of people were not turned away because of lack of space. And then after speaking, I often had to be rushed out to get away from the crowd rushing for autographs. I could hardly walk the street in any city of this nation where I was not confronted with people running up the street: “Isn’t this Reverend King of Alabama?” And living under this it was easy to feel that I was something special.”
“When you are aware that you are a symbol, it causes you to search your soul constantly—to go through this job of self-analysis, to see if you live up to the high and noble principles that people surround you with, and to try at all times to keep the gulf between the public self and the private self at a minimum.”
“It was clear that things were much better than they were before December 5, 1955, but Montgomery’s racial problems were still far from solved.”
“and the parallel growth of industry had drawn large numbers of Negroes to urban centers and brought about a gradual improvement in their economic status. New contacts had led to a broadened outlook and new possibilities for educational advance.”
“This growing self-respect has inspired the Negro with a new determination to struggle and sacrifice until first- class citizenship becomes a reality. This is the true meaning of the Montgomery Story. One can never understand the bus protest in Montgomery without understanding that there is a new Negro in the South, with a new sense of dignity and destiny.”
“Along with the Negro’s changing image of himself has come an awakening moral consciousness on the part of millions of white Americans concerning segregation. Ever since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, America has manifested a schizophrenic personality on the question of race. She has been torn between selves— a self in which she has proudly professed democracy and a self in which she has sadly practiced the antithesis of democracy.”
“Indeed, segregation and discrimination are strange paradoxes in a nation founded on the principle that all men are created equal.”
“Ghana has something to say to us. It says to us first that the oppressor never voluntarily gives freedom to the oppressed.”
“You have to work for it. Freedom is never given to anybody. Privileged classes never give up their privileges without strong resistance.”
“The minute I knew I was coming to Ghana I had a very deep emotional feeling. A new nation was being born. It symbolized the fact that a new order was coming into being and an old order was passing away. So I was deeply concerned about it. I wanted to be involved in it, be a part of it, and notice the birth of this new nation with my own eyes. The trip, which included visits to other countries of Africa and several stops in Europe, was of tremendous cultural value and made possible many contacts of lasting significance.
Struggling had been going on in Ghana for years. The British Empire saw that it could no longer rule the Gold Coast and agreed that on the sixth of March, 1957, it would release the nation. All of this was because of the persistent protest, the continual agitation, of Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah and the other leaders who worked along with him and the masses of people who were willing to follow.”
“A new age coming into being” So that day finally came. About midnight on a dark night in 1957, a new nation came into being. That was a great hour. As we walked out, we noticed all over the polo grounds almost a half million people. They had waited for this hour and this moment for years. People came from all over the world— seventy nations—to say to this new nation: “We greet you. And we give you our moral support. We hope for you God’s guidance as you move now into the realm of independence.” It was a beautiful experience to see some of the leading persons on the scene of civil rights in America on hand: to my left was Charles Diggs, to my right were Adam Powell and Ralph Bunche. All of these people from America, Mordecai Johnson, Horace Mann Bond, A. Philip Randolph; then you looked out and saw the vice president of the United States.”
“A handsome black man walked out on the platform, and he was followed by eight or ten other men. He stood there and said, “We are no longer a British colony. We are a free and sovereign people.” When he uttered those words, we looked back and saw an old flag coming down and a new flag going up. And I said to myself, “That old flag coming down doesn’t represent the meaning of this drama taking place on the stage of history, for it is the symbol of an old order passing away. That new flag going up is the symbol of a new age coming into being.” I could hear people shouting all over that vast audience, “Freedom! Freedom!” Before I knew it, I started weeping. I was crying for joy. And I knew about all of the struggles, all of the pain, and all of the agony that these people had gone through for this moment.”
Freedom!” They were crying it in a sense that they had never heard it before. And I could hear that old Negro spiritual once more crying out: “Free at last, free at last, Great God Almighty, I’m free at last.” They were experiencing that in their very souls. And everywhere we turned, we could hear it ringing out from the housetops. We could hear it from every corner, every nook and crook of the community. “Freedom! Freedom!” This was the breaking loose from Egypt.”
“He always realized that colonialism was made for domination and exploitation. It was made to keep a certain group down and exploit that group economically for the advantage of another. He studied and thought about all of this, and one day he decided to go back to Africa.”
“For instance, Ghana was a one-crop country, cocoa mainly. In order to make the economic system more stable, it would be necessary to industrialize. Nkrumah said to me that one of the first things that he would do would be to work toward industrialization.”
“When I hear, “People aren’t ready,” that’s like telling a person who is trying to swim, “Don’t jump in that water until you learn how to swim.” When actually you will never learn how to swim until you get in the water. People have to have an opportunity to develop themselves and govern themselves.”
“I am often reminded of the statement made by Nkrumah: “I prefer self-government with danger to servitude with tranquility.” I think that’s a great statement. They were willing to face the dangers and difficulties, but I thought that Ghana would be able to profit by the mistakes of other nations that had existed over so many years and develop into a great nation. After meeting Kwame Nkrumah, we stopped in Nigeria for a day or so. Then we went to Europe and then back to America to deal with the problems there.
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As far as the repeated attacks on me and my family, I must say that here again God gives one the strength to adjust to such acts of violence. None of these attacks came as a total surprise to me, because I counted the cost early in the struggle. To believe in nonviolence does not mean that violence will not be inflicted upon you. The believer in nonviolence is the person who will willingly allow himself to be the victim of violence but will never inflict violence upon another. He lives by the conviction that through his suffering and cross bearing, the social situation may be redeemed.”
“While the Montgomery boycott was going on, India’s Gandhi was the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change.”
In 1956 when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s prime minister, made a short visit to the United States, he was gracious enough to say that he wished that he and I had met. His diplomatic representatives made inquiries as to the possibility of my visiting his country some time. Our former American ambassador to India, Chester Bowles, wrote me along the same lines.”
“We were looked upon as brothers” We had a grand reception in India. The people showered upon us the most generous hospitality imaginable. Almost every door was open so that our party was able to see some of India’s most important social experiments and talk with leaders in and out of government, ranging from Prime Minister Nehru, to village councilmen and Vinoba Bhave, the sainted leader of the land reform movement.
We had hundreds of invitations that the limited time did not allow us to accept. We were looked upon as brothers, with the color of our skins as something of an asset. But the strongest bond of fraternity was the common cause of minority and colonial peoples in America, Africa, and Asia struggling to throw off racism and imperialism.
REFLECTIONS ON INDIA TRIP How can one avoid being depressed when he discovers that of India’s 400 million people, more than 365 million make an annual income of less than sixty dollars a year? Most of these people have never seen a doctor or a dentist. As I looked at these conditions, I found myself saying that we in America cannot stand idly by and not be concerned. Then something within me cried out, “Oh, no, because the destiny of the United States is tied up with the destiny of India—with the destiny of every other nation.” And I remembered that we spend more than a million dollars a day to store surplus food in this country.
said to myself, “I know where we can store that food free of charge—in the wrinkled stomachs of the millions of people who go to bed hungry at night.” Maybe we spend too much of our national budget building military bases around the world rather than bases of genuine concern and understanding. Address at Lincoln University, June
“Crowded humanity” India is a vast country with vast problems. We flew over the long stretches, from north to south, east to west; we took trains for shorter jumps and used automobiles and jeeps to get us into the less accessible places. Everywhere we went we saw crowded humanity—on the roads, in the city streets and squares, even in the villages. Most of the people were poor and poorly dressed. In the city of Bombay, for example, over a half million people—mostly unattached, unemployed, or partially employed males—slept out of doors every night. Great ills flowed from the poverty of India but strangely there was relatively little crime.”
“This was another concrete manifestation of the wonderful spiritual quality of the Indian people. They were poor, jammed together, and half-starved, but they did not take it out on each other. In contrast to the poverty-stricken, there were Indians who were rich, had luxurious homes, landed estates, fine clothes, and showed evidence of overeating. The bourgeoise—white, black, or brown—behaves about the same the world over.”
“On the other hand, there were others—perhaps the majority—who said that Westernization would bring with it the evils of materialism, cutthroat competition, and rugged individualism. They said that India would lose her soul if she took to chasing Yankee dollars, and that the big machine would only raise the living standard of the comparatively few workers who got jobs, but the greater number of people would be displaced.”
Such ideas sound strange and archaic to Western ears. However, the Indians have already achieved greater results than we Americans would ever expect. For example, millions of acres of land have been given up by rich landlords and additional millions of acres have been given up to cooperative management by small farmers. On the other hand, the Bhoodanists shrink from giving their movement the organization and drive that we in America would venture to guess that it must have in order to keep pace with the magnitude of the problems that everybody is trying to solve.”
“India is a tremendous force for peace and nonviolence, at home and abroad.”
“As the waves crashed against the base of the rock on which we were seated, an oceanic music brought sweetness to the ear. To the west we saw the magnificent sun, a red cosmic ball of fire, appear to sink into the very ocean itself. Just as it was almost lost from sight, Coretta touched me and said, “Look, Martin, isn’t that beautiful!” I looked around and saw the moon, another ball of scintillating beauty. As the sun appeared to be sinking into the ocean, the moon appeared to be rising from the ocean. When the sun finally passed completely beyond sight, darkness engulfed the earth, but in the east the radiant light of the rising moon shone supreme. This was, as I said, one of the most beautiful parts in all the world, and that happened to be one of those days when the moon was full. This is one of the few points in all the world where you can see the setting of the sun and the rising of the moon simultaneously.”
SERMON ON MAHATMA GANDHI If you ask people in India why is it that Mahatma Gandhi was able to do what he did in India, they will say they followed him because of his absolute sincerity and his absolute dedication. Here was a man who achieved in his lifetime this bridging of the gulf between the ego and the id. Gandhi had the amazing capacity for self-criticism. This was true in individual life, in his family life, and was true in his people’s life. Gandhi criticized himself when he needed it. And whenever he made a mistake, he confessed it publicly. Here was a man who would say to his people: I’m not perfect, I’m not infallible, I don’t want you to start a religion around me, I’m not a god. And I’m convinced today that there would be a religion around Gandhi, if Gandhi had not insisted, all through his life: I don’t want a religion around me because I’m too human, I’m too fallible, never think I’m infallible. And any time he made a mistake, even in his personal life, or even a decision that he made in the independence struggle, he came out in the public and said, “I made a mistake.”
“Gandhi was able to mobilize and galvanize more people in his lifetime than any other person in the history of this world. And just with a little love and understanding goodwill and a refusal to cooperate with an evil law, he was able to break the backbone of the British Empire. This, I think, was one of the most significant things that ever happened in the history of the world. More than 390 million people achieved their freedom, and they achieved it nonviolently. I was delighted that the Gandhians accepted us with open arms. They praised our experiment with the nonviolent resistance technique at Montgomery. They seemed to look upon it as an outstanding example of the possibilities of its use in Western civilization.”
“Gandhi looked at this system and couldn’t stand it. He looked at his people and said, “Now you have selected me, and you’ve asked me to free you from the political domination and the economic exploitation inflicted upon you by Britain, and here you are, trampling over and exploiting seventy million of your brothers.”
“The principal introduced me and then as he came to the conclusion of his introduction, he says, “Young people, I would like to present to you a fellow untouchable from the United States of America.” And for a moment I was a bit shocked and peeved that I would be referred to as an untouchable…. I started thinking about the fact: twenty million of my brothers and sisters were still smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in an affluent society.”
“I started thinking about the fact: these twenty million brothers and sisters were still by and large housed in rat- infested, unendurable slums in the big cities of our nation, still attending inadequate schools faced with improper recreational facilities. And I said to myself, “Yes, I am an untouchable, and every Negro in the United States of America is an untouchable.” From sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, July 4, 1965
He said, “I will refuse to eat until the leaders of the caste system will come to me with the leaders of the untouchables and say that there will be an end to untouchability and the Hindu temples of India will open their doors to the untouchables.” And he refused to eat, and days passed. Finally when Gandhi was about to breathe his last breath, and his body was all but gone, a group from the untouchables and a group from the Brahmin caste came to him and signed a statement saying that they would no longer adhere to the caste system. The priest of the temple came to him and said, “Now the temples will be opened to the untouchables.” That afternoon, untouchables from all over India went into the temples and all of these thousands and millions of people put their arms around the Brahmins and people of other castes. Hundreds of millions of people who had never touched each other for two thousand years were now singing and praising all together. This was a great contribution that Mahatma Gandhi brought about.
India appeared to be integrating its untouchables faster than the United States was integrating its Negro minority. Both countries had federal laws against discrimination, but in India the leaders of government, of religious, educational, and other institutions, had publicly endorsed the integration laws. The prime minister admitted to me that many Indians still harbored a prejudice against these long-oppressed people,
The world doesn’t like people like Gandhi. That’s strange, isn’t it? They don’t like people like Christ; they don’t like people like Lincoln. They killed him—this man who had done all of that for India, who gave his life and who mobilized and galvanized 400 million people for independence…. One of his own fellow Hindus felt that he was a little too favorable toward the Moslems, felt that he was giving in too much for the Moslems…. Here was the man of nonviolence, falling at the hands of a man of violence. Here was a man of love falling at the hands of a man with hate. This seems the way of history. And isn’t it significant that he died on the same day that Christ died? It was on Friday. And this is the story of history, but thank God it never stopped here. Thank God Good Friday is never the end. The man who shot Gandhi only shot him into the hearts of humanity. Just as when Abraham Lincoln was shot, mark you, for the same reason that Mahatma Gandhi was shot—that is, the attempt to heal the wounds of the divided nation—when Abraham Lincoln was shot, Secretary Stanton stood by and said, “Now he belongs to the ages.” The same thing could be said about Mahatma Gandhi now: He belongs to the ages. March 22, 1959, in Montgomery
applicants being an untouchable and the other of high caste, the school is required to accept the untouchable. Professor Lawrence Reddick, who was with me during the interview, asked: “But isn’t that discrimination?” “Well, it may be,” the prime minister answered. “But this is our way of atoning for the centuries of injustices we have inflicted upon these people.”
Some of his disciples remembered the drama of the fight for national independence and, when they look around, find no one who comes near the stature of the Mahatma. But any objective observer must report that Gandhi is not only the greatest figure in India’s history, but his influence is felt in almost every aspect of life and public policy.”
left India more convinced than ever before that nonviolent resistance was the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom. It was a marvelous thing to see the amazing results of a nonviolent campaign. India won her independence, but without violence on the part of Indians. The aftermath of hatred and bitterness that usually follows a violent campaign was found nowhere in India.”
I returned to America with a greater determination to achieve freedom for my people through nonviolent means. As a result of my visit to India, my understanding of nonviolence became greater and my commitment deeper.”
“So I had the painful experience of having to leave Montgomery for Atlanta. It was not easy for me to decide to leave a community where bravery, resourcefulness, and determination had shattered the girders of the old order and weakened confidence of the rulers, despite their centuries of unchallenged rule. It was not easy to decide to leave a city whose Negroes resisted injustice magnificently and followed a method of nonviolent struggle that became one of the glowing epics of the twentieth century. I hated to leave Montgomery, but the people there realized that the call from the whole South was one that could not be denied. This was the creative moment for a full-scale assault on the system of segregation. The time had come for a bold, broad advance of the Southern campaign for equality.”
FAREWELL MESSAGE TO DEXTER CONGREGATION Unknowingly and unexpectedly, I was catapulted into the leadership of the Montgomery Movement. At points I was unprepared for the symbolic role that history had thrust upon me. But there was no way out. I, like everybody in Montgomery, was pulled into the mainstream by the rolling tides of historical necessity. As a result of my leadership in the Montgomery movement, my duties and activities tripled. A multiplicity of new responsibilities poured in upon me in almost staggering torrents. So I ended up futilely attempting to be four or five men in one. One would have expected that many of these responsibilities would have tapered off after the boycott. But now, three years after the termination of the bus struggle, the same situation stands. At points the demands have increased. November 29, 1959
“The student demonstrations” In 1960 an electrifying movement of Negro students shattered the placid surface of campuses and communities across the South. The young students of the South, through sit-ins and other demonstrations, gave America a glowing example of disciplined, dignified non-violent action against the system of segregation. Though confronted in many places by hoodlums, police guns, tear gas, arrests, and jail sentences, the students tenaciously continued to sit down and demand equal service at variety store lunch counters, and they extended their protest from city to city.”
“The campuses of Negro colleges were infused with a dynamism of both action and philosophical discussion. Even in the thirties, when the college campus was alive with social thought, only a minority were involved in action. During the sit-in phase, when a few students were suspended or expelled, more than one college saw the total student body involved in a walkout protest. This was a change in student activity of profound significance. Seldom, if ever, in American history had a student movement engulfed the whole student body of a college.”
“The most significant aspect of this student movement was that the young people knocked some of the oldsters out of their state of apathy and complacency. What we saw was that segregation could not be maintained in the South without resultant chaos and social disintegration.
“The white Southern power structure, in an attempt to blunt and divert that effort, indicted me for perjury and openly proclaimed that I would be imprisoned for at least ten years.”
“We talked for about an hour over the breakfast table. I was very frank about what I thought: that there was a need for a strong executive leadership and that we hadn’t gotten this during the Eisenhower administration. If we didn’t get it in the new administration, we would be set back even more. I was very impressed by the forthright and honest manner in which he discussed the civil rights question, and with his concern and his willingness to learn more about civil rights.”
“A few months later, after he had been nominated, I talked with him over at his house in Georgetown, and in that short period he had really learned a great deal about civil rights and had been advised rather well. I’d had little enthusiasm when he first announced his candidacy, but I had no doubt that he would do the right thing on the civil rights issue, if he were elected President.”
“I was arrested along with some two hundred eighty students in a sit-in demonstration seeking to integrate lunch counters. I said when I went in Fulton County Jail that I could not in all good conscience post bail and that I would stay and serve the time if it was one year, five, or ten years. Of course the students agreed to stay also.”
“Maybe it will take this type of self-suffering on the part of numerous Negroes to finally expose the moral defense of our white brothers who happen to be misguided and thusly awaken the dozing conscience of our community.”
“When they came to see after five or six days that we were not coming out and that the community was getting very much concerned, the merchants dropped the charges, which meant that everybody was released without bail immediately.”
“That was the state prison some two hundred and twenty miles from Atlanta. On the way, they dealt with me just like I was some hardened criminal. They had me chained all the way down to my legs, and they tied my legs to something in the floor so there would be no way for me to escape.”
“He had been in the debates and had done a good job when he talked about civil rights and what the Negro faces. Harris and others had really been talking with him about it. At the same time, I think he naturally had political considerations in mind. He was running for an office, and he needed to be elected, and I’m sure he felt the need for the Negro votes. So I think that he did something that expressed deep moral concern, but at the same time it was politically sound. It did take a little courage to do this; he didn’t know it was politically sound.”
“But I had to look at something else beyond the man—the people who surrounded him—and I felt that Kennedy was surrounded by better people. It was on that basis that I felt that Kennedy would make the best president.”
“Negroes, wielding nonviolent protest in its most creative utilization to date, challenged discrimination in public places, denial of voting rights, school segregation, and the deprivation of free speech and assembly. On that broad front, the Albany Movement used all the methods of nonviolence: direct action expressed through mass demonstrations; jail-ins; sit-ins; wade-ins, and kneel-ins; political action; boycotts and legal actions. In no other city of the deep South had all those methods of nonviolence been simultaneously exercised.”
“I too was jailed on charges of parading without a permit, disturbing the peace, and obstructing the sidewalk. I refused to pay the fine and had expected to spend Christmas in jail. I hoped thousands would join me. I didn’t come to be arrested. I had planned to stay a day or so and return home after giving counsel. But after seeing negotiations break down, I knew I had to stay. My personal reason for being in Albany was to express a personal witness of a situation I felt was very important to me. As I, accompanied by over one hundred spirited Negroes, voluntarily chose jail to bail, the city officials appeared so hardened to all appeals to conscience that the confidence of some of our supporters was shaken. They nervously counted heads and concluded too hastily that the movement was losing momentum.”
“After a brief press conference in the vestibule of the court we were brought immediately to the Albany City Jail which is in the basement of the same building which houses the court and the city hall. This jail is by far the worst I’ve ever been in. It is a dingy, dirty hole with nothing suggestive of civilized society. The cells are saturated with filth, and what mattresses there are for the bunks are as hard as solid rocks and as nasty as anything that one has ever seen. The companionship of roaches and ants is not at all unusual. In several of the cells there are no mattresses at all. The occupants are compelled to sleep on the bare hard steel.”
“This is a dark and desolate cell that holds nine persons. It is unbelievable that such a cell could exist in a supposedly civilized society.”
“Not that I particularly enjoyed the inconveniences and the discomforts of jail, but I did not appreciate the subtle and conniving tactics used to get us out of jail. We had witnessed persons being kicked off lunch counter stools during the sit-ins, ejected from churches during the kneel-ins, and thrown into jail during the Freedom Rides. But for the first time, we witnessed being kicked out of jail.”
“The call turned out to be Lawrence Spivak from the Meet the Press TV program. I was scheduled to be on the program, Sunday, July 29. He was very upset and literally begged me to come out on bond. I immediately called Atty. (C. B.) King and the Rev. Wyatt Walker, my assistant, to the jail and sought their advice. We all agreed that I should not leave and suggested that Dr. Anderson, president of the Albany Movement, get out on bond and substitute for me. Dr. Anderson agreed and I decided to remain in jail.”
“Later that day. Pritchett came and asked me to leave jail for good. He said that someone had actually sent the cash money for my bond and technically he could make me leave. I told him I certainly did not want to be put in the position of being dragged out of jail, but that I had no intention of leaving because I wanted to serve my sentence.”
“I told him this was needed because we would starve on the jail house food. The Albany Jail is dirty, filthy, and ill-equipped. I have been in many jails and it is really the worst I have ever seen.”
“I have written three sermons in jail. They all deal with how to make the Christian gospel relevant to the social and economic life of man. This means how the Christian should deal with race relations, war and peace, and economic injustices.”
“TELEGRAM TO PRESIDENT KENNEDY DEAR MR PRESIDENT, GRATIFIED BY DIRECTNESS OF YOUR STATEMENT TO ALBANY CRISIS. REV ABERNATHY AND I EARNESTLY HOPE YOU WILL CONTINUE TO USE THE GREAT MORAL INFLUENCE OF YOUR OFFICE TO HELP THIS CRITICAL SITUATION.”
“We lost an initiative that we never regained. We attacked the political power structure instead of the economic power structure. You don’t win against a political power structure where you don’t have the votes.”
“If I had that to do again, I would guide that community’s Negro leadership differently than I did. The mistake I made there was to protest against segregation generally rather than against a single and distinct facet of it. Our protest was so vague that we got nothing, and the people were left very depressed and in despair. It would have been much better to have concentrated upon integrating the buses or the lunch counters.”
“One victory of this kind would have been symbolic, would have galvanized support and boosted morale. But I don’t mean that our work in Albany ended in failure. And what we learned from our mistakes in Albany helped our later campaigns in other cities to be more effective. We never since scattered our efforts in a general attack on segregation, but focused upon specific, symbolic objectives.”
“If you went shopping with your mother or father, you would trudge along as they purchased at every counter except one, in the large or small stores. If you were hungry or thirsty, you would have to forget about it until you got back to the Negro section of town, for in your city it was a violation of the law to serve food to Negroes at the same counter with whites. If your family attended church, you would go to a Negro church. If you attended your own Negro church and wanted to play safe, you might select a church that didn’t have a pastor with a reputation for speaking out on civil rights. If you wanted to visit a church attended by white people, you would not be welcome.”
“If you wanted to contribute to and be a part of the work of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, you would not be able to join a local branch. In the state of Alabama, segregationist authorities had been successful in enjoining the NAACP from performing its civil rights work by declaring it a “foreign corporation” and rendering its activities illegal.”
“Certainly Birmingham had its decent white citizens who privately deplored the maltreatment of Negroes. But they remained publicly silent. It was a silence born of fear—fear of social, political, and economic reprisals.”
“In Birmingham, you would be living in a community where the white man’s long-lived tyranny had cowed your people, led them to abandon hope, and developed in them a false sense of inferiority. You would be living in a city where the representatives of economic and political power refused to even discuss social justice with the leaders of your people.”
“The leading candidates were Albert Boutwell, Eugene “Bull” Connor, and Tom King. All were segregationists, running on a platform to preserve the status quo. Yet both King and Boutwell were considered moderates in comparison to Connor.”
“We answered that we were certain to need tremendous sums of money for bail bonds. We might need public meetings to organize more support. On the spot, Harry Belafonte organized a committee, and money was pledged that same night. For the next three weeks, Belafonte, who never did anything without getting totally involved, gave up his career to organize people and money. With these contacts established, the time had come to return to Birmingham. The runoff election was April 2. We flew in the same night. By word of mouth, we set about trying to make contact with our 250 volunteers for an unadvertised meeting. About sixty-five came out. The following day, with this modest task force, we launched the direct-action campaign in Birmingham.”
“I sat in the midst of the deepest quiet I have ever felt, with two dozen others in the room. There comes a time in the atmosphere of leadership when a man surrounded by loyal friends and allies realizes he has come face-to- face with himself and with ruthless reality. I was alone in that crowded room.”
“I suffered no physical brutality at the hands of my jailers. Some of the prison personnel were surly and abusive, but that was to be expected in Southern prisons. Solitary confinement, however, was brutal enough. In the mornings the sun would rise, sending shafts of light through the window high in the narrow cell which was my home. You will never know the meaning of utter darkness until you have lain in such a dungeon, knowing that sunlight is streaming overhead and still seeing only darkness below. You might have thought I was in the grip of a fantasy brought on by worry. I did worry. But there was more to the blackness than a phenomenon conjured up by a worried mind. Whatever the cause, the fact remained that I could not see the light.”
“In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation.”
“You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonvio-lent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to dramatize the issue so that it can no longer be ignored.”
“But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Neibuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
“This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter.”
an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle names becomes “boy” (however old you are)
“Hence segregation is not only politically, economically, and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful.”
“To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.”
“We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.”
but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”;
“Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
“Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach- infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.”
“When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests, and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.”
Purpose: I create an empowering context for curious and hungry people looking for fulfillment, experiences, and creativity. We do this by developing their growth mindset, introducing self-love, and powerful group experiences. It results in people with strong boundaries, resilient mental health, and practical life skills
People leave with the ability to land their dream job, have autonomy and flexibility with their lifestyle, travel the world, and create from their heart and soul.
Davidson was once broke, insecure, low-confidence, and frustrated by doing all the wrong activities. Addicted to drugs, validation, and wallowing in self-pity. No relationship to family, and at the mercy of other people’s suggestions and opinions.
It was hell.
After spending $100k hiring different coaches, traveling the world doing workshops around the world, reading>1000 books, and through curiosity, have created the most effective system to remove people from that situation. My life’s work is to bring joy and abundance to people who as on a similar path as I was and bring back the joy and abundance of their life.
Through shared experiences and storytelling, I inspire and model behaviors that lead to a richer, more fulfilled life full of joy, experiences, passion, and ecstasy from the richness of relationships and being able to experience the depths of the human experience.