1968 CORETTA SCOTT KING FAMOUS PHOTO BY PULITZER PHTOGRAPHER FANTASTIC FUNERAL For Sale

1968 CORETTA SCOTT KING FAMOUS PHOTO BY PULITZER PHTOGRAPHER FANTASTIC FUNERAL


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1968 CORETTA SCOTT KING FAMOUS PHOTO BY PULITZER PHTOGRAPHER FANTASTIC FUNERAL:
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A VINTAGE ORIGINAL 1968 PHOTO MEASURING APPROXIMATELY 9 1/4 x 8 1/2 INCHES OF MARTIN LUTHER KING WIFE CORETTA WITH HER DAUGHTER .
Mrs.Coretta King sitting with her daughter,Bernice, 5, yesterday during the funeral service forDr. Martin Luther king in Ebenezer BaptistChurch. Atlanta, Georgia, where he Was baptised,ordained and served as Co-pastor with his father.Another picture-P22.THIS PHOTOGRAPH IS BY :
Moneta J. Sleet Jr. was an American press photographer best known for his work as a staff photographer for Ebony magazine. In 1969 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for his photograph of Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow, at her husband's funeral.Coretta Scott King (née Scott; April 27, 1927 – January 30, 2006) was an American author, activist, civil rights leader, and the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr. As an advocate for African-American equality, she was a leader for the civil rights movement in the 1960s. King was also a singer who often incorporated music into her civil rights work. King met her husband while attending graduate school in Boston. They both became increasingly active in the American civil rights movement.
King played a prominent role in the years after her husband's assassination in 1968 when she took on the leadership of the struggle for racial equality herself and became active in the Women's Movement. King founded the King Center, and sought to make his birthday a national holiday. She finally succeeded when Ronald Reagan signed legislation which established Martin Luther King, Jr., Day on November 2, 1983. She later broadened her scope to include both advocacy for LGBTQ rights and opposition to apartheid. King became friends with many politicians before and after Martin Luther King's death, including John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Robert F. Kennedy. Her telephone conversation with John F. Kennedy during the 1960 presidential election has been credited by historians for mobilizing African-American voters.[1]
In August 2005, King suffered a stroke which paralyzed her right side and left her unable to speak; five months later, she died of respiratory failure due to complications from ovarian cancer. Her funeral was attended by some 10,000 people, including four of five living U.S. presidents. She was temporarily buried on the grounds of the King Center until being interred next to her husband. She was inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame, the National Women's Hall of Fame, and was the first African American to lie in state at the Georgia State Capitol.[2] King has been referred to as "First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement".[3]Contents1 Childhood and education2 New England Conservatory of Music and Martin Luther King Jr.3 Civil Rights Movement3.1 House bombing3.2 John F. Kennedy phone call3.3 Kennedy presidency3.4 FBI tapes3.5 Johnson presidency4 Assassination of her husband4.1 Early widowhood5 Later life5.1 Opposition to apartheid5.2 Peacemaking5.3 LGBT equality5.4 The King Center5.5 Coretta Scott King Center for Cultural and Intellectual Freedom6 Illness and death7 Family life8 Lawsuits9 Legacy9.1 Portrayals in film10 Recognition and tributes10.1 Congressional resolutions11 See also12 References13 Bibliography14 External linksChildhood and educationCoretta Scott was born in Heiberger, Alabama, the third of four children of Obadiah Scott (1899–1998) and Bernice McMurry Scott (1904–1996). She was born in her parents' home, with her paternal great-grandmother Delia Scott, a former slave, presiding as midwife. Coretta's mother became known for her musical talent and singing voice. As a child, Bernice attended the local Crossroads School, and only had a fourth-grade education. Bernice's older siblings, however, attended boarding school at the Booker T. Washington-founded Tuskegee Institute. The senior Mrs. Scott worked as a school bus driver, a church pianist, and for her husband in his business ventures. She served as Worthy Matron for her Eastern Star chapter, and was a member of the local Literacy Federated Club.[4][5][6]
Obie, Coretta's father, was one of the first black people in their town to own a vehicle. Before starting his own businesses, he worked as a policeman. Along with his wife, he ran a clothing shop far from their home and later opened a general store. He also owned a lumber mill, which was burned down by white neighbors after Scott refused to sell his mill to a white logger.[7] Her maternal grandparents were Mollie (née Smith; 1868 – d.) and Martin van Buren McMurry (1863–1950) – both were of African-American and Irish descent.[6] Mollie was born a slave to plantation owners Jim Blackburn and Adeline (Blackburn) Smith. Coretta's maternal grandfather, Martin, was born to a slave of Black Native American ancestry, and her white master who never acknowledged Martin as his son. He eventually owned a 280-acre farm. Because of his diverse origins, Martin appeared to be white. However, he displayed contempt for the notion of passing. As a self-taught reader with little formal education, he is noted for having inspired Coretta's passion for education. Coretta's paternal grandparents were Cora (née McLaughlin; 1876 – 1920) and Jefferson F. Scott (1873–1941). Cora died before Coretta's birth. Jeff Scott was a farmer and a prominent figure in the rural black religious community; he was born to former slaves Willis and Delia Scott.[6]
At age 10, Coretta worked to increase the family's income.[8] She had an older sister named Edythe Scott Bagley (1924–2011), an older sister named Eunice who did not survive childhood, and a younger brother named Obadiah Leonard (1930–2012).[9] The Scott family had owned a farm since the American Civil War, but were not particularly wealthy.[10] During the Great Depression the Scott children picked cotton to help earn money[9] and shared a bedroom with their parents.[11]
Coretta described herself as a tomboy during her childhood, primarily because she could climb trees and recalled wrestling boys. She also mentioned having been stronger than a male cousin and threatening before accidentally cutting that same cousin with an axe. His mother threatened her, and along with the words of her siblings, stirred her to becoming more ladylike once she got older. She saw irony in the fact that despite these early physical activities, she still was involved in nonviolent movements.[12] Her brother Obadiah thought she always "tried to excel in everything she did."[13] Her sister Edythe believed her personality was like that of their grandmother Cora McLaughlin Scott, after whom she was named.[14] Though lacking formal education themselves, Coretta Scott's parents intended for all of their children to be educated. Coretta quoted her mother as having said, "My children are going to college, even if it means I only have but one dress to put on."[15]
The Scott children attended a one-room elementary school 5 miles (8 km) from their home and were later bused to Lincoln Normal School, which despite being 9 mi (14 km) from their home, was the closest black high school in Marion, Alabama, due to racial segregation in schools. The bus was driven by Coretta's mother Bernice, who bused all the local black teenagers.[9] By the time Scott had entered the school, Lincoln had suspended tuition and charged only four dollars and fifty cents per year.[16] In her last two years there, Scott became the leading soprano for the school's senior chorus. Scott directed a choir at her home church in North Perry Country.[17] Coretta Scott graduated valedictorian from Lincoln Normal School in 1945, where she played trumpet and piano, sang in the chorus, and participated in school musicals and enrolled at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio during her senior year at Lincoln. After being accepted to Antioch, she applied for the Interracial Scholarship Fund for financial aid.[18] During her last two years in high school, Coretta lived with her parents.[19] Her older sister Edythe already attended Antioch as part of the Antioch Program for Interracial Education, which recruited non-white students and gave them full scholarships in an attempt to diversify the historically white campus. Coretta said of her first college:
Antioch had envisioned itself as a laboratory in democracy but had no black students. (Edythe) became the first African American to attend Antioch on a completely integrated basis, and was joined by two other black female students in the fall of 1943. Pioneering is never easy, and all of us who followed my sister at Antioch owe her a great debt of gratitude.[15]
Coretta studied music with Walter Anderson, the first non-white chair of an academic department in a historically white college. She also became politically active, due largely to her experience of racial discrimination by the local school board. She became active in the nascent civil rights movement; she joined the Antioch chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the college's Race Relations and Civil Liberties Committees. The board denied her request to perform her second year of required practice teaching at Yellow Springs public schools, for her teaching certificate Coretta Scott appealed to the Antioch College administration, which was unwilling or unable to change the situation in the local school system and instead employed her at the college's associated laboratory school for a second year. Additionally, around this time, Coretta worked as a babysitter for the Lithgow family, babysitting the later prominent actor John Lithgow.[20]
New England Conservatory of Music and Martin Luther King Jr.
Coretta Scott King and her husband Martin Luther King in 1964.Coretta transferred out of Antioch when she won a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. It was while studying singing at that school with Marie Sundelius that she met Martin Luther King Jr.[21] after mutual friend Mary Powell gave King her phone number after he asked about girls on the campus. Coretta was the only one remaining after Powell named two girls and King proved to not be impressed with the other. Scott initially showed little interest in meeting him, even after Powell told her that he had a promising future, but eventually relented and agreed to the meeting. King called her on the telephone and when the two met in person, Scott was surprised by how short he was. King would tell her that she had all the qualities that he was looking for in a wife, which Scott dismissed since the two had only just met.[22] She told him "I don't see how you can say that. You don't even know me." But King was assured and asked to see her again. She readily accepted his invitation to a weekend party.[23]
She continued to see him regularly in the early months of 1952. Two weeks after meeting Scott, King wrote to his mother that he had met his wife.[24] Their dates usually consisted of political and racial discussions, and in August of that year Coretta met King's parents Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King.[25] Before meeting Martin, Coretta had been in relationships her entire time in school but never had any she cared to develop.[26] Once meeting with her sister Edythe face-to-face, Coretta detailed her feelings for the young aspiring minister and discussed the relationship as well. Edythe was able to tell her sister had legitimate feelings for him, and she also became impressed with his overall demeanor.[27]
Despite envisioning a career for herself in the music industry, Coretta knew that it would not be possible if she were to marry Martin Luther King. However, since King possessed many of the qualities she liked in a man, she found herself "becoming more involved with every passing moment." When asked by her sister what made King so "appealing" to her she responded, "I suppose it's because Martin reminds me so much of our father." At that moment, Scott's sister knew King was "the one".[27]
King's parents visited him in the fall and had suspicions about Coretta Scott after seeing how clean his apartment was. While the Kings had tea and meals with their son and Scott, Martin Sr. turned his attention to her and insinuated that her plans of a career in music were not fitting for a Baptist minister's wife. After Coretta did not respond to his questioning of their romance being serious, Martin Sr. asked if she took his son "seriously".[28] King's father also told her that there were many other women his son was interested in and had "a lot to offer". After telling him that she had "a lot to offer" as well, Martin Luther King Sr. and his wife went on to try and meet with members of Coretta's family. Once the two obtained Edythe's number from Coretta, they sat down with her and had lunch with her. During their time together, Martin Luther King Sr. tried to ask Edythe about the relationship between her sister and his son. Edythe insisted that her sister was an excellent choice for Martin Luther King Jr., but also felt that Coretta did not need to bargain for a husband.[29]
On Valentine's Day 1953, the couple announced their plans to marry in the Atlanta Daily World. With a wedding set in June, only four months away at that time, Coretta still did not have a commitment to marrying King and consulted with her sister in a letter sent just before Easter Vacation.[29] King's father had expressed resentment in his choice of Coretta over someone from Alabama and accused his son of spending too much time with her and neglecting his studies.[30] Martin took his mother into another room and told her of his plans to marry Coretta and told her the same thing when he drove her home later while also berating her for not having made a good impression on his father.[28] When Martin declared his intentions to get a doctorate and marry Coretta after, Martin Sr. finally gave his blessing.[30] In 1964, the Time profile of Martin Luther King Jr., when he was chosen as Time's "Man of the Year", referred to her as "a talented young soprano."[31] She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.[32]
Coretta Scott and Martin Luther King Jr. were married on June 18, 1953, on the lawn of her mother's house; the ceremony was performed by Martin Jr.'s father, Martin Luther King Sr. Coretta had the vow to obey her husband removed from the ceremony, which was unusual for the time. After completing her degree in voice and piano at the New England Conservatory, she moved with her husband to Montgomery, Alabama, in September 1954. Mrs. King recalled: "After we married, we moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where my husband had accepted an invitation to be the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Before long, we found ourselves in the middle of the Montgomery bus boycott, and Martin was elected leader of the protest movement. As the boycott continued, I had a growing sense that I was involved in something so much greater than myself, something of profound historic importance. I came to the realization that we had been thrust into the forefront of a movement to liberate oppressed people, not only in Montgomery but also throughout our country, and this movement had worldwide implications. I felt blessed to have been called to be a part of such a noble and historic cause."[33]
Civil Rights Movement
King with her husband and daughter Yolanda in 1956On September 1, 1954, Martin Luther King Jr. became the full-time pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. It was a sacrifice for Coretta, who had to give up her dreams of becoming a classical singer. Martin Luther King Jr. expected her to stay home and take care of their future children. Her devotion to the cause while giving up on her own ambitions would become symbolic of the actions of African-American women during the movement.[34] The couple moved into the church's parsonage on South Jackson Street shortly after this. Coretta became a member of the choir and taught Sunday school, as well as participating in the Baptist Training Union and Missionary Society. She made her first appearance at the First Baptist Church on March 6, 1955, where according to E. P. Wallace, she "captivated her concert audience".[35]
External videovideo icon “Interview with Coretta Scott King” conducted for Eyes on the Prize in 1985. King discusses the Montgomery bus boycott, the Albany campaign, and the Selma campaign.The Kings welcomed their first child Yolanda on November 17, 1955, who was named at Coretta's insistence and became the church's attention.[36] After her husband became involved in the Montgomery bus boycott, King often received threats directed towards him. In January 1956, King answered numerous phone calls threatening her husband's life, as rumors intended to make African Americans dissatisfied with King's husband spread that Martin had purchased a Buick station wagon for her.[37] Martin Luther King Jr. would give her the nickname "Yoki", and thereby, allow himself to refer to her out of her name. By the end of the boycott, Mrs. King and her husband had come to believe in nonviolent protests as a way of expression consistent with biblical teachings.[38] Two days after the integration of Montgomery's bus service, on December 23, a gunshot rang through the front door of the King home while King, her husband and Yolanda were asleep. The three were not harmed.[39] On Christmas Eve of 1955, King took her daughter to her parents' house and met with her siblings as well. Yolanda was their first grandchild. King's husband joined them the next day, at dinner time.[40]
On February 21, 1956, King's husband announced he would return to Montgomery after picking up Coretta and their daughter from Atlanta, who were staying with his parents. During Martin Luther King Sr.'s opposition to his son's choice to return to Montgomery, Mrs. King picked up her daughter and went upstairs, which he would express dismay in later and tell her that she "had run out on him". Two days later, Coretta and her husband drove back to Montgomery.[41] Coretta took an active role in advocating for civil rights legislation. On April 25, 1958, King made her first appearance at a concert that year at Peter High School Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama. With a performance sponsored by the Omicron Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, King changed a few songs in the first part of the show but still continued with the basic format used two years earlier at the New York gala as she told the story of the Montgomery bus boycott. The concert was important for Coretta as a way to continue her professional career and participate in the movement. The concert gave the audience "an emotional connection to the messages of social, economic, and spiritual transformation."[42]
On September 3, 1958, King accompanied her husband and Ralph Abernathy to a courtroom. Her husband was arrested outside the courtroom for "loitering" and "failing to obey an officer".[43] A few weeks later, King visited Martin's parents in Atlanta. At that time, she learned that he had been stabbed while signing copies of his book Stride Toward Freedom on September 20, 1958. King rushed to see her husband, and stayed with him for the remainder of his time in the hospital recovering.[44] On February 3, 1959, King, her husband and Lawrence D. Reddick started a five-week tour of India. The three were invited to hundreds of engagements.[45] During their trip, Coretta used her singing ability to enthuse crowds during their month-long stay. The two returned to the United States on March 10, 1959.[46]
House bombingOn January 30, 1956, Coretta and Dexter congregation member Roscoe Williams's wife Mary Lucy heard the "sound of a brick striking the concrete floor of the front porch." Coretta suggested that the two women get out of the front room and went into the guest room, as the house was disturbed by an explosion which caused the house to rock and fill the front room with smoke and shattered glass. The two went to the rear of the home, where Yolanda was sleeping and Coretta called the First Baptist Church and reported the bombing to the woman who answered the phone.[47] Martin returned to their home, and upon finding Coretta and his daughter unharmed, went outside. He was confronted by an angry crowd of his supporters, who had brought guns. He was able to turn them away with an impromptu speech.[48]
A white man was reported by a lone witness to have walked halfway up to King's door and thrown something against the door before running back to his car and speeding off. Ernest Walters, the lone witness, did not manage to get the license plate number because of how quickly the events transpired.[49] Both of the couple's fathers contacted them over the bombing. The two arrived nearly at the same time, along with her husband's mother and brother. Coretta's father Obie said he would take her and her daughter back to Marion if his son-in-law did not take them to Atlanta. Coretta refused the proclamation and insisted on staying with her husband.[50] Despite Martin Luther King Sr. also advocating that she leave with her father, King persisted in leaving with him. Author Octavia B. Vivian wrote "That night Coretta lost her fear of dying. She committed herself more deeply to the freedom struggle, as Martin had done four days previously when jailed for the first time in his life." Coretta would later call it the first time she realized "how much I meant to Martin in terms of supporting him in what he was doing".[51]
John F. Kennedy phone callMartin Luther King Jr. was jailed on October 19, 1960, in a department store. After being released three days later, Coretta's husband was sent back to jail on October 22 for driving with an Alabama license while being a resident of Georgia and was sent to jail for four months of hard labor. After her husband's arrest, King believed he would not make it out alive and telephoned her friend Harris Wofford and cried while saying "They're going to kill him. I know they are going to kill him." Directly after speaking with her, Wofford contacted Sargent Shriver in Chicago, where presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, was campaigning at the time and told Shriver of King's fears for her husband. After Shriver waited to be with Kennedy alone, he suggested that he telephone King and express sympathy.[52] Kennedy called King, after agreeing to the proposal.[1]
Sometime afterward, Robert F. Kennedy obtained King's release from prison. Martin Luther King Sr. was so grateful for the release that he voted for Kennedy and said: "I'll take a Catholic or the devil himself if he'll wipe the tears from my daughter-in-law's eyes."[53] According to Coretta, Kennedy said "I want to express my concern about your husband. I know this must be very hard on you. I understand you are expecting a baby, and I just want you to know that I was thinking about you and Dr. King. If there is anything I can do to help, please feel free to call on me." Kennedy's contact with King was learned about quickly by reporters, with Coretta admitting that it "made me feel good that he called me personally and let me know how he felt."[54]
Kennedy presidencyDuring Kennedy's presidency, she and her husband had come to respect him and understood his reluctance at times to get involved openly with civil rights.[55] In April 1962, Coretta served as a delegate for the Women Strike for Peace Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.[56] Martin drove her to the hospital on March 28, 1963, where King gave birth to their fourth child Bernice. After King and her daughter were due to come home, Martin rushed back to drive them himself.[57] After her husband's arrest on April 12, 1963, King tried to make direct contact with President Kennedy at the advisement of Wyatt Tee Walker and succeeded in speaking with Robert F. Kennedy. President Kennedy was with his father Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr, who was not feeling well.[58] In what has been noted as making Kennedy seem less sympathetic towards the Kings, the president redirected Mrs. King's call to the White House switchboard.[59]
The next day, President Kennedy reported to King that the FBI had been sent into Birmingham the previous night and confirmed that her husband was fine. He was allowed to speak with her on the phone and told her to inform Walker of Kennedy's involvement.[60] She told her husband of her assistance from the Kennedys, which her husband took as the reason "why everybody is suddenly being so polite."[61] Regarding the March on Washington, Coretta said, "It was as though heaven had come down."[62] Coretta had been home all day with their children, since the birth of their daughter Bernice had not allowed her to attend Easter Sunday church services.[63] Since Mrs. King had issued her own statement regarding the aid of the president instead of doing as her husband had told her and report to Wyatt Walker, this according to author Taylor Branch, made her portrayed by reports as "an anxious new mother who may have confused her White House fantasies with reality."[59]
Coretta went to a Women Strike for Peace rally in New York, in the early days of November 1963. After speaking at the meeting held in the National Baptist Church, King joined the march from Central Park to the United Nations Headquarters. The march was timed to celebrate the group's second anniversary and celebrated the successful completion of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Coretta and Martin learned of John F. Kennedy's assassination when reports initially indicated he had only been seriously wounded. King joined her husband upstairs and watched Walter Cronkite announce the president's death. King sat with her visibly shaken husband following the confirmation.[64]
FBI tapesMain article: FBI–King suicide letter
Coretta Scott with her husband and Vice President-elect Hubert Humphrey on December 17, 1964The FBI planned to mail tapes of her husband's alleged affairs to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference office since surveillance revealed that Coretta opened her husband's mail when he was traveling. The FBI learned that King would be out of office by the time the tapes were mailed and that his wife would be the one to open it.[65] J. Edgar Hoover even advised to mail "it from a southern state."[66] Coretta sorted the tapes with the rest of the mail, listened to them, and immediately called her husband, "giving the Bureau a great deal of pleasure with the tone and tenor of her reactions."[67] King played the tape in her presence, along with Andrew Young, Ralph Abernathy and Joseph Lowery. Publicly, Mrs. King would say "I couldn't make much out of it, it was just a lot of mumbo-jumbo."[68] The tapes were part of a larger attempt by J. Edgar Hoover to denounce King by revelations in his personal life.[69]
Johnson presidencyMost prominently, perhaps, she worked hard to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. King spoke with Malcolm X days before his assassination. Malcolm X told her that he was not in Alabama to make trouble for her husband, but instead to make white people have more appreciation for King's protests, seeing his alternative.[70] On March 26, 1965, King's father joined her and her husband for a march that would later end in Montgomery. Her father "caught a glimpse of America's true potential" and for the called it "the greatest day in the whole history of America" after seeing chanting for his daughter's husband by both Caucasians and African Americans.[71]
Coretta Scott King criticized the sexism of the Civil Rights Movement in January 1966 in New Lady magazine, saying in part, "Not enough attention has been focused on the roles played by women in the struggle. By and large, men have formed the leadership in the civil rights struggle but ... women have been the backbone of the whole civil rights movement."[72] Martin Luther King Jr. himself limited Coretta's role in the movement, and expected her to be a housewife.[72] King participated in a Women Strike for Peace protest in January 1968, at the capital of Washington, D.C. with over five thousand women. In honor of the first woman elected to the House of Representatives, the group was called the Jeannette Rankin Brigade. Coretta co-chaired the Congress of Women conference with Pearl Willen and Mary Clarke.[73]
Assassination of her husband
King comforting daughter Bernice at Martin Luther King's funeral, in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo by Moneta Sleet Jr.Main article: Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. She learned of the shooting after being called by Jesse Jackson when she returned from shopping with her eldest child Yolanda.[74] King had difficulty settling her children with the news that their father was deceased. She received a large number of telegrams, including one from Lee Harvey Oswald's mother, which she regarded as the one that touched her the most.[75][citation needed]
In an effort to prepare her daughter Bernice, then only five years old, for the funeral, she tried to explain to her that the next time she saw her father he would be in a casket and would not be speaking.[76] When asked by her son Dexter when his father would return, King lied and told him that his father had only been badly hurt. Senator Robert F. Kennedy ordered three more telephones to be installed in the King residence for King and her family to be able to answer the flood of calls they received and offered a plane to transport her to Memphis.[77] Coretta spoke to Kennedy the day after the assassination and asked if he could persuade Jacqueline Kennedy to attend her husband's funeral with him.[78]
Robert F. Kennedy promised her that he would help "any way" he could. King was told to not go ahead and agree to Kennedy's offer by Southern Christian Leadership Conference members, who told her about his presidential ambitions. She ignored the warnings and went along with his request.[79] On April 5, 1968, King arrived in Memphis to retrieve her husband's body and decided that the casket should be kept open during the funeral with the hope that her children would realize upon seeing his body that he would not be coming home.[77] King called photographer Bob Fitch and asked for documentation to be done, having known him for years.[80] On April 7, 1968, former Vice President Richard Nixon visited King and recalled his first meeting with her husband in 1955. Nixon also went to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral on April 9, 1968, but did not walk in the procession. Nixon believed participating in the procession would be "grandstanding".[81]
On April 8, 1968, King and her children headed a march with sanitation workers that her husband had planned to carry out before his death. After the marchers reached the staging area at the Civic Center Plaza in front of Memphis City Hall, onlookers proceeded to take pictures of King and her children but stopped when she addressed everyone at a microphone. She said that despite the Martin Luther King Jr. being away from his children at times, "his children knew that Daddy loved them, and the time that he spent with them was well spent."[82] Prior to Martin's funeral, Jacqueline Kennedy met with her. The two spent five minutes together and despite the short visit, Coretta called it comforting. King's parents arrived from Alabama.[83] Robert and Ethel Kennedy came, the latter being embraced by King.[84] King and her sister-in-law Christine King Farris tried to prepare the children for seeing Martin's body.[85] With the end of the funeral service, King led her children and mourners in a march from the church to Morehouse College, her late husband's alma mater.[86]
Early widowhoodTwo days after her husband's death, King spoke at Ebenezer Baptist Church and made her first statement on his views since he had died. She said her husband told their children, "If a man had nothing that was worth dying for, then he was not fit to live." She brought up his ideals and the fact that he may be dead, but concluded that "his spirit will never die."[87] Not very long after the assassination, Coretta took his place at a peace rally in New York City. Using notes he had written before his death, King constructed her own speech.[88] Coretta approached the African-American entertainer and activist Josephine Baker to take her husband's place as leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Baker declined after thinking it over, stating that her twelve adopted children (known as the "rainbow tribe") were "too young to lose their mother".[89] Shortly after that King decided to take the helm of the movement herself.
Coretta Scott King eventually broadened her focus to include women's rights, LGBT rights, economic issues, world peace, and various other causes. As early as December 1968, she called for women to "unite and form a solid block of women power to fight the three great evils of racism, poverty and war", during a Solidarity Day speech.[90] On April 27, 1968, King spoke at an anti-war demonstration in Central Park in place of her husband. King made it clear that there was no reason "why a nation as rich as ours should be blighted by poverty, disease, and illiteracy."[91] King used notes taken from her husband's pockets upon his death, which included the "Ten Commandments on Vietnam".[92] On June 5, 1968, Bobby Kennedy was shot after winning the California primary for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. After he died the following day, Ethel Kennedy, who King had spoken to with her husband only two months earlier, was widowed. King flew to Los Angeles to comfort Ethel over Bobby's death.[93] On June 8, 1968, while King was attending the late senator's funeral, the Justice Department made the announcement of James Earl Ray's arrest.[94]
Not long after this, the King household was visited by Mike Wallace, who wanted to visit her and the rest of her family and see how they were faring that coming Christmas. She introduced her family to Wallace and also expressed her belief that there would not be another Martin Luther King Jr. because he comes around "once in a century" or "maybe once in a thousand years". She furthered that she believed her children needed her more than ever and that there was hope for redemption in her husband's death.[95] In January 1969, King and Bernita Bennette left for a trip to India. Before arriving in the country, the two stopped in Verona, Italy and King was awarded the Universal Love Award. King became the first non-Italian to receive the award. King traveled to London with her sister, sister-in-law, Bernita and several others to preach at St. Paul's Cathedral. Before, no woman had ever delivered a sermon at a regularly appointed service in the cathedral.[96]
As a leader of the movement, King founded the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. She served as the center's president and CEO from its inception until she passed the reins of leadership to son Dexter Scott King. Removing herself from leadership, allowed her to focus on writing, public speaking and spend time with her parents.[97]
She published her memoirs, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1969. President Richard Nixon was advised against visiting her on the first anniversary of his death since it would "outrage" many people.[98] On October 15, 1969, King was the lead speaker at the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam demonstration in Washington D.C, where she led a crowd down Pennsylvania Avenue past the White Past bearing candles and at a subsequent speech she denounced the war in Vietnam.[99]
Coretta Scott King was also under surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1968 until 1972. Her husband's activities had been monitored during his lifetime. Documents obtained by a Houston, Texas television station show that the FBI worried that Coretta Scott King would "tie the anti-Vietnam movement to the civil rights movement."[100] The FBI studied her memoir and concluded that her "selfless, magnanimous, decorous attitude is belied by ... [her] actual shrewd, calculating, businesslike activities."[101] A spokesman for the King family said that they were aware of the surveillance, but had not realized how extensive it was.
Later life
King attending the 1976 Democratic National ConventionEvery year after the assassination of her husband in 1968, Coretta attended a commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta to mark his birthday on January 15. She fought for years to make it a national holiday. In 1972, she said that there should be at least one national holiday a year in tribute to an African-American man, "and, at this point, Martin is the best candidate we have."[102] Murray M. Silver, an Atlanta attorney, made the appeal at the services on January 14, 1979. Coretta Scott King later confirmed that it was the "best, most productive appeal ever". Coretta Scott King was finally successful in this campaign in 1986, when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was made a federal holiday.
After the death of J. Edgar Hoover, King made no attempt to hide her bitterness towards him for his work against her husband in a long statement.[103] Coretta Scott King attended the state funeral of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973, as a very close friend of the former president. On July 25, 1978, King held a press conference in defense of then-Ambassador Andrew Young and his controversial statement on political prisoners in American jails.[104] On September 19, 1979, King visited the Lyndon B. Johnson ranch to meet with Lady Bird Johnson.[105] In 1979 and 1980 Dr. Noel Erskine and King co-taught a class on "The Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr." at the Candler School of Theology (Emory University). On September 29, 1980, King's signing as a commentator for CNN was announced by Ted Turner.[106]Coretta Scott attends the signing of Martin Luther King Jr. Day by President Ronald Reagan on November 2, 1983On August 26, 1983, King resented endorsing Jesse Jackson for president, since she wanted to back up someone she believed could beat Ronald Reagan, and dismissed her husband becoming a presidential candidate had he lived.[107] On June 26, 1985, King was arrested with her daughter Bernice and son Martin Luther King III while taking part in an anti-apartheid protest at the Embassy of South Africa in Washington, D.C.[108]
When President Ronald Reagan signed legislation establishing the Martin Luther King Jr. Day, she was at the event. Reagan called her to personally apologize for a remark he made during a nationally televised conference, where he said we would know in "35 years" whether or not King was a communist sympathizer. Reagan clarified his remarks came from the fact that the papers had been sealed off until the year 2027.[109] King accepted the apology and pointed out the Senate Select Committee on Assassinations had not found any basis to suggest her husband had communist ties.[110] On February 9, 1987, eight civil rights activists were jailed for protesting the exclusion of African Americans during the filming of The Oprah Winfrey Show in Cumming, Georgia. Oprah Winfrey tried to find out why the "community has not allowed black people to live there since 1912." King was outraged over the arrests, and wanted members of the group, "Coalition to End Fear and Intimidation in Forsyth County", to meet with Georgia Governor Joe Frank Harris to "seek a just resolution of the situation."[111] On March 8, 1989, King lectured hundreds of students about the civil rights movement at the University of San Diego. King tried to not get involved in the controversy around the naming of the San Diego Convention Center after her husband. She maintained it was up to the "people within the community" and that people had tried to get her involved in with "those kind of local situations."[112]
On January 17, 1993, King showed disdain for the U.S. missile attack on Iraq. In retaliation, she suggested peace protests.[113] On February 16, 1993, King went to the FBI Headquarters and gave an approving address on Director William S. Sessions for having the FBI "turn its back on the abuses of the Hoover era."[114] King commended Sessions for his "leadership in bringing women and minorities into the FBI and for being a true friend of civil rights." King admitted that she would not have accepted the arrangement had it not been for Sessions, the then-current director.[115] On January 17, 1994, the day marking the 65th birthday of her husband, King said "No injustice, no matter how great, can excuse even a single act of violence against another human being."[116] In January 1995, Qubilah Shabazz was indicted on charges of using telephones and crossing state lines in a plot to kill Louis Farrakhan. King defended her, saying at Riverside Church in Harlem that federal prosecutors targeted her to tarnish her father Malcolm X's legacy.[117] During the fall of 1995, King chaired an attempt to register one million African American female voters for the presidential election next year with fellow widows Betty Shabazz and Myrlie Evers and was saluted by her daughter Yolanda in a Washington hotel ballroom.[118] On October 12, 1995, King spoke about the O. J. Simpson murder case, which she negated having a long-term effect on relations between races when speaking to an audience at Soka University in Aliso Viejo, California.[119] On January 24, 1996, King delivered a 40-minute speech at the Loyola University's Lake Shore campus in Rogers Park. She called for everyone to "pick up the torch of freedom and lead America towards another great revolution."[120] On June 1, 1997, Betty Shabazz suffered extensive and life-threatening burns after her grandson Malcolm Shabazz started a fire in their home. In response to the hospitalization of her longtime friend, King donated $5,000 to a rehabilitation fund for her.[121] Shabazz died on June 23, 1997, three weeks after being burned.
During the 1990s, King was subject to multiple break-ins and encountered Lyndon Fitzgerald Pace, a man who admitted killing women in the area. He broke into the house in the middle of the night and found her while she was sitting in her bed. After nearly eight years of staying in the home following the encounter, King moved to a condominium unit which had also been the home, albeit part-time, for singers Elton John and Janet Jackson.[122] Her new home was a gift from Oprah Winfrey.[123][124] In 1999, the King family finally succeeded in getting a jury verdict saying her husband was the victim of a murder conspiracy after suing Loyd Jowers, who claimed six years prior to having paid someone other than James Earl Ray to kill her husband.[125] On April 4, 2000, King visited her husband's grave with her sons, daughter Bernice and sister-in-law. Regarding plans to construct a monument for her husband in Washington, D.C., King said it would "complete a group of memorials in the nation's capital honoring democracy's greatest leaders, including Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and now Martin Luther King, Jr."[126] The National Park Service wanted to commemorate Martin Luther King's dream, but they did not want any discussion of his opposition to the war in Vietnam or to his struggle to end poverty in America. Coretta Scott King fought to ensure that her husband's legacy was not distorted and the history told at his monument in Washington D.C. was true to the Civil Rights Movement.[127] She became vegan in the last 10 years of her life.[128][129]
Opposition to apartheidDuring the 1980s, Coretta Scott King reaffirmed her long-standing opposition to apartheid, participating in a series of sit-in protests in Washington, D.C. that prompted nationwide demonstrations against South African racial policies.
King had a 10-day trip to South Africa in September 1986.[130] On September 9, 1986, she cancelled meeting President P. W. Botha and Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi.[131] The next day, she met with Allan Boesak. The UDF leadership, Boesak and Winnie Mandela had threatened to avoid a meeting King if she met with Botha and Buthelezi.[132] She also met with Mandela that day, and called it "one of the greatest and most meaningful moments of my life." Mandela's husband was still being imprisoned in Pollsmoor Prison after being transferred from Robben Island in 1982. Prior to leaving the United States for the meeting, King drew comparisons between the civil rights movement and Mandela's case.[133] Upon her return to the United States, she urged Reagan to approve economic sanctions against South Africa.
PeacemakingCoretta Scott King was a long-time advocate for world peace. Author Michael Eric Dyson has called her "an earlier and more devoted pacifist than her husband."[134] Although King would object to the term "pacifism"; she was an advocate of non-violent direct action to achieve social change. In 1957, King was one of the founders of The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (now called Peace Action),[135] and she spoke in San Francisco while her husband spoke in New York at the major anti-Vietnam war march on April 15, 1967, organized by the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam.
King was vocal in her opposition to capital punishment and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[136]
LGBT equalityIn August 1983, in Washington, D. C., she urged amendment of the Civil Rights Act to include gays and lesbians as a protected class.[137]
In response to the Supreme Court's 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick that there was no constitutional right to engage in consensual sodomy, King's long-time friend, Winston Johnson of Atlanta, came out to her and was instrumental in arranging King as the featured speaker at the September 27, 1986, New York Gala of the Human Rights Campaign Fund. As reported in the New York Native, King stated that she was there to express her solidarity with the gay and lesbian movement. She applauded gays as having "always been a part of the civil rights movement".[138]
On April 1, 1998, at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, King called on the civil rights community to join in the struggle against homophobia and anti-gay bias. "Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood", she stated.[139] "This sets the stage for further repression and violence that spread all too easily to victimize the next minority group."
On March 31, 1998, at the 25th anniversary luncheon for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, King said: "I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people, and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. ... But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King, Jr., said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' ... I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people."[140][141][142] On November 9, 2000, she repeated similar remarks at the opening plenary session of the 13th annual Creating Change Conference, organized by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.[143][144][145][146]
In 2003, she invited the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to take part in observances of the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech. It was the first time that an LGBT rights group had been invited to a major event of the African-American community.[147]
Her funeral was conducted by Bishop Eddie Long, who was described by then-NAACP chairman Julian Bond as "a raving homophobe".[148] Bond added that he "just couldn't imagine that she'd want to be in that church with a minister who was a raving homophobe".[149]
The King CenterEstablished in 1968 by Coretta Scott King, The King Center is the official memorial dedicated to the advancement of the legacy and ideas of Martin Luther King Jr., leader of a nonviolent movement for justice, equality, and peace. Two days after her husband's funeral, King began planning $15 million for funding the memorial.[150] She handed the reins as CEO and president of the King Center down to her son, Dexter Scott King.[151] The Kings initially had difficulty gathering the papers since they were in different locations, including colleges he attended and archives. King had a group of supporters begin gathering her husband's papers in 1967, the year before his death.[152] After raising funds from a private sector and the government, she financed the building of the complex in 1981.[153]
In 1984, she came under criticism by Hosea Williams, one of her husband's earliest followers, for having used the King Center to promote "authentic material" on her husband's dreams and ideals, and disqualified the merchandise as an attempt to exploit her husband. She sanctioned the kit, which contained a wall poster, five photographs of King and his family, a cassette of the I Have a Dream speech, a booklet of tips on how to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and five postcards with quotations from King himself. She believed it to be the authentic way to celebrate the holiday honoring her husband, and denied Hosea's claims.[154]
King sued her husband's alma mater of Boston University over who would keep over 83,000 documents in December 1987 and said the documents belonged with the King archives. However, her husband was held to his word by the university; he had stated after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 that his papers would be kept at the college. Coretta's lawyers argued that the statement was not binding and mentioned that King had not left a will at the time of his death.[155] King testified that President of Boston University John R. Silber in a 1985 meeting demanded that she send the university all of her husband's documents instead of the other way around.[156] King released the statement, "Dr. King wanted the south to be the repository of the bulk of his papers. Now that the King Center library and archives are complete and have one of the finest civil-rights collections in all the world, it is time for the papers to be returned home."[157]
On January 17, 1992, President George H. W. Bush laid a wreath at the tomb of her husband and met with and was greeted by King at the center. King praised Bush's support for the holiday, and joined hands with him at the end of a ceremony and sang "We Shall Overcome."[158] On May 6, 1993, a court rejected her claims to the papers after finding that a July 16, 1964 letter King's husband wrote to the institute had constituted a binding charitable pledge to the university and outright stating that Martin Luther King retained ownership of his papers until giving them to the university as gifts or his death. King, however, said her husband had changed his mind about allowing Boston University to keep the papers.[159] After her son Dexter took over as the president of the King Center for the second time in 1994, King was given more time to write, address issues and spend time with her parents.[160]
Coretta Scott King Center for Cultural and Intellectual FreedomIn 2005, King gifted the use of her name to her alma mater, Antioch College in Yellow Springs, to create the Coretta Scott King Center as an experiential learning resource to address issues of race, class, gender, diversity, and social justice for the campus and the surrounding community. The center opened in 2007 on the Antioch College campus.
The center lists its mission as "The Coretta Scott King Center facilitates learning, dialogue, and action to advance social justice", and its vision as "To transform lives, the nation and the world by cultivating change agents, collaborating with communities, and fostering networks to advance human rights and social justice."[161]
Illness and deathMain article: Death and funeral of Coretta Scott King
Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King sarcophagus within the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
Coretta Scott King's temporary 2006 graveBy the end of her 77th year, Coretta began experiencing health problems. Her husband's former secretary, Dora McDonald, assisted her part-time in this period.[162] Hospitalized in April 2005, a month after speaking in Selma at the 40th anniversary of the Selma Voting Rights Movement, she was diagnosed with a heart condition and was discharged on her 78th and final birthday. Later, she suffered several small strokes. On August 16, 2005, she was hospitalized after suffering a stroke and a mild heart attack. Initially, she was unable to speak or move her right side. King's daughter Bernice reported that she had been able to move her leg on Sunday, August 21[163] while her other daughter and oldest child Yolanda asserted that the family expected her to fully recover.[164] She was released from Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta on September 22, 2005, after regaining some of her speech and continued physiotherapy at home. Due to continuing health problems, King canceled a number of speaking and traveling engagements throughout the remainder of 2005. On January 14, 2006, Coretta made her last public appearance in Atlanta at a dinner honoring her husband's memory. On January 26, 2006, King checked into a rehabilitation center in Rosarito Beach, Mexico under a different name. Doctors did not learn her real identity until her medical records arrived the next day, and did not begin treatment due to her condition.[165]
Coretta Scott King died on the late evening of January 30, 2006,[166] at the rehabilitation center in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, in the Oasis Hospital where she was undergoing holistic therapy for her stroke and advanced-stage ovarian cancer. The main cause of her death is believed to be respiratory failure due to complications from ovarian cancer.[166] The clinic at which she died was called the Hospital Santa Mónica, but was licensed as Clínica Santo Tomás. After reports indicated that it was not legally licensed to "perform surgery, take X-rays, perform laboratory work or run an internal pharmacy, all of which it was doing", as well as reports of it being operated by highly controversial medical figure Kurt Donsbach, it was shut down by medical commissioner Dr. Francisco Versa.[167][168] King's body was flown from Mexico to Atlanta on February 1, 2006.[169]
King's eight-hour funeral at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia was held on February 7, 2006. Bernice King delivered her eulogy. U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter attended, as did their wives, with the exception of former First Lady Barbara Bush who had a previous engagement. The Ford family was absent due to the illness of President Ford (who himself died later that year). Senator and future President Barack Obama, among other elected officials,[170] attended the televised service.Sarcophagus site in the King Center.President Jimmy Carter and Rev. Joseph Lowery delivered funeral orations and were critical of the Iraq War and the wiretapping of the Kings.[136][171]
King was temporarily laid in a grave on the grounds of the King Center until a permanent place next to her husband's remains could be built.[172] She had expressed to family members and others that she wanted her remains to lie next to her husband's at the King Center. On November 20, 2006, the new sarcophagus containing the bodies of the Kings was unveiled in front of friends and family. The sarcophagus is the third resting place of Martin Luther King and the second of Coretta Scott King.
Family lifeMartin often called Coretta "Corrie", even when the two were still only dating.[173] The FBI captured a dispute between the couple in the middle of 1964, where the two both blamed each other for making the Civil Rights Movement even more difficult. Martin confessed in a 1965 sermon of his secretary having to remind him of his wife's birthday and the couple's wedding anniversary.[174] For a time, many accompanying her husband would usually hear Coretta argue with him in telephone conversations. King resented her husband whenever he failed to call her about the children while he was away, and learned of his plans to not include her in formal visits, such as the White House. However, when King failed to meet to his own standards by missing a plane and fell into a level of despair, Coretta told her husband over the phone that "I believe in you, if that means anything."[175] Author Ron Ramdin wrote "King faced many new and trying moments, his refuge was home and closeness to Coretta, whose calm and soothing voice whenever she sang, gave him renewed strength. She was the rock upon which his marriage and civil rights leadership, especially at this time of crisis, was founded."[176]
After she succeeded in getting Martin Luther King Jr. Day made a federal holiday, King said her husband's dream was "for people of all religions, all socio-economic levels and all cultures to create a world community free from violence, poverty, racism and war so that they could live together in what he called the beloved community or his world house concept."[177]
King considered raising children in a society that discriminated against them seriously, and spoke against her husband whenever the two disagreed on financial needs of their family.[178] The Kings had four children; Yolanda, Martin III, Dexter and Bernice. All four children later followed in their parents' footsteps as civil rights activists. Her daughter Bernice referred to her as "My favorite person."[179] Years after King's death, Bernice would say her mother "spearheaded the effort to establish the King Center in Atlanta as the official living memorial for Martin Luther King Jr., and then went on to champion a national holiday commemorating our father's birthday, and a host of other efforts; and so in many respects she paved the way and made it possible for the most hated man in America in 1968 to now being one of the most revered and loved men in the world."[180] Dexter Scott King's resigning four months after becoming president of the King Center has often been attributed to differences with his mother. Dexter's work saw a reduction of workers from 70 to 14, and also removed a child care center his mother had founded.[181]
Lawsuits
King poses next to a portrait of her husband in 2004The King family has mostly been criticized for their handling of Martin Luther King Jr.'s estate, both while Coretta was alive and after her death. The King family sued a California sale in 1992, the family's attorneys filing claims of stolen property against Superior Galleries in Los Angeles Superior Court for the document's return. The King family additionally sued the sale house for punitive damages.[182]
In 1994, USA Today paid the family $10,000 in attorney's fees and court costs and also a $1,700 licensing fee for using the "I Have a Dream" speech without permission from them.[183] CBS was sued by the King estate for copyright infringement in November 1996. The network marketed a tape containing excerpts of the "I Have a Dream" speech. CBS had filmed the speech when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered it in 1963 and did not pay the family a licensing fee.[184][185]
On April 8, 1998, King met with attorney general Janet Reno as requested by President Bill Clinton. Their meeting took place at the Justice Department four days after the thirtieth anniversary of her husband's death.[186] On July 29, 1998, Mrs. King and her son Dexter met with Justice Department officials. The following day, Associate Attorney General Raymond Fisher told reporters, "We discussed with them orally what kind of process we would follow to see if that meets their concerns. And we think it should, but they're thinking about it."[187] On October 2, 1998, the King family filed a suit against Loyd Jowers after he stated publicly he had been paid to hire an assassin to kill Martin Luther King. Mrs. King's son Dexter met with Jowers, and the family contended that the shot that killed Mrs. King's husband came from behind a dense bushy area behind Jim's Grill. The shooter was identified by James Earl Ray's lawyers as Earl Clark, a police officer at the time of King's death, who had been dead for several years before the trial and lawsuits emerged.[188] Jowers himself refused to identify the man he claimed killed Martin Luther King, as a favor to who he confirmed as the deceased killer with alleged ties to organized crimes.[189] The King lawsuit sought unspecified damages from Jowers and other "unknown coconspirators". On November 16, 1999, Mrs. King testified that she hoped the truth would be brought about, regarding the assassination of her husband. Mrs. King believed that while Ray might have had a role in her husband's death, she did not believe he was the one to "really, actually kill him".[190] She was the first member of the King family to testify at the trial, and noted that the family believed Ray did not act alone.[191] It was at this time that King called for President Bill Clinton to establish a national commission to investigate the assassination, as she believed "such a commission could make a major contribution to interracial healing and reconciliation in America."[192]
LegacyCoretta was viewed during her lifetime and posthumously as having strived to preserve her husband's legacy. The King Center, which she created the year of his assassination, allowed her husband's tomb to be memorialized. King was buried with her husband after her death, on February 7, 2006. King "fought to preserve his legacy" and her construction of the King Center is said to have aided in her efforts.[193]
King has been linked and associated with Jacqueline Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy, as the three all lost their husbands to assassinations. The three were together when Coretta flew to Los Angeles after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy to be with Ethel and shared "colorblind compassion".[194] She has also been compared to Michelle Obama, the first African-American First Lady of the United States.[195]
She is seen as being primarily responsible for the creation of the federal Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The holiday is now observed in all fifty states and has been since 2000. The first observance of the holiday after her death was commemorated with speeches, visits to the couple's tomb and the opening of a collection of Martin Luther King Jr.'s papers. Her sister-in-law Christine King Farris said, "It is in her memory and her honor that we must carry this program on. This is as she would have it."[196]
On February 7, 2017, Republicans in the Senate voted that Senator Elizabeth Warren had violated Senate rule 19 during the debate on attorney general nominee Senator Jeff Sessions, claiming that she impugned his character when she quoted statements made about Sessions by Coretta and Senator Ted Kennedy. "Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge. This simply cannot be allowed to happen", Coretta wrote in a 1986 letter to Senator Strom Thurmond, which Warren attempted to read on the Senate floor.[197] This action prohibited Warren from further participating in the debate on Sessions' nomination for United States Attorney General. Instead, she stepped into a nearby room and continued reading Coretta's letter while streaming live on the Internet.[198][199]
Portrayals in filmCicely Tyson, in the 1978 television miniseries King[200]Angela Bassett, in the 2013 television movie Betty & Coretta[201]Carmen Ejogo played Coretta King in both the 2001 HBO film Boycott and the 2014 film Selma.Recognition and tributesCoretta Scott King was the recipient of various honors and tributes both before and after her death. She received honorary degrees from many institutions, including Princeton University, Duke University, and Bates College. She was honored by both of her alma maters in 2004, receiving a Horace Mann Award from Antioch College[15] and an Outstanding Alumni Award from the New England Conservatory of Music.[202]
In 1970, the American Library Association began awarding a medal named for Coretta Scott King to outstanding African-American writers and illustrators of children's literature.[203]
In 1978, Women's Way awarded King with their first Lucretia Mott Award for showing a dedication to the advancement of women and justice similar to Lucretia Mott's.
Many individuals and organizations paid tribute to Scott King following her death, including U.S. President George W. Bush,[204] the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,[205] the Human Rights Campaign,[206] the National Black Justice Coalition,[207] and her alma mater Antioch College.[208]
In 1983 she received the Four Freedom Award for the Freedom of Worship.[209] She received the Key of Life award from the NAACP.[210] In 1987 she received a Candace Award for Distinguished Service from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.[211]
In 1997, Coretta Scott King was the recipient of the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement[212]
In 2004, Coretta Scott King was awarded the prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize by the Government of India.[213][214]
In 2006, the Jewish National Fund, the organization that works to plant trees in Israel, announced the creation of the Coretta Scott King forest in the Galilee region of Northern Israel, with the purpose of "perpetuating her memory of equality and peace", as well as the work of her husband.[215] When she learned about this plan, King wrote to Israel's parliament:
On April 3, 1968, the day before he was killed, Martin delivered his last public address. In it he spoke of the visit he and I made to Israel. Moreover, he spoke to us about his vision of the Promised Land, a land of justice and equality, brotherhood and peace. Martin dedicated his life to the goals of peace and unity among all peoples, and perhaps nowhere in the world is there a greater appreciation of the desirability and necessity of peace than in Israel.[citation needed]
In 2007, The Coretta Scott King Young Women's Leadership Academy (CSKYWLA) was opened in Atlanta, Georgia. At its inception, the school served girls in grade 6 with plans for expansion to grade 12 by 2014. CSKYWLA is a public school in the Atlanta Public Schools system. Among the staff and students, the acronym for the school's name, CSKYWLA (pronounced "see-skee-WAH-lah"), has been coined as a protologism to which this definition has given – "to be empowered by scholarship, non-violence, and social change." That year was also the first observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day following her death, and she was also honored.[196]
Super Bowl XL was dedicated to King and Rosa Parks. Both were memorialized with a moment of silence during the pregame ceremonies. The children of both Parks and King then helped Tom Brady with the ceremonial coin toss. In addition two choirs representing the states of Georgia (King's home state) and Alabama (Park's home state) accompanied Dr. John, Aretha Franklin and Aaron Neville in the singing of the National Anthem.[citation needed]
She was inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame in 2009.[216] She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2011.[217]
Congressional resolutionsUpon the news of her death, moments of reflection, remembrance, and mourning began around the world. In the United States Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist presented Senate Resolution 362 on behalf of all U.S. Senators, with the afternoon hours filled with respectful tributes throughout the U.S. Capitol.[citation needed]
On August 31, 2006, following a moment of silence in memoriam of the death of Coretta Scott King, the United States House of Representatives presented House Resolution 655 in honor of her legacy. In an unusual action, the resolution included a grace period of five days in which further comments could be added to it.[218][219]hough such was not the case during his lifetime, it’s uncontroversial today to note that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an American hero of the civil rights movement, a hero whose birth is celebrated by Americans each year with the national Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday. More than perhaps any other American, King has come to represent peace — which is just one reason why this image of him brought to his knees in Chicago is so shocking. The story behind the image makes it all the more so.
Though King’s early, more famous efforts for the civil rights movement were concentrated in the American South, from the Montgomery bus boycotts in the late 1950s to his work in Mississippi with the Freedom Riders, this photograph was not taken there. Instead, it dates to a period during which he experienced discrimination that was, in some ways, worse — after his shift to focus on Northern cities after the Voting Rights Act was signed on Aug. 6, 1965.
The tipping point for the shift? “The explosion in Watts really captured the attention of Dr. King,” says James R. Ralph Jr., professor of history at Middlebury College and an author of The Chicago Freedom Movement: Martin Luther King Jr. and Civil Rights Activism in the North.
Yet Chicago seemed like a logical starting point for his efforts in the North, as King later wrote, because, “It is reasonable to believe that if the problems of Chicago, the nation’s second largest city, can be solved, they can be solved everywhere.” To raise awareness of poor living conditions for the city’s African Americans, he himself moved into an apartment in Chicago’s West Side neighborhood of Lawndale. “We don’t have wall-to-wall carpeting to worry about, but we have wall-to-wall rats and roaches,” the Chicago Tribune reported King saying shortly after he moved in on Jan. 26, 1966. King called for “the unconditional surrender of forces dedicated to the creation and maintenance of slums.”
The Chicago campaign — the slogan for which was, at one point, simply “End Slums” — became known as the Chicago Freedom Movement, a collaboration between King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Chicago’s Coordinating Council of Community Organizations. One of its leaders was James Bevel, who had been an architect of the Children’s Crusade that was part of the May 1963 March on Birmingham. That summer in Chicago, two marches helped get the word out about what local civil rights activists were fighting for.
Step Into History: Learn how to experience the 1963 March on Washington in virtual reality
On July 10, 1966, more than 30,000 braved the 98-degree heat wave to hear King speak at a rally at Soldier Field. “We are here because we’re tired of living in rat-infested slums,” he said. “We are tired of having to pay a median rent of $97 a month in Lawndale for four rooms while whites in South Deering pay $73 a month for five rooms… We are tired of being lynched physically in Mississippi, and we are tired of being lynched spiritually and economically in the North.”
Then the crowd followed King to City Hall, where he taped a list of demands to an entrance way. They included increasing the supply of housing options for low and middle-income families, rehabbing public housing amenities, and “Federal supervision of the nondiscriminatory granting of loans by banks and savings institutions.”
A few weeks later came a second march — the occasion for one of his most famous quotes from that campaign, as well as the shocking image seen above.
On Aug. 5, 1966, in Marquette Park, where King was planning to lead a march to a realtor’s office to demand properties be sold to everyone regardless of their race, he got swarmed by about 700 white protesters hurling bricks, bottles and rocks. One of those rocks hit King, and his aides rushed to shield him, as the photo shows.
“The blow knocked King to one knee and he thrust out an arm to break the fall,” the Chicago Tribune reported at the time. “He remained in this kneeling position, head bent, for a few seconds until his head cleared.”
Afterward, King told reporters, “I’ve been in many demonstrations all across the South, but I can say that I have never seen, even in Mississippi and Alabama, mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I’m seeing in Chicago.”
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Enter your email addressSIGN UP NOWYou can unsubscribe at any time. By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.The virulence of that hatred can be surprising in light of the fact that many African Americans had migrated North, to cities like Chicago, to flee the South. From the perspective of civil rights activists, Ralph argues, “You can argue it was easier to identify the visible problems and laws that were disenfranchising people in the South. In the North, it was more muddied, more difficult to find a single thread you can pull out.”
King expressed that idea when he looked at the hostility from the perspective of whites. “As long as the struggle was down in Alabama and Mississippi, they could look afar and think about it and say how terrible people are,” he wrote later in his autobiography. “When they discovered brotherhood had to be a reality in Chicago and that brotherhood extended to next door, then those latent hostilities came out.”
These fair housing demonstrations gradually started to take place in other nearby cities, such as Louisville and Milwaukee. The Chicago activists even got street gang members to serve as marshals at the 1966 open housing marches in an effort to redirect their energies. Among the campaign’s other accomplishments were efforts to organize tenant unions, so residents could stand up to landlords about things like peeling lead-based paint on their walls, and the launch of Jesse Jackson’s career, as he helped run the Windy City’s chapter of a campaign to combat discriminatory hiring practices.
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law on April 11, 1968, one week after King’s death. Yet some experts see the Chicago campaign’s effectiveness as mixed, because the problems that the activists tried to combat there have not gone away.
“Did that legislation equalize opportunities? No, but it was an important step, and fair housing groups that had been working before then now had congressional backing,” as Ralph puts it. “Did it end the slums? No, so [the movement] was not successful that regard. But there were substantial strides taken forward.” Peter Ling, a Martin Luther King biographer, has called the Chicago campaign the civil rights leader’s “most relevant campaign” for today’s world.
As Claybourne Carson, editor of the King Papers, put it in his foreword to The Chicago Freedom Movement, the fact that these problems still exist are not King’s fault. “It is also,” he wrote, “the failure of those of us who have outlived him.”
t was bitterly cold on January 26, 1966, the day Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta, moved into a $90-a-month railroad flat on the top floor of a rundown building on the corner of Hamlin Avenue and 16th Street. The North Lawndale tenement, which stood two blocks from a pool hall that served as headquarters for the Vice Lords street gang, had no lock on its front door and a packed-dirt floor in the foyer.
Just 11 days after his 37th birthday—and coming off the history-making triumphs in Birmingham and Selma that laid the groundwork for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and, a year later, the Voting Rights Act—King had come to Chicago to make the city the next proving ground for his nonviolent revolution. In the South, King and his followers had taken on Jim Crow segregation at lunch counters, on buses, and in voting booths; in the North, his crusade, called the Chicago Freedom Movement, would confront a less overt but equally insidious injustice: namely, the discriminatory and duplicitous real estate practices, such as steering, redlining, and panic peddling, that kept blacks boxed inside big-city ghettos. “If we can break the system in Chicago, it can be broken any place in the country,” King declared at a summit of community organizations in 1965.
During the sweltering summer of 1966, the campaign—King’s first major one outside the Deep South—culminated with the kinds of demonstrations and marches into all-white neighborhoods he’d employed earlier. They triggered open violence—most famously during a march in Marquette Park, where King was attacked by an angry mob. The marches—which will be commemorated with the unveiling of a permanent art installation in the park on August 5—exposed to the entire world Chicago’s simmering cauldron of racial tensions, which Mayor Richard J. Daley had, until then, managed to keep from boiling over. “I think the people from Mississippi ought to come to Chicago to learn how to hate,” King said afterward.
But the movement that began with great fanfare and climaxed with dramatic marches ended with little more than a shaky truce between King’s forces and Daley’s coalition of white civic and business leaders. Critics derided the deal, saying it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Nevertheless, King claimed victory, left town, and turned his attention to the Vietnam War and, after that, to organizing what he called the Poor People’s Campaign. Within a year and a half of the conclusion of the Chicago Freedom Movement, he was assassinated.
Much has changed in 50 years. Racial boundaries have fallen, or at least shifted dramatically. In 1966, Chicago Lawn, the Far Southwest Side neighborhood that includes Marquette Park, was 99.9 percent white—mostly Germans, Poles, Irish, and Lithuanians. Today, it is split almost evenly between blacks and Hispanics, with relatively few whites and a small but growing number of families from the Middle East. Institutionalized discriminatory practices like redlining are a thing of the past, and blacks have come to hold positions of power throughout the city and country, including the highest office in the land.
Much has stayed the same, too. Having earned the dubious distinction of being America’s most segregated big city more than five decades ago, Chicago remains deeply split along racial lines. Today, most blacks live, as they did in the 1960s, on the South and West Sides, where they are the majority, often overwhelmingly so; a recent study by the University of Illinois at Chicago found that nearly three-quarters of the city’s black and white residents would have to move to a different census tract to achieve a true racial balance. What’s more, many of the problems that plagued the city’s black neighborhoods in 1966 haven’t gone away and have arguably gotten worse: gun violence, lack of jobs and economic mobility, and struggling schools. Then there’s the issue of police abuse, dragged into the light by a dashcam video.
Many Chicagoans today see Laquan McDonald—fatally shot by an officer last year, some 30 blocks from the house where King lived—as the supreme symbol of that abuse. But in many ways he embodied, in both life and death, the whole range of problems that King had hoped to overcome. Born to a 15-year-old mother, McDonald bounced around foster homes before living with his great-grandmother in subsidized housing on the Far West Side; he attended some of the worst public schools in the city, and by the time he was 12, he had plunged into the world of drugs and gangs. As Marvin Hunter, a minister and McDonald’s great-uncle, put it at a press conference last December: “Laquan McDonald represents thousands of Laquan McDonalds—same black skin, same poverty, same social and economic injustice that is put upon them, but with different names and ages. … I feel like it’s America’s and Chicago’s chickens coming home to roost.”
McDonald’s death ripped open wounds that had never really healed in the 50 years since King’s historic Chicago campaign. It has left many, especially those old enough to remember King’s visit, wondering how far we’ve actually come since 1966 and has prompted people to again pose the question—to borrow from the title of King’s last book—where do we go from here?
Timuel Black“People like myself, we lived in confined quarters, in a little city within a city. The population density outside the Black Belt was 27,000 people per square mile. In this neighborhood, it was 84,000.”Timuel Black photographed on June 14 in Bronzeville.Photograph: Tim KleinI pick up Timuel Black at his South Side apartment, and we head over to Pearl’s Place, a white-tablecloth soul food joint inside the Amber Inn in Bronzeville. Wearing a red plaid flannel shirt, brown corduroys, and an “Obama ’08” ski cap atop a halo of white hair, he is greeted like a celebrity. “How ya doin’, Professor?” the owner says, putting an arm on his shoulder. Like a politician, Black shakes hands all the way to our table in the back of the restaurant.
An acclaimed civil rights activist, educator, and historian, Black is a walking encyclopedia. He’s lived in Chicago for practically all of his 97 years. “The story goes,” he says, “when I was 8 months old in Birmingham, Alabama, I looked around and saw what was going on and said to my mama, ‘Shit, I’m leaving here.’ ” The real story: Black’s parents moved the family to Chicago in 1919, fleeing the racial terror of the postbellum South. “My father was one of those people who didn’t accept segregation,” Black says. “Those were the people who got lynched.”
Over lunch, Black gives me a history lesson. You can’t understand the significance of the Chicago Freedom Movement, he tells me, unless you understand the Great Migration, the mass movement of humanity that brought millions of Southern blacks to Chicago and other Northern cities over the course of much of the 20th century in search of jobs and freedom from Jim Crow. This influx reshaped the city demographically and socially as much as its skyscrapers altered it physically.
James Bevel, Al Raby, Martin Luther King, and Andrew Young announce the launch of the Chicago Freedom Movement.James Bevel, Al Raby, Martin Luther King, and Andrew Young announce the launch of the Chicago Freedom Movement. King chose Chicago in the belief that if the city embraced change, the whole country would follow.Photo: Chicago TribuneAt the turn of the century, Black explains, only 30,000 or so of Chicago’s 1.7 million residents were black. By the time King arrived in the city—just as the Great Migration was drawing to a close—fully one-third of Chicago’s population was black and its racial map had profoundly changed. Many whites met these changes with hostility. In 1919—the year Black’s family moved here—a multiday race riot left 38 people dead and more than a thousand homeless. Chicago was hardly the racial haven Southern blacks had been seeking. As the columnist Mike Royko put it in his book Boss: “The only genuine difference between a southern white and a Chicago white was in their accent.”
Ghettos became the most visible legacy of the Great Migration. In the 1920s, white real estate agents introduced restrictive covenants, which made it illegal for homeowners in all-white neighborhoods to sell or rent to blacks. Black families began to cluster in a part of the Near South Side that came to be called the Black Belt, later nicknamed Bronzeville. “People like myself,” says Black, “we lived in confined quarters, in a little city within a city.” Though by state law blacks had equal access to restaurants, hotels, soda fountains, and other public places, as late as the 1950s, says Black, “Negroes weren’t welcome downtown.” So they created their own version on the South Side: vibrant commercial strips, including the Stroll along 35th Street and Blues Alley on 43rd, bustling with barbershops, beauty parlors, nightclubs, juke joints, and even the city’s first black-owned bank.
But by midcentury, Black explains, exclusionary real estate practices had turned Bronzeville into a crowded ghetto. “The population density outside the Black Belt was something like 27,000 people per square mile,” he says. “In this neighborhood, it was 84,000.” Grand old graystones were cut up into smaller apartments known as kitchenettes, which in turn were subdivided even further as the neighborhood’s population grew. Even after the U.S. Supreme Court declared restrictive covenants unenforceable, discriminatory schemes to keep blacks out of white areas persisted. The most notorious was redlining, the refusal of banks and insurance firms to issue or insure mortgage loans in predominantly black neighborhoods, which would often get delineated on city maps with a red line.
As the black population grew, the Black Belt eventually loosened, and blacks started pushing into white neighborhoods (often paying double the market value for white-owned homes). “Realtors would sell a piece of property to a Negro,” Black says, “and then they tell the white people, ‘The Negroes are coming!’ ” These blockbusters, as such real estate agents were called, fanned white panic, warning residents that the value of their homes would plummet. Many whites sold quickly and left, most often for the suburbs.
By the mid-1960s, on the eve of King’s Chicago campaign, the Harlem of Chicago, as Bronzeville was often called, was well on its way to becoming blighted. Many of its graystone blocks had been replaced by the two-mile stretch of bleak concrete towers known as the Robert Taylor Homes or by the eight massive apartment blocks of Stateway Gardens. These public housing complexes would become, arguably, the country’s most notorious.
At the end of my visit with Black, he poses a question: “Why does race matter?”
I start fumbling for a response, but he stops me. “It’s not too complicated,” he says. “It’s economic, as I see it.”
Black goes on to tell me that Chicago’s racial problems, and America’s, have nothing to do with racism and everything to do with economic exploitation and pure self-interest—a way to take advantage of overcrowding, to secure economic advantages, to preserve power.
Whatever the underpinnings—racial, economic, or both—this was the status quo King was seeking to upend.
Five months before Martin Luther King moved into the Hamlin Avenue flat, his attention—like that of many Americans—was focused on Los Angeles, not Chicago. The 1965 Watts riots—which occurred within days of the signing of the Voting Rights Act, one of the most significant victories of King’s movement—jolted him awake to the struggles faced by urban blacks outside the South. As King told a New York newspaper, “The non-violent movement of the South has meant little to them, since we have been fighting for rights that theoretically are already theirs.”
King’s decision to come to Chicago owed in large part to the efforts of two men: Albert Raby, a mild-mannered but headstrong teacher-turned-activist who for several years had led massive protests over the de facto segregation of the city’s public school system, and James Bevel, an outspoken young minister who had been an indispensable strategist in some of King’s most pivotal campaigns. Bevel had recently moved to Chicago with his wife, Diane Nash, a native South Sider, and started working at the West Side Christian Parish, an outreach ministry across from Union Park.
Raby and Bevel convinced King that Chicago would be the ideal beachhead: It was a huge city with a substantial black population, and unlike New York and Philadelphia, where influential black leaders let it be known to King privately that they didn’t need or want him, Chicago had a coalition—led by Raby and Bevel—ready to welcome him with open arms. And then there was Chicago’s mayor. Richard J. Daley controlled virtually every lever of power in the city. Persuade Daley of the rightness of change, Bevel and others argued, and the whole city would change along with him. Change Chicago, and the rest of the country would follow.
“We’ve got to go for broke,” Bevel told King. After the Watts riots, King didn’t need much convincing.
The task of finding King a place to live fell to his assistant, Bernard Lee. King had expressed a desire to live on the West Side. “You can’t really get close to the poor without living and being here with them,” King told reporters. “A West Side apartment will symbolize the slum-lordism that I hope to smash.”
Lee and a young secretary named Diana Smith, who had grown up in North Lawndale, posed as a house-hunting couple and, after a week of looking at apartments in and around that neighborhood, settled on the flat at 1550 South Hamlin Avenue. Lee signed the lease before the landlord realized who the real occupant would be. Once he did, he promptly sent over a crew of plasterers, painters, and electricians to fix up the apartment.
“For a long time there was a joke that all Martin Luther King had to do was to move from one building to another on the West Side, and the whole place could get cleaned up in a hurry,” recalls Mary Lou Finley, who coedited a recent book on the Chicago Freedom Movement. Finley, who is white, was just out of Stanford in 1965 and was given the job of picking out furniture from a church-run thrift shop for the Kings’ two-bedroom apartment. She remembers clearly the tiny kitchen with the refrigerator that didn’t keep food cold and the dilapidated gas stove that didn’t keep it hot.
The Kings, accompanied by fellow activists, look out from their own apartment on South Hamlin Avenue in North Lawndale.The Kings (center), accompanied by fellow activists, look out from their own apartment on South Hamlin Avenue in North Lawndale.Photo: Chicago TribuneCoretta Scott King recalled the flat in her memoir, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Our apartment was on the third floor of a dingy building, which had no lights in the hall, only one dim bulb at the head of the stairs. … As we walked in … the smell of urine was overpowering. We were told that this was because the door was always open, and the drunks came in off the street to use the hallway as a toilet.”
The Kings’ apartment was right off a violent stretch of 16th Street, in a part of North Lawndale nicknamed the Holy City—holy because it was where the Vice Lords, one of Chicago’s largest and fiercest gangs, had gotten its start. “In all of my time in the movement all across the South, the only time I was scared was in that neighborhood, going to my apartment at night,” recalls Andrew Young, the former congressman, U.N. ambassador, and mayor of Atlanta, who as a young activist accompanied King to Chicago to help launch the campaign. “I said, ‘I don’t mind giving my life in the civil rights movement, but damn if I want to have a knife stuck in me for 20 dollars in a dark hallway.’ ”
Most of the businesses in this part of the West Side—grocery and liquor stores, payday loan shops, and the like—were owned by whites, many of whom had lived in the neighborhood before blacks moved in. (In 1950, North Lawndale was 87 percent white. A decade later, it was more than 90 percent black.) Customers in these neighborhoods almost always paid more for less. Says Finley: “I remember going to a grocery store and finding Grade B eggs. Never in my life had I seen Grade B eggs anywhere! And they cost the same as Grade A or AA eggs in other grocery stores.” One day, she recalls, a colleague followed a delivery truck that picked up boxes of expired potato chips from a suburban supermarket and brought them to grocery stores on the West Side. “The ghetto was a dumping ground,” says Finley.
After getting settled in the Hamlin Avenue flat, King established a routine of strolling around the neighborhood. On his walks, he saw up close the sense of hopelessness, despair, and anger—what he referred to as an “emotional pressure cooker”—to which the Watts riots had so violently borne testament.
By 1966, there had been a fair-housing ordinance on the books in Chicago for several years, but on the ground, as King could plainly see, very little had changed. Because prohibitive prices and the threat of violence still kept blacks from buying or renting homes wherever they wanted, they remained relegated to the ghetto, mired in all of the inequalities found there.
Dorothy Tillman“We were rejected by most of the black leadership. Dr. King said that Daley’s plantation was worse than the plantation in Mississippi. He’d say, ‘Those Negroes was in deep.’ ” Dorothy Tillman photographed on June 14 in the New Friendship Baptist ChurchPhoto: Tim KleinWhere’s the blue?” Dorothy Tillman asks the church custodian incredulously. “It’s beige. When I was here last year, it was still blue.”
On a rainy afternoon, Tillman, who worked as a youth organizer on King’s staff, is showing me around the basement of the New Greater St. John Community Missionary Baptist Church in East Garfield Park. This used to be the headquarters of King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference for the Chicago campaign. Back in 1966, it was called the Warren Avenue Congregational Church, and the basement walls were robin’s-egg blue. “Our whole operation was from here—this was our main office,” says Tillman. “It was called the Blue Room. The Blue Room is where we did all our thinkin’ in. But it’s all different now.”
She strides over to the back wall and bangs on it. “This wasn’t here. All this was open, all through here.” She peeks around the doorway. “When Dr. King would come, we’d meet back there in his office for strategy meetings.”
It’s hard to imagine the Nobel Peace Prize winner working here. His old office is now a musty storage space, coated in dust and cobwebs.
Tillman, now 69 and a well-known former alderman with a fondness for flamboyant hats (on this day, a bright red one with a black bow), was just 17 when she came to Chicago from her native Alabama in the fall of 1965 as part of an advance team to help prepare for the campaign.
Chicago was a shock. “I didn’t like it,” she says. “It was such a strange place. It was the first place I saw a dog mess on the sidewalk. I couldn’t believe it, ’cause I’m a Southerner; dogs don’t come in the house, and they don’t mess on the sidewalk.” Then there was the weather: “The sun didn’t shine for a whole week.” She remembers the first time she laid eyes on the Robert Taylor Homes, while traveling around the neighborhood with James Bevel: “I said, ‘Oooh, what are all those factories doing in the middle of the city?’ And Bevel said, ‘Those aren’t factories—those are houses. People live in there.’ And I said, ‘Whaaaat?’ ”
More unsettling than all that, Tillman says, was how a lot of Chicago’s black ministers—even a few who had marched with him down south—rebuffed King. Far from rolling out the welcome mat, they told him in plain terms—in front of TV cameras, no less—to butt out and go home. “We were rejected by most of the black leadership,” says Tillman. “Dr. King could hardly get into a church to speak. We never experienced that before. And I told Dr. King, I said, ‘If they don’t want us to be here, I don’t want to stay. I want to go back home.’ ”
Back then, she says, Chicago’s black politicians, as well as nearly all of the city’s black ministers, were in the stranglehold of Mayor Daley’s Democratic machine. “Dr. King said that Daley’s plantation was worse than the plantation in Mississippi,” says Tillman. “He’d say, ‘Those Negroes was in deep.’ ”
King with Mahalia Jackson, Jesse Jackson, and Al Raby at the New Friendship Baptist Church on August 4, 1966King with (from left) Mahalia Jackson, Jesse Jackson, and Al Raby at the New Friendship Baptist Church—the staging point for the Marquette Park marches—on August 4, 1966Photo: Chicago TribuneMinisters who backed the administration’s policies got rewarded with patronage and political favors—$1 city lots for church expansions, say, or federal money for social service programs. Those who didn’t play ball got punished with visits from city building or health inspectors, or Sunday parking tickets, or permit and zoning denials. Tillman likes to tell the story of the South Side pastor Clay Evans. In 1964, Evans defied Daley and let King preach at his church, which happened to be under renovation. The next day, the lending institutions that were bankrolling the construction withdrew financing, and the crews stopped work. Evans continued to support King throughout the Chicago Freedom Movement; his church addition stood unfinished for eight years.
Now Tillman leads me into the New Greater St. John church’s sanctuary, which, unlike the basement, is still blue. Pointing out where King used to sit, she says, “You can probably find some pictures of us singing.” She stretches her arms toward the heavens. “We’d be singing, boy!” She breaks into song and starts clapping. “Oooh, ohh, freeee-dom! Oh yeah! We’d be having a good time!”
For all of the hoopla surrounding King’s arrival, the campaign started slowly. King spent his first weeks touring the city and meeting with local activists, city officials, and ghetto residents. One frigid day in late February, King and some of his staff, dressed in work clothes and with reporters and photographers in tow, helped clean up a rat-infested tenement at 1321 South Homan Avenue. “There was no heat, and there were babies wrapped in newspaper ’cause there were no blankets,” recalls Andrew Young. “We brought coal for the building and fired the furnace.”
A week later, King made his first bold play of the campaign, leading a procession of 200 people back to that same building and announcing that the Chicago Freedom Movement was assuming “trusteeship” of the property on behalf of the tenants. The tenants’ monthly rents would be paid to his organization, not the landlord, and used for repairs. The dramatic move, meant to shed light on the problem of absentee owners of derelict buildings, garnered much attention—though the tenement’s owner turned out to be a frail 81-year-old who told reporters, “I think King is right.” (He ultimately decided to fight the takeover in court and won.)
In the months that followed, King’s forces mounted an aggressive “End Slums” initiative, sponsoring tenants’ unions, organizing rent strikes, conducting workshops on nonviolence with youth gangs, and calling for the boycotting of businesses that discriminated against blacks. Overall, though, these early actions struggled to gain traction and sway public opinion in a significant way.Coretta Scott King at the Homan Avenue tenement her husband’s campaign had taken control of
King fixing up one of the building’s apartmentsPhotos: James Mayo/Chicago TribuneMayor Daley consistently outmaneuvered King’s forces, co-opting them at every opportunity. “All of us are for the elimination of slums,” Daley said, seeking to present himself, and not King, as the champion of the city’s poor black residents. He touted rodent eradication projects, education programs, new public housing. He sicced his army of building inspectors on slumlords and made sure the code violations were printed in the newspapers. (The owner of the tenement on Homan Avenue that King’s staff took over was slapped with 23.)
Daley didn’t want to play the role of George Wallace in King’s Chicago drama. He wasn’t going to let King or his followers become martyrs, not in his town. As Tillman recalls, “Daley said, ‘Y’all got popular because you went to jail—I’m not gonna put you in my jails.’ ” Tillman tells me about the day when she and some other activists were arrested on the West Side for painting protest messages on the sidewalk. After Young called Daley and, according to Tillman, said, “I understand you got some of my people in jail,” the mayor made an angry call to the police commander: “Get them folks out of my jail right now. Don’t you ever pick them up again.”
By summer, many on King’s staff and those they worked with in Chicago were grousing about the campaign’s slow pace and lack of direction. Money was running short. Infighting was hampering progress, with some activists calling for increased militancy, a route favored by America’s growing Black Power movement. “The trouble here,” Young told reporters at the time, “is that there has been no confrontation. … We haven’t found the Achilles heel of the Daley machine yet.”
Counterprotesters along the route of a Chicago Freedom Movement marchCounterprotesters along the route of a Chicago Freedom Movement marchPhoto: Chicago TribuneThe same day as our visit to the church in East Garfield Park, Dorothy Tillman takes me to the New Friendship Baptist Church in Englewood. It was here on July 28, 1966, that the Chicago Freedom Movement reached a turning point. For weeks, campaign organizers had been sending blacks posing as homebuyers and renters into real estate offices in white working-class neighborhoods. Almost invariably, they’d be told nothing was available—even though the whites sent in soon afterward would be shown a long list of properties. Campaign leaders then staged protests and prayer vigils near these real estate offices. Standing before hundreds of supporters gathered at New Friendship on that sweltering July day, King declared that more “creative tension” was needed and that they were going to march into the all-white neighborhoods surrounding the black ghetto, starting with the Irish and Lithuanian stronghold of Gage Park.
Two days later, Young, Raby, and other top lieutenants led roughly 450 marchers from New Friendship to H.F. Halverson Realty, at 63rd Street and Kedzie Avenue, in the heart of Gage Park. (King had a speaking engagement and was not present.) They were met by a heckling white crowd, and they left, under police protection, in paddy wagons.
Sensing they had erred and should’ve stood their ground, the protesters, who now numbered 500, marched again the next day, this time into Marquette Park. Hundreds of whites were waiting and hurled rocks and bottles at them, set fire to the cars that had brought them to the park, or pushed them into the lagoon. Police officers did little to stop the melee. The marchers retreated to New Friendship—where, Tillman remembers, the campaign had stationed medical staff. They quickly began tending to the injured, some 50 in all.
On the afternoon of August 5, 800 marchers returned to Marquette Park, this time in the company of King. The veteran political consultant Don Rose, who was King’s press secretary during his time in Chicago, remembers the terror he felt crossing Ashland Avenue, which marked Englewood’s color line at the time. It went from complete peace and quiet on one side, he says, to thousands of screaming, jeering, and taunting whites on the other. A mob had gathered on a grassy knoll nearby, he says, waving Confederate flags and yelling “Niggers go home!” and “We want Martin Luther Coon.” An extralarge police force—under Daley’s orders—escorted King and the marchers through the park as rocks, bottles, eggs, and firecrackers rained down on them.
Andrew Young describes a moment from that day that stands out in his memory: “I remember this young woman running up in front of the march and getting in Dr. King’s face and calling him all sorts of vile names, just spewing out venom. He said, ‘You know, you’re much too beautiful to be so mean.’ And it stunned her. She turned around and walked away. And when we came back through that neighborhood on the way to the cars, she came back out of the crowd again and said, ‘Dr. King, I’m sorry, I don’t want to be mean. Please forgive me.’ ”
Vandals overturning one of the campaign’s cars a few days before the climactic August 5 march in Marquette Park.Vandals overturning one of the campaign’s cars a few days before the climactic August 5 march in Marquette Park.Photo: Jim Klepitsch/Chicago TribuneAt one point King was struck in the head by a fist-size rock. Shaken, he sank to one knee and remained dazed for several moments as the crowd chanted, “Kill him, kill him.” Then he rose and marched on. Timuel Black was just steps behind King when the rock struck him. As Black recounts, “I said to myself, ‘If one of them bricks hit me, the nonviolence movement is over.’ ”
King told reporters: “Oh, I’ve been hit so many times I’m immune to it.” Later, he added, “I have to do this—to expose myself—to bring this hate into the open.”
When the marchers finally got to the real estate office in Gage Park, they knelt in prayer.
The TV cameras had been rolling the whole time, showing King and his followers resolute in the face of vicious violence. This was the martyrdom moment Daley had wanted to avoid at all costs. King and his marchers had finally found the mayor’s Achilles’ heel.
On August 26, at the Palmer House Hotel—after several days of negotiations—King and Daley reached a deal, known simply as the Summit Agreement. King agreed to stop marching. City Hall and the Chicago Real Estate Board pledged to try to do more to make housing open and fair. The board also promised to stop opposing state housing legislation. And the assembled banking leaders said they would lend money to qualified homebuyers, regardless of race.
The pact was neither codified nor legally enforceable, but King was exultant nonetheless. “They said nonviolence couldn’t work in the North,” he told supporters after the agreement was signed. “They said you can’t fight City Hall; you better go back down South. But if you look at what happened here, it tells you nonviolence can work. … Never before has such a far-reaching move been made.”
King after being struck by a rock at the August 5 protest.King after being struck by a rock at the August 5 protest.Photo: Chicago TribuneTo other black leaders, though, the Summit Agreement was equivalent to surrender. Some questioned the strength of King’s leadership. Others questioned the principle of nonviolence. “The poor Negro has been sold out by this agreement,” the activist Chester Robinson bluntly put it at the time. Even some in King’s inner circle, including Bevel and Young, weren’t sure what to make of the deal. When reporters asked Bevel for his reaction, he replied, “I don’t know. I have to think about it.”
King himself eventually hinted at a more sober assessment. “In all frankness,” he said a few months after the agreement was signed, “we found the job greater than even we imagined.”
Jesse Jackson Sr.“A lot of stuff came out of the ’66 Freedom Movement. My own platform came out of here. We’ve been meeting every Saturday morning for 50 years. We never stopped.” Jesse Jackson Sr. photographed on June 16 at Rainbow PUSH headquarters in KenwoodPhoto: Tim KleinJesse Jackson’s office at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters, in a neoclassical former synagogue in Kenwood on the South Side, is a shrine to the 74-year-old activist’s public life: photographs, certificates, and plaques on the walls, dozens of items of memorabilia in a glass case.
Jackson was a young pastor, fresh out of the seminary, in 1966 but had already become one of King’s top lieutenants, heading up the Chicago chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation Breadbasket, PUSH’s precursor. Now, seated behind his desk, he reflects on the culmination of King’s campaign. “You put Dr. King, a rabbit, right in the briar patch,” he says. “Mass marches, mass reactions. That’s what began to push the movement to the limits. That made it Birmingham.”
The question of whether the Chicago Freedom Movement was a success or a failure irks Jackson. Calling it a sellout is simply wrong, he says, as is believing that a struggle dating back to the time of slavery could be solved by one man in a matter of months. “You know, [critics say], ‘King came, and nothing changed.’ Well, a lot changed.” He starts reeling off a list of the campaign’s accomplishments: It helped erase neighborhood color lines; it led to greater equity in housing, including the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968; it opened up economic and political opportunities for blacks; it galvanized black youths. “Chicago set the pace for the rest of the country,” he says.
Hecklers at a Chicago Freedom Movement demonstrationHecklers at a Chicago Freedom Movement demonstrationPhoto: Chicago TribuneWe go into the hallway, the walls of which are lined with more photos, most of them showing Jackson with civil rights figures, politicians, world leaders, and entertainers. Jackson pauses in front of a black-and-white picture of him in the pulpit of the nearby St. James United Methodist Church in 1966 or 1967. “Dr. King, he was hoarse that night and couldn’t speak,” he explains. “He asked me to speak for him.”
We inch our way down the hall. More photos: of protests and picket lines, of groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings for black-owned businesses, of rallies and parties. Finally, Jackson points to a grainy picture of a smiling, waving King with Coretta and several staffers, all of them looking out the open top-floor windows of a brick building. It’s the Hamlin Avenue tenement. The photo, Jackson says, was taken on the day King moved in.
Jackson seems to be showing me all this to illustrate a point: Hanging on these walls is photographic proof of a half century of black progress. “A lot of stuff came out of the ’66 Freedom Movement,” he says. “My own platform came out of here.”
That’s true. King had handpicked Jackson to head up Operation Breadbasket, and it became a crucial component of the Chicago campaign, using picket lines and boycotts to force businesses in black neighborhoods to hire black workers, use black-owned banks, and stock black products and brands. Operation Breadbasket is thought to have brought up to 3,000 jobs to Chicago blacks within two years.
Jackson gazes at the photos for another moment or two. “We’ve been meeting every Saturday morning for 50 years,” he says. “We never stopped.”
The Hamlin Avenue tenement where King lived is gone now, demolished in 1979. It had been damaged in the rioting that followed King’s assassination on April 4, 1968. In its place stands the Dr. King Legacy Apartments: a modern low-rise building with a handsome brick façade. Built in 2011 by the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation, a nonprofit that develops affordable housing, the complex contains 45 mostly subsidized rental units and, on the ground floor, a shoebox-size museum that celebrates King’s Chicago campaign.
The property is an oasis amid eyesores of the type King might have passed on his walks through the neighborhood 50 years ago: trash-filled vacant lots, boarded-up graystones, abandoned businesses, and, in an alley just across the street from where King lived, a notorious drug market. Its commercial life all but extinguished after the riots and its job base decimated by deindustrialization, Lawndale is today the second-most dangerous neighborhood in the city. On the first day the Dr. King Legacy Apartments began accepting applications, more than 400 families applied.
If, as the subtitle of King’s final book suggests, the answer to the question of where we go from here is either chaos or community, then Lawndale seems to be moving inexorably toward chaos, as do many of Chicago’s black neighborhoods.
Solutions are hard to come by. Many studies point to persistent segregation as a root cause of the social ills plaguing poor neighborhoods, which are caught in a vicious cycle of disinvestment and isolation, but many black Chicagoans have all but given up on the notion of integrating the city’s racial enclaves. Some, including Dorothy Tillman, believe that nothing short of a multibillion-dollar initiative—akin to the Marshall Plan in postwar Europe—will change the conditions in impoverished neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the discouraging headlines about crime, joblessness, and police abuse keep coming, as do fresh victims of that abuse and deprivation—new Laquan McDonalds.
As for Timuel Black, he remains optimistic, though he’s been around long enough to know that the kind of change Chicago needs won’t come about quickly. “It’s a step-by-step operation,” he tells me. “The main thing is, change is gonna come. It’s gonna take some time. Maybe you’ll be as old as me before it happens. But it’s gonna happen.”
For his part, Jesse Jackson believes that King always intended his Chicago campaign to be part of a “long-distance strategy”—that it was never meant to be a “six-month movement, like Selma or Birmingham.”
Fifty years on, there’s still a lot of distance left to cover.Martin Luther King, Jr., (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) was born Michael Luther King, Jr., but later had his name changed to Martin. His grandfather began the family’s long tenure as pastors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, serving from 1914 to 1931; his father has served from then until the present, and from 1960 until his death Martin Luther acted as co-pastor. Martin Luther attended segregated public schools in Georgia, graduating from high school at the age of fifteen; he received the B. A. degree in 1948 from Morehouse College, a distinguished Negro institution of Atlanta from which both his father and grandfather had graduated. After three years of theological study at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania where he was elected president of a predominantly white senior class, he was awarded the B.D. in 1951. With a fellowship won at Crozer, he enrolled in graduate studies at Boston University, completing his residence for the doctorate in 1953 and receiving the degree in 1955. In Boston he met and married Coretta Scott, a young woman of uncommon intellectual and artistic attainments. Two sons and two daughters were born into the family.
In 1954, Martin Luther King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Always a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race, King was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation. He was ready, then, early in December, 1955, to accept the leadership of the first great Negro nonviolent demonstration of contemporary times in the United States, the bus boycott described by Gunnar Jahn in his presentation speech in honor of the laureate. The boycott lasted 382 days. On December 21, 1956, after the Supreme Court of the United States had declared unconstitutional the laws requiring segregation on buses, Negroes and whites rode the buses as equals. During these days of boycott, King was arrested, his home was bombed, he was subjected to personal abuse, but at the same time he emerged as a Negro leader of the first rank.
In 1957 he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. The ideals for this organization he took from Christianity; its operational techniques from Gandhi. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, appearing wherever there was injustice, protest, and action; and meanwhile he wrote five books as well as numerous articles. In these years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience. and inspiring his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”, a manifesto of the Negro revolution; he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of Negroes as voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, “l Have a Dream”, he conferred with President John F. Kennedy and campaigned for President Lyndon B. Johnson; he was arrested upwards of twenty times and assaulted at least four times; he was awarded five honorary degrees; was named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1963; and became not only the symbolic leader of American blacks but also a world figure.
At the age of thirty-five, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,123 to the furtherance of the civil rights movement.
On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated.
During the less than 13 years of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, from December 1955 until April 4, 1968, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced. Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.
Drawing inspiration from both his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950s and ‘60s to achieve legal equality for African-Americans in the United States. While others were advocating for freedom by “any means necessary,” including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly-impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.
Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Nobel Peace Prize lecture and “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” are among the most revered orations and writings in the English language. His accomplishments are now taught to American children of all races, and his teachings are studied by scholars and students worldwide. He is the only non-president to have a national holiday dedicated in his honor and is the only non-president memorialized on the Great Mall in the nation’s capital. He is memorialized in hundreds of statues, parks, streets, squares, churches and other public facilities around the world as a leader whose teachings are increasingly-relevant to the progress of humankind.
SOME OF DR. KING’S MOST IMPORTANT ACHIEVEMENTSIn 1955, he was recruited to serve as spokesman for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which was a campaign by the African-American population of Montgomery, Alabama to force integration of the city’s bus lines. After 381 days of nearly universal participation by citizens of the black community, many of whom had to walk miles to work each day as a result, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in transportation was unconstitutional.
In 1957, Dr. King was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization designed to provide new leadership for the now burgeoning civil rights movement. He would serve as head of the SCLC until his assassination in 1968, a period during which he would emerge as the most important social leader of the modern American civil rights movement.
In 1963, he led a coalition of numerous civil rights groups in a nonviolent campaign aimed at Birmingham, Alabama, which at the time was described as the “most segregated city in America.” The subsequent brutality of the city’s police, illustrated most vividly by television images of young blacks being assaulted by dogs and water hoses, led to a national outrage resulting in a push for unprecedented civil rights legislation. It was during this campaign that Dr. King drafted the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” the manifesto of Dr. King’s philosophy and tactics, which is today required-reading in universities worldwide.
Later in 1963, Dr. King was one of the driving forces behind the March for Jobs and Freedom, more commonly known as the “March on Washington,” which drew over a quarter-million people to the national mall. It was at this march that Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which cemented his status as a social change leader and helped inspire the nation to act on civil rights. Dr. King was later named Time magazine’s “Man of the Year.”
In 1964, at 35 years old, Martin Luther King, Jr. became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. His acceptance speech in Oslo is thought by many to be among the most powerful remarks ever delivered at the event, climaxing at one point with the oft-quoted phrase “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.”
Also in 1964, partly due to the March on Washington, Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act, essentially eliminating legalized racial segregation in the United States. The legislation made it illegal to discriminate against blacks or other minorities in hiring, public accommodations, education or transportation, areas which at the time were still very segregated in many places.
The next year, 1965, Congress went on to pass the Voting Rights Act, which was an equally-important set of laws that eliminated the remaining barriers to voting for African-Americans, who in some locales had been almost completely disenfranchised. This legislation resulted directly from the Selma to Montgomery, AL March for Voting Rights lead by Dr. King.
Between 1965 and 1968, Dr. King shifted his focus toward economic justice – which he highlighted by leading several campaigns in Chicago, Illinois – and international peace – which he championed by speaking out strongly against the Vietnam War. His work in these years culminated in the “Poor Peoples Campaign,” which was a broad effort to assemble a multiracial coalition of impoverished Americans who would advocate for economic change.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s less than thirteen years of nonviolent leadership ended abruptly and tragically on April 4th, 1968, when he was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King’s body was returned to his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, where his funeral ceremony was attended by high-level leaders of all races and political stripes.
For more information regarding the assassination trial of Dr. King. Click here.For more information regarding the Transcription of the King Family Press Conference on the MLK Assassination Trial Verdict December 9, 1999, Atlanta, GA. Click HereFor more information regarding the Civil Case: King family versus Jowers. Click here.Later in 1968, Dr. King’s wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, officially founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, which she dedicated to being a “living memorial” aimed at continuing Dr. King’s work on important social ills around the world.
No figure is more closely identified with the mid-20th century struggle for civil rights than Martin Luther King, Jr. His adoption of nonviolent resistance to achieve equal rights for Black Americans earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. King is remembered for his masterful oratorical skills, most memorably in his "I Have a Dream" speech.
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATIONBorn in 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, King was heavily influenced by his father, a church pastor, who King saw stand up to segregation in his daily life. In 1936, King's father also led a march of several hundred African Americans to Atlanta's city hall to protest voting rights discrimination.
As a member of his high school debate team, King developed a reputation for his powerful public speaking skills, enhanced by his deep baritone voice and extensive vocabulary. King left high school at the age of 15 to enter Atlanta's Morehouse College, an all-male historically Black university attended by both his father and maternal grandfather.
After graduating in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in sociology, King decided to follow in his father's footsteps and enrolled in a seminary in Pennsylvania before pursuing a doctorate in theology at Boston University. While studying for King served as an assistant minister at Boston's Twelfth Baptist Church, which was renowned for its abolitionist origins. In Boston, he met and married Coretta Scott, a student at the New England Conservatory of Music.
JOINING THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENTAfter finishing his doctorate, King returned to the South at the age of 25, becoming pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Shortly after King took up residence in the town, Rosa Parks made history when she refused to give up her seat for a white passenger on a Montgomery bus.
Starting in 1955, Montgomery's Black community staged an extremely successful bus boycott that lasted for over a year. King, played a pivotal leadership role in organizing the protest. His arrest and imprisonment as the boycott's leader propelled King onto the national stage as a lead figure in the civil rights movement.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.… We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." — Martin Luther King, Jr.
With other Black church leaders in the South, King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to mount nonviolent protests against racist Jim Crow laws. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's model of nonviolent resistance, King believed that peaceful protest for civil rights would lead to sympathetic media coverage and public opinion. His instincts proved correct when civil rights activists were subjected to violent attacks by white officials in widely televised episodes that drew nationwide outrage. With King at its helm, the civil rights movement ultimately achieved victories with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
NONVIOLENT PROTEST GAINS TRACTIONIn 1959, King returned to Atlanta to serve as co-pastor with his father at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. His involvement in a sit-in at a department 1960 presidential election between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Pressure from Kennedy led to King's release.
Working closely with NAACP, King and the SCLC turned their sights on Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, organizing sit-ins in public spaces. Again, the protests drew nationwide attention when televised footage showed Birmingham police deploying pressurized water jets and police dogs against peaceful demonstrators. The campaign was ultimately successful, forcing the infamous Birmingham police chief Bull Connor to resign and the city to desegregate public spaces.
"There is nothing greater in all the world than freedom. It's worth going to jail for. It's worth losing a job for. It's worth dying for. My friends, go out this evening determined to achieve this freedom which God wants for all of His children." — Martin Luther King, Jr.
During the campaign, King was once again sent to prison, where he composed his legendary "Letter from Birmingham Jail," in response to a call from white sympathizers to address civil rights through legal means rather than protest. King passionately disagreed, saying the unjust situation necessitated urgent action. He wrote: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.… We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
HISTORY-MAKING MARCHESIn 1963, King and the SCLC worked with NAACP and other civil rights groups to organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which attracted 250,000 people to rally for the civil and economic rights of Black Americans in the nation's capital. There, King delivered his majestic 17-minute "I Have a Dream" speech.
Along with other civil rights activists, King participated in the Selma-to-Montgomery march in 1965. The brutal attacks on activists by the police during the march were televised into the homes of Americans across the country. When the march concluded in Montgomery, King gave his "How Long, Not Long" speech, in which he predicted that equal rights for African Americans would be imminently granted. His legendary words are widely quoted today: "How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
Less than six months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act banning disenfranchisement of Black Americans.
DEATH AND LEGACYOver the next few years, King broadened his focus and began speaking out against the Vietnam War and economic issues, calling for a bill of rights for all Americans.
In the spring of 1968, King visited Memphis, Tennessee, to support Black sanitary workers who were on strike. On April 4, King was assassinated by James Earl Ray in his Memphis hotel. President Johnson called for a national day of mourning on April 7. In 1983, Congress cemented King's legacy as an American icon by declaring the third Monday of every January Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." — Martin Luther King, Jr.
King was honored with dozens of awards and honorary degrees for his achievement throughout his life and posthumously. In addition to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, King was awarded the NAACP Medal in 1957 and the American Liberties Medallion by the American Jewish Committee in 1965. After his death, King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1994 with his wife, Coretta.
King's legacy has inspired activists fighting injustice anywhere in the world. NAACP has carried on King's work on behalf of Black Americans and strives to keep his dream alive for future generations. We take inspiration from his closing remarks at the NAACP Emancipation Day Rally in 1957: "I close by saying there is nothing greater in all the world than freedom. It's worth going to jail for. It's worth losing a job for. It's worth dying for. My friends, go out this evening determined to achieve this freedom which God wants for all of His children."
No figure is more closely identified with the mid-20th century struggle for civil rights than Martin Luther King, Jr. His adoption of nonviolent resistance to achieve equal rights for Black Americans earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. King is remembered for his masterful oratorical skills, most memorably in his "I Have a Dream" speech.
EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATIONBorn in 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, King was heavily influenced by his father, a church pastor, who King saw stand up to segregation in his daily life. In 1936, King's father also led a march of several hundred African Americans to Atlanta's city hall to protest voting rights discrimination.
As a member of his high school debate team, King developed a reputation for his powerful public speaking skills, enhanced by his deep baritone voice and extensive vocabulary. King left high school at the age of 15 to enter Atlanta's Morehouse College, an all-male historically Black university attended by both his father and maternal grandfather.
After graduating in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in sociology, King decided to follow in his father's footsteps and enrolled in a seminary in Pennsylvania before pursuing a doctorate in theology at Boston University. While studying for King served as an assistant minister at Boston's Twelfth Baptist Church, which was renowned for its abolitionist origins. In Boston, he met and married Coretta Scott, a student at the New England Conservatory of Music.
JOINING THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENTAfter finishing his doctorate, King returned to the South at the age of 25, becoming pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Shortly after King took up residence in the town, Rosa Parks made history when she refused to give up her seat for a white passenger on a Montgomery bus.
Starting in 1955, Montgomery's Black community staged an extremely successful bus boycott that lasted for over a year. King, played a pivotal leadership role in organizing the protest. His arrest and imprisonment as the boycott's leader propelled King onto the national stage as a lead figure in the civil rights movement.
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.… We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." — Martin Luther King, Jr.
With other Black church leaders in the South, King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to mount nonviolent protests against racist Jim Crow laws. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's model of nonviolent resistance, King believed that peaceful protest for civil rights would lead to sympathetic media coverage and public opinion. His instincts proved correct when civil rights activists were subjected to violent attacks by white officials in widely televised episodes that drew nationwide outrage. With King at its helm, the civil rights movement ultimately achieved victories with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
NONVIOLENT PROTEST GAINS TRACTIONIn 1959, King returned to Atlanta to serve as co-pastor with his father at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. His involvement in a sit-in at a department 1960 presidential election between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Pressure from Kennedy led to King's release.
Working closely with NAACP, King and the SCLC turned their sights on Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, organizing sit-ins in public spaces. Again, the protests drew nationwide attention when televised footage showed Birmingham police deploying pressurized water jets and police dogs against peaceful demonstrators. The campaign was ultimately successful, forcing the infamous Birmingham police chief Bull Connor to resign and the city to desegregate public spaces.
"There is nothing greater in all the world than freedom. It's worth going to jail for. It's worth losing a job for. It's worth dying for. My friends, go out this evening determined to achieve this freedom which God wants for all of His children." — Martin Luther King, Jr.
During the campaign, King was once again sent to prison, where he composed his legendary "Letter from Birmingham Jail," in response to a call from white sympathizers to address civil rights through legal means rather than protest. King passionately disagreed, saying the unjust situation necessitated urgent action. He wrote: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.… We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
HISTORY-MAKING MARCHESIn 1963, King and the SCLC worked with NAACP and other civil rights groups to organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which attracted 250,000 people to rally for the civil and economic rights of Black Americans in the nation's capital. There, King delivered his majestic 17-minute "I Have a Dream" speech.
Along with other civil rights activists, King participated in the Selma-to-Montgomery march in 1965. The brutal attacks on activists by the police during the march were televised into the homes of Americans across the country. When the march concluded in Montgomery, King gave his "How Long, Not Long" speech, in which he predicted that equal rights for African Americans would be imminently granted. His legendary words are widely quoted today: "How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
Less than six months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act banning disenfranchisement of Black Americans.
DEATH AND LEGACYOver the next few years, King broadened his focus and began speaking out against the Vietnam War and economic issues, calling for a bill of rights for all Americans.
In the spring of 1968, King visited Memphis, Tennessee, to support Black sanitary workers who were on strike. On April 4, King was assassinated by James Earl Ray in his Memphis hotel. President Johnson called for a national day of mourning on April 7. In 1983, Congress cemented King's legacy as an American icon by declaring the third Monday of every January Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." — Martin Luther King, Jr.
King was honored with dozens of awards and honorary degrees for his achievement throughout his life and posthumously. In addition to receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, King was awarded the NAACP Medal in 1957 and the American Liberties Medallion by the American Jewish Committee in 1965. After his death, King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1994 with his wife, Coretta.
King's legacy has inspired activists fighting injustice anywhere in the world. NAACP has carried on King's work on behalf of Black Americans and strives to keep his dream alive for future generations. We take inspiration from his closing remarks at the NAACP Emancipation Day Rally in 1957: "I close by saying there is nothing greater in all the world than freedom. It's worth going to jail for. It's worth losing a job for. It's worth dying for. My friends, go out this evening determined to achieve this freedom which God wants for all of His children."Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr.; January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesman and leader in the American civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. King advanced civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi. He was the son of early civil rights activist and minister Martin Luther King Sr.
King participated in and led marches for blacks' right to vote, desegregation, labor rights, and other basic civil rights.[1] King led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and later became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). As president of the SCLC, he led the unsuccessful Albany Movement in Albany, Georgia, and helped organize some of the nonviolent 1963 protests in Birmingham, Alabama. King helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
The SCLC put into practice the tactics of nonviolent protest with some success by strategically choosing the methods and places in which protests were carried out. There were several dramatic stand-offs with segregationist authorities, who sometimes turned violent.[2] Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director J. Edgar Hoover considered King a radical and made him an object of the FBI's COINTELPRO from 1963, forward. FBI agents investigated him for possible communist ties, recorded his extramarital affairs and reported on them to government officials, and, in 1964, mailed King a threatening anonymous letter, which he interpreted as an attempt to make him commit suicide.[3]
On October 14, 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped organize two of the three Selma to Montgomery marches. In his final years, he expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty, capitalism, and the Vietnam War.
In 1968, King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People's Campaign, when he was assassinated on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee. His death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities. Allegations that James Earl Ray, the man convicted of killing King, had been framed or acted in concert with government agents persisted for decades after the shooting. King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2003. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in cities and states throughout the United States beginning in 1971; the holiday was enacted at the federal level by legislation signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor, and the most populous county in Washington State was rededicated for him. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.Contents1 Early life and education1.1 Birth1.2 Early childhood1.3 Adolescence1.4 Morehouse College2 Religious education, ministry, marriage and family2.1 Crozer Theological Seminary2.2 Boston University2.3 Marriage and family3 Activism and organizational leadership3.1 Montgomery bus boycott, 19553.2 Southern Christian Leadership Conference3.2.1 The Common Society3.3 Survived knife attack, 19583.4 Atlanta sit-ins, prison sentence, and the 1960 elections3.5 Albany Movement, 19613.6 Birmingham campaign, 19633.7 March on Washington, 19633.7.1 I (We) Have a Dream3.8 St. Augustine, Florida, 19643.9 offerdeford, Maine, 19643.10 New York City, 19643.11 Selma voting rights movement and "Bloody Sunday", 19653.12 Chicago open housing movement, 19663.13 Opposition to the Vietnam War3.13.1 Correspondence with Thích Nhất Hạnh3.14 Poor People's Campaign, 19684 Assassination and aftermath4.1 Aftermath4.2 Allegations of conspiracy5 Legacy5.1 South Africa5.2 United Kingdom5.3 United States5.3.1 Martin Luther King Jr. Day6 Veneration7 Ideas, influences, and political stances7.1 Christianity7.1.1 The Measure of a Man7.2 Nonviolence7.3 Criticism within the movement7.4 Activism and involvement with Native Americans7.5 Politics7.6 Compensation7.7 Family planning7.8 Television7.9 Israel7.10 Homosexuality8 State surveillance and coercion8.1 FBI surveillance and wiretapping8.2 NSA monitoring of King's communications8.3 Allegations of communism8.4 CIA surveillance8.5 Allegations of adultery8.6 Police observation during the assassination9 Awards and recognition9.1 Five-dollar bill10 Works11 See also12 References12.1 Notes12.2 Citations12.3 Sources12.4 Further reading13 External linksEarly life and educationBirthKing was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, the second of three children to Michael King and Alberta King (née Williams).[4][5][6] King's mother named him Michael, which was entered onto the birth certificate by the attending physician.[7] King's older sister is Christine King Farris and his younger brother was Alfred Daniel "A.D." King.[8] King's maternal grandfather Adam Daniel Williams,[9] who was a minister in rural Georgia, moved to Atlanta in 1893,[6] and became pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in the following year.[10] Williams was of African-Irish descent.[11][12][13] Williams married Jennie Celeste Parks, who gave birth to King's mother, Alberta.[6] King's father was born to sharecroppers, James Albert and Delia King of Stockbridge, Georgia.[5][6] In his adolescent years, King Sr. left his parents' farm and walked to Atlanta where he attained a high school education.[14][15][16] King Sr. then enrolled in Morehouse College and studied to enter the ministry.[16] King Sr. and Alberta began dating in 1920, and married on November 25, 1926.[17][18] Until Jennie's death in 1941, they lived together on the second floor of her parent's two-story Victorian house, where King was born.[7][17][18][19]
Shortly after marrying Alberta, King Sr. became assistant pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church.[18] Adam Daniel Williams died of a stroke in the spring of 1931.[18] That fall, King's father took over the role of pastor at the church, where he would in time raise the attendance from six hundred to several thousand.[18][6] In 1934, the church sent King Sr. on a multinational trip to Rome, Tunisia, Egypt, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, then Berlin for the meeting of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA).[20] The trip ended with visits to sites in Berlin associated with the Reformation leader, Martin Luther.[20] While there, Michael King Sr. witnessed the rise of Nazism.[20] In reaction, the BWA conference issued a resolution which stated, "This Congress deplores and condemns as a violation of the law of God the Heavenly Father, all racial animosity, and every form of oppression or unfair discrimination toward the Jews, toward coloured people, or toward subject races in any part of the world."[21] He returned home in August 1934, and in that same year began referring to himself as Martin Luther King, and his son as Martin Luther King Jr.[20][22][17] King's birth certificate was altered to read "Martin Luther King Jr." on July 23, 1957, when he was 28 years old.[20][21][23]
Early childhood
King's childhood home in Atlanta, GeorgiaAt his childhood home, King and his two siblings would read aloud the Bible as instructed by their father.[24] After dinners there, King's grandmother Jennie, who he affectionately referred to as "Mama", would tell lively stories from the Bible to her grandchildren.[24] King's father would regularly use whippings to discipline his children.[25] At times, King Sr. would also have his children whip each other.[25] King's father later remarked, "[King] was the most peculiar child whenever you whipped him. He'd stand there, and the tears would run down, and he'd never cry."[26] Once when King witnessed his brother A.D. emotionally upset his sister Christine, he took a telephone and knocked out A.D. with it.[25][27] When he and his brother were playing at their home, A.D. slid from a banister and hit into their grandmother, Jennie, causing her to fall down unresponsive.[28][27] King, believing her dead, blamed himself and attempted suicide by jumping from a second-story window.[29][27] Upon hearing that his grandmother was alive, King rose and left the ground where he had fallen.[29]
King became friends with a white boy whose father owned a business across the street from his family's home.[30] In September 1935, when the boys were about six years old, they started school.[30][31] King had to attend a school for black children, Younge Street Elementary School,[30][32] while his close playmate went to a separate school for white children only.[30][32] Soon afterwards, the parents of the white boy stopped allowing King to play with their son, stating to him "we are white, and you are colored".[30][33] When King relayed the happenings to his parents, they had a long discussion with him about the history of slavery and racism in America.[30][34] Upon learning of the hatred, violence and oppression that black people had faced in the U.S., King would later state that he was "determined to hate every white person".[30] His parents instructed him that it was his Christian duty to love everyone.[34]
King witnessed his father stand up against segregation and various forms of discrimination.[35] Once, when stopped by a police officer who referred to King Sr. as "boy", King's father responded sharply that King was a boy but he was a man.[35] When King's father took him into a shoe store in downtown Atlanta, the clerk told them they needed to sit in the back.[36] King's father refused, stating "we'll either buy shoes sitting here or we won't buy any shoes at all", before taking King and leaving the store.[15] He told King afterward, "I don't care how long I have to live with this system, I will never accept it."[15] In 1936, King's father led hundreds of African Americans in a civil rights march to the city hall in Atlanta, to protest voting rights discrimination.[25] King later remarked that King Sr. was "a real father" to him.[37]
King memorized and sang hymns, and stated verses from the Bible, by the time he was five years old.[29] Over the next year, he began to go to church events with his mother and sing hymns while she played piano.[29] His favorite hymn to sing was "I Want to Be More and More Like Jesus"; he moved attendees with his singing.[29] King later became a member of the junior choir in his church.[38] King enjoyed opera, and played the piano.[39] As he grew up, King garnered a large vocabulary from reading dictionaries and consistently used his expanding lexicon.[27] He got into physical altercations with boys in his neighborhood, but oftentimes used his knowledge of words to stymie fights.[27][39] King showed a lack of interest in grammar and spelling, a trait which he carried throughout his life.[39] In 1939, King sang as a member of his church choir in slave costume, for the all-white audience at the Atlanta premiere of the film Gone with the Wind.[40][41] In September 1940, at the age of 12, King was enrolled at the Atlanta University Laboratory School for the seventh grade.[42][43] While there, King took violin and piano lessons, and showed keen interest in his history and English classes.[42]
On May 18, 1941, when King had snuck away from studying at home to watch a parade, King was informed that something had happened to his maternal grandmother.[37] Upon returning home, he found out that she had suffered a heart attack and died while being transported to a hospital.[19] He took the death very hard and believed that his deception of going to see the parade may have been responsible for God taking her.[19] King jumped out of a second-story window at his home, but again survived an attempt to kill himself.[19][26][27] His father instructed him in his bedroom that King should not blame himself for her death, and that she had been called home to God as part of God's plan which could not be changed.[19][44] King struggled with this, and could not fully believe that his parents knew where his grandmother had gone.[19] Shortly thereafter, King's father decided to move the family to a two-story brick home on a hill that overlooked downtown Atlanta.[19]The high school that King attended was named after African-American educator Booker T. Washington.AdolescenceIn his adolescent years, he initially felt resentment against whites due to the "racial humiliation" that he, his family, and his neighbors often had to endure in the segregated South.[45] In 1942, when King was 13 years old, he became the youngest assistant manager of a newspaper delivery station for the Atlanta Journal.[46] That year, King skipped the ninth grade and was enrolled in Booker T. Washington High School, where he maintained a B-plus average.[44][47] The high school was the only one in the city for African-American students.[18] It had been formed after local black leaders, including King's grandfather (Williams), urged the city government of Atlanta to create it.[18]
While King was brought up in a Baptist home, King grew skeptical of some of Christianity's claims as he entered adolescence.[48] He began to question the literalist teachings preached at his father's church.[49] At the age of 13, he denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus during Sunday school.[50][49] King has stated, he found himself unable to identify with the emotional displays and gestures from congregants frequent at his church, and doubted if he would ever attain personal satisfaction from religion.[51][49] He later stated of this point in his life, "doubts began to spring forth unrelentingly."[52][50][49]
In high school, King became known for his public-speaking ability, with a voice which had grown into an orotund baritone.[53][47] He proceeded to join the school's debate team.[53][47] King continued to be most drawn to history and English,[47] and choose English and sociology to be his main subjects while at the school.[54] King maintained an abundant vocabulary.[47] But, he relied on his sister, Christine, to help him with his spelling, while King assisted her with math.[47] They studied in this manner routinely until Christine's graduation from high school.[47] King also developed an interest in fashion, commonly adorning himself in well polished patent leather shoes and tweed suits, which gained him the nickname "Tweed" or "Tweedie" among his friends.[55][56][57][58] He further grew a liking for flirting with girls and dancing.[57][56][59] His brother A. D. later remarked, "He kept flitting from chick to chick, and I decided I couldn't keep up with him. Especially since he was crazy about dances, and just about the best jitterbug in town."[56]
On April 13, 1944, in his junior year, King gave his first public speech during an oratorical contest, sponsored by the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World in Dublin, Georgia.[60][56][61][62] In his speech he stated, "black America still wears chains. The finest negro is at the mercy of the meanest white man. Even winners of our highest honors face the class color bar."[63][60] King was selected as the winner of the contest.[60][56] On the ride home to Atlanta by bus, he and his teacher were ordered by the driver to stand so that white passenger could sit down.[56][64] The driver of the bus called King a "black son-of-a-bitch".[56] King initially refused but complied after his teacher told him that he would be breaking the law if he did not follow the directions of the driver.[64] As all the seats were occupied, he and his teacher were forced to stand on the rest of the drive back to Atlanta.[56] Later King wrote of the incident, saying "That night will never leave my memory. It was the angriest I have ever been in my life."[64]
Morehouse CollegeDuring King's junior year in high school, Morehouse College—an all-male historically black college which King's father and maternal grandfather had attended[65][66]—began accepting high school juniors who passed the school's entrance examination.[56][67][64] As World War II was underway many black college students had been enlisted in the war, decreasing the numbers of students at Morehouse College.[56][67] So, the university aimed to increase their student numbers by allowing junior high school students to apply.[56][67][64] In 1944, at the age of 15, King passed the entrance examination and was enrolled at the university for the school season that autumn.[a][56][67][65][68]
In the summer before King started his freshman year at Morehouse, he boarded a train with his friend—Emmett "Weasel" Proctor—and a group of other Morehouse College students to work in Simsbury, Connecticut at the tobacco farm of Cullman Brothers Tobacco (a cigar business).[69][70] This was King's first trip outside of the segregated south into the integrated north.[71][72] In a June 1944 letter to his father King wrote about the differences that struck him between the two parts of the country, "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."[71] The students worked at the farm to be able to provide for their educational costs at Morehouse College, as the farm had partnered with the college to allot their salaries towards the university's tuition, housing, and other fees.[69][70] On weekdays King and the other students worked in the fields, picking tobacco from 7:00am till at least 5:00pm, enduring temperatures above 100°F, to earn roughly USD$4 per day.[70][71] On Friday evenings, King and the other students visited downtown Simsbury to get milkshakes and watch movies, and on Saturdays they would travel to Hartford, Connecticut to see theatre performances, shop and eat in restaurants.[70][72] While each Sunday they would go to Hartford to attend church services, at a church filled with white congregants.[70] King wrote to his parents about the lack of segregation in Connecticut, relaying how he was amazed they could go to the "one of the finest restaurants in Hartford" and that "Negroes and whites go to the same church".[70][73][71]
He played freshman football there. The summer before his last year at Morehouse, in 1947, the 18-year-old King chose to enter the ministry. Throughout his time in college, King studied under the mentorship of its president, Baptist minister Benjamin Mays, who he would later credit with being his "spiritual mentor."[74] King had concluded that the church offered the most assuring way to answer "an inner urge to serve humanity." His "inner urge" had begun developing, and he made peace with the Baptist Church, as he believed he would be a "rational" minister with sermons that were "a respectful force for ideas, even social protest."[75] King graduated from Morehouse with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in sociology in 1948, aged nineteen.[76]
Religious education, ministry, marriage and familyCrozer Theological SeminaryA large facade of a buildingKing received a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Crozer Theological Seminary (pictured in 2009).King enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, Pennsylvania.[77][78] King's father fully supported his decision to continue his education and made arrangements for King to work with J. Pius Barbour, a family friend who pastored at Calvary Baptist Church in nearby Chester, Pennsylvania.[79] King became known as one of the "Sons of Calvary", an honor he shared with William Augustus Jones Jr. and Samuel D. Proctor who both went on to become well-known preachers in the black church.[80]
While attending Crozer, King was joined by Walter McCall, a former classmate at Morehouse.[81] At Crozer, King was elected president of the student body.[82] The African-American students of Crozer for the most part conducted their social activity on Edwards Street. King became fond of the street because a classmate had an aunt who prepared collard greens for them, which they both relished.[83]
King once reproved another student for keeping beer in his room, saying they had shared responsibility as African Americans to bear "the burdens of the Negro race." For a time, he was interested in Walter Rauschenbusch's "social gospel."[82] In his third year at Crozer, King became romantically involved with the white daughter of an immigrant German woman who worked as a cook in the cafeteria. The woman had been involved with a professor prior to her relationship with King. King planned to marry her, but friends advised against it, saying that an interracial marriage would provoke animosity from both blacks and whites, potentially damaging his chances of ever pastoring a church in the South. King tearfully told a friend that he could not endure his mother's pain over the marriage and broke the relationship off six months later. He continued to have lingering feelings toward the woman he left; one friend was quoted as saying, "He never recovered."[82] King graduated with a B.Div. degree in 1951.[77]
Boston UniversitySee also: Martin Luther King Jr. authorship issuesIn 1951, King began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University.[84] While pursuing doctoral studies, King worked as an assistant minister at Boston's historic Twelfth Baptist Church with William Hunter Hester. Hester was an old friend of King's father and was an important influence on King.[85] In Boston, King befriended a small cadre of local ministers his age, and sometimes guest pastored at their churches, including the Reverend Michael Haynes, associate pastor at Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury (and younger brother of jazz drummer Roy Haynes). The young men often held bull sessions in their various apartments, discussing theology, sermon style, and social issues.
King attended philosophy classes at Harvard University as an audit student in 1952 and 1953.[86]
At the age of 25 in 1954, King was called as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.[87] King received his Ph.D. degree on June 5, 1955, with a dissertation (initially supervised by Edgar S. Brightman and, upon the latter's death, by Lotan Harold DeWolf) titled A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman.[88][84]
An academic inquiry in October 1991 concluded that portions of his doctoral dissertation had been plagiarized and he had acted improperly. However, "[d]espite its finding, the committee said that 'no thought should be given to the revocation of Dr. King's doctoral degree,' an action that the panel said would serve no purpose."[89][84][90] The committee found that the dissertation still "makes an intelligent contribution to scholarship." A letter is now attached to the copy of King's dissertation held in the university library, noting that numerous passages were included without the appropriate quotations and citations of sources.[91] Significant debate exists on how to interpret King's plagiarism.[92]
Marriage and familyWhile studying at Boston University, he asked a friend from Atlanta named Mary Powell, who was a student at the New England Conservatory of Music, if she knew any nice Southern girls. Powell asked fellow student Coretta Scott if she was interested in meeting a Southern friend studying divinity. Scott was not interested in dating preachers but eventually agreed to allow Martin to telephone her based on Powell's description and vouching. On their first phone call, King told Scott "I am like Napoleon at Waterloo before your charms," to which she replied, "You haven't even met me." They went out for dates in his green Chevy. After the second date, King was certain Scott possessed the qualities he sought in a wife. She had been an activist at Antioch in undergrad, where Carol and Rod Serling were schoolmates.
King married Coretta Scott on June 18, 1953, on the lawn of her parents' house in her hometown of Heiberger, Alabama.[93] They became the parents of four children: Yolanda King (1955–2007), Martin Luther King III (b. 1957), Dexter Scott King (b. 1961), and Bernice King (b. 1963).[94] During their marriage, King limited Coretta's role in the civil rights movement, expecting her to be a housewife and mother.[95]
In December 1959, after being based in Montgomery for five years, King announced his return to Atlanta at the request of the SCLC.[96] In Atlanta, King served until his death as co-pastor with his father at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, and helped expand the Civil Rights Movement across the South.
Activism and organizational leadershipMontgomery bus boycott, 1955Main articles: Montgomery bus boycott and Jim Crow laws § Public arena
Rosa Parks with King (left), 1955In March 1955, Claudette Colvin—a fifteen-year-old black schoolgirl in Montgomery—refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in violation of Jim Crow laws, local laws in the Southern United States that enforced racial segregation. King was on the committee from the Birmingham African-American community that looked into the case; E. D. Nixon and Clifford Durr decided to wait for a better case to pursue because the incident involved a minor.[97]
Nine months later on December 1, 1955, a similar incident occurred when Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus.[98] The two incidents led to the Montgomery bus boycott, which was urged and planned by Nixon and led by King.[99] King was in his twenties, and had just taken up his clerical role. The other ministers asked him to take a leadership role simply because his relative newness to community leadership made it easier for him to speak out. King was hesitant about taking the role, but decided to do so if no one else wanted the role.[100]
The boycott lasted for 385 days,[101] and the situation became so tense that King's house was bombed.[102] King was arrested and jailed during this campaign, which overnight drew the attention of national media, and greatly increased King's public stature. The controversy ended when the United States District Court issued a ruling in Browder v. Gayle that prohibited racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses.[103] Blacks resumed riding the buses again, and were able to sit in the front with full legal authorization.[1][100]
King's role in the bus boycott transformed him into a national figure and the best-known spokesman of the civil rights movement.[104]
Southern Christian Leadership ConferenceIn 1957, King, Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth, Joseph Lowery, and other civil rights activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The group was created to harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches to conduct nonviolent protests in the service of civil rights reform. The group was inspired by the crusades of evangelist Billy Graham, who befriended King,[105] as well as the national organizing of the group In Friendship, founded by King allies Stanley Levison and Ella Baker.[106] King led the SCLC until his death.[107] The SCLC's 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom was the first time King addressed a national audience.[108] Other civil rights leaders involved in the SCLC with King included: James Bevel, Allen Johnson, Curtis W. Harris, Walter E. Fauntroy, C. T. Vivian, Andrew Young, The Freedom Singers, Cleveland Robinson, Randolph Blackwell, Annie Bell Robinson Devine, Charles Kenzie Steele, Alfred Daniel Williams King, Benjamin Hooks, Aaron Henry and Bayard Rustin.[109]
The Common SocietyHarry Wachtel joined King's legal advisor Clarence B. Jones in defending four ministers of the SCLC in the libel case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan; the case was litigated in reference to the newspaper advertisement "Heed Their Rising Voices". Wachtel founded a tax-exempt fund to cover the suit's expenses and assist the nonviolent civil rights movement through a more effective means of fundraising. This organization was named the "Gandhi Society for Human Rights." King served as honorary president for the group. He was displeased with the pace that President Kennedy was using to address the issue of segregation. In 1962, King and the Gandhi Society produced a document that called on the President to follow in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln and issue an executive order to deliver a blow for civil rights as a kind of Second Emancipation Proclamation. Kennedy did not execute the order.[110]
The FBI was under written directive from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy when it began tapping King's telephone line in the fall of 1963.[111] Kennedy was concerned that public allegations of communists in the SCLC would derail the administration's civil rights initiatives. He warned King to discontinue these associations and later felt compelled to issue the written directive that authorized the FBI to wiretap King and other SCLC leaders.[112] FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover feared the civil rights movement and investigated the allegations of communist infiltration. When no evidence emerged to support this, the FBI used the incidental details caught on tape over the next five years in attempts to force King out of his leadership position in the COINTELPRO program.[3]
King believed that organized, nonviolent protest against the system of southern segregation known as Jim Crow laws would lead to extensive media coverage of the struggle for black equality and voting rights. Journalistic accounts and televised footage of the daily deprivation and indignities suffered by southern blacks, and of segregationist violence and harassment of civil rights workers and marchers, produced a wave of sympathetic public opinion that convinced the majority of Americans that the civil rights movement was the most important issue in American politics in the early 1960s.[113][114]
King organized and led marches for blacks' right to vote, desegregation, labor rights, and other basic civil rights.[1] Most of these rights were successfully enacted into the law of the United States with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.[115][116]
The SCLC put into practice the tactics of nonviolent protest with great success by strategically choosing the methods and places in which protests were carried out. There were often dramatic stand-offs with segregationist authorities, who sometimes turned violent.[2]
Survived knife attack, 1958On September 20, 1958, King was signing copies of his book Stride Toward Freedom in Blumstein's department store in Harlem[117] when he narrowly escaped death. Izola Curry—a mentally ill black woman who thought that King was conspiring against her with communists—stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener, which nearly impinged on the aorta. King received first aid by police officers Al Howard and Philip Romano.[118] King underwent emergency surgery with three doctors: Aubre de Lambert Maynard, Emil Naclerio and John W. V. Cordice; he remained hospitalized for several weeks. Curry was later found mentally incompetent to stand trial.[119][120]
Atlanta sit-ins, prison sentence, and the 1960 electionsGeorgia governor Ernest Vandiver expressed open hostility towards King's return to his hometown in late 1959. He claimed that "wherever M. L. King, Jr., has been there has followed in his wake a wave of crimes", and vowed to keep King under surveillance.[121] On May 4, 1960, several months after his return, King drove writer Lillian Smith to Emory University when police stopped them. King was cited for "driving without a license" because he had not yet been issued a Georgia license. King's Alabama license was still valid, and Georgia law did not mandate any time limit for issuing a local license.[122] King paid a fine but was apparently unaware that his lawyer agreed to a plea deal that also included a probationary sentence.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Student Movement had been acting to desegregate businesses and public spaces in the city, organizing the Atlanta sit-ins from March 1960 onwards. In August the movement asked King to participate in a mass October sit-in, timed to highlight how 1960's Presidential election campaign had ignored civil rights. The coordinated day of action took place on October 19. King participated in a sit-in at the restaurant inside Rich's, Atlanta's largest department store, and was among the many arrested that day. The authorities released everyone over the next few days, except for King. Invoking his probationary plea deal, judge J. Oscar Mitchell sentenced King on October 25 to four months of hard labor. Before dawn the next day, King was taken from his county jail cell and transported to a maximum-security state prison.[where?][123]
The arrest and harsh sentence drew nationwide attention. Many feared for King's safety, as he started a prison sentence with people convicted of violent crimes, many of them White and hostile to his activism.[124] Both Presidential candidates were asked to weigh in, at a time when both parties were courting the support of Southern Whites and their political leadership including Governor Vandiver. Nixon, with whom King had a closer relationship prior to the sit-in, declined to make a statement despite a personal visit from Jackie Robinson requesting his intervention. Nixon's opponent John F. Kennedy called the governor (a Democrat) directly, enlisted his brother Robert to exert more pressure on state authorities, and also, at the personal request of Sargent Shriver, made a phone call to King's wife to express his sympathy and offer his help. The pressure from Kennedy and others proved effective, and King was released two days later. King's father decided to openly endorse Kennedy's candidacy for the November 8 election which he narrowly won.[125]
After the October 19 sit-ins and following unrest, a 30-day truce was declared in Atlanta for desegregation negotiations. However, the negotiations failed and sit-ins and boycotts resumed in full swing for several months. On March 7, 1961, a group of Black elders including King notified student leaders that a deal had been reached: the city's lunch counters would desegregate in fall 1961, in conjunction with the court-mandated desegregation of schools.[126][127] Many students were disappointed at the compromise. In a large meeting March 10 at Warren Memorial Methodist Church, the audience was hostile and frustrated towards the elders and the compromise. King then gave an impassioned speech calling participants to resist the "cancerous disease of disunity," and helping to calm tensions.[128]
Albany Movement, 1961Main article: Albany MovementThe Albany Movement was a desegregation coalition formed in Albany, Georgia, in November 1961. In December, King and the SCLC became involved. The movement mobilized thousands of citizens for a broad-front nonviolent attack on every aspect of segregation within the city and attracted nationwide attention. When King first visited on December 15, 1961, he "had planned to stay a day or so and return home after giving counsel."[129] The following day he was swept up in a mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators, and he declined bail until the city made concessions. According to King, "that agreement was dishonored and violated by the city" after he left town.[129]
King returned in July 1962 and was given the option of forty-five days in jail or a $178 fine (equivalent to $1,500 in 2020); he chose jail. Three days into his sentence, Police Chief Laurie Pritchett discreetly arranged for King's fine to be paid and ordered his release. "We had witnessed persons being kicked off lunch counter stools ... ejected from churches ... and thrown into jail ... But for the first time, we witnessed being kicked out of jail."[130] It was later acknowledged by the King Center that Billy Graham was the one who bailed King out of jail during this time.[131]
After nearly a year of intense activism with few tangible results, the movement began to deteriorate. King requested a halt to all demonstrations and a "Day of Penance" to promote nonviolence and maintain the moral high ground. Divisions within the black community and the canny, low-key response by local government defeated efforts.[132] Though the Albany effort proved a key lesson in tactics for King and the national civil rights movement,[133] the national media was highly critical of King's role in the defeat, and the SCLC's lack of results contributed to a growing gulf between the organization and the more radical SNCC. After Albany, King sought to choose engagements for the SCLC in which he could control the circumstances, rather than entering into pre-existing situations.[134]Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy with King, Benjamin Mays, and other civil rights leaders, June 22, 1963Birmingham campaign, 1963Main article: Birmingham campaign
King was arrested in 1963 for protesting the treatment of blacks in Birmingham.In April 1963, the SCLC began a campaign against racial segregation and economic injustice in Birmingham, Alabama. The campaign used nonviolent but intentionally confrontational tactics, developed in part by Wyatt Tee Walker. Black people in Birmingham, organizing with the SCLC, occupied public spaces with marches and sit-ins, openly violating laws that they considered unjust.
King's intent was to provoke mass arrests and "create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation."[135] The campaign's early volunteers did not succeed in shutting down the city, or in drawing media attention to the police's actions. Over the concerns of an uncertain King, SCLC strategist James Bevel changed the course of the campaign by recruiting children and young adults to join in the demonstrations.[136] Newsweek called this strategy a Children's Crusade.[137][138]
During the protests, the Birmingham Police Department, led by Eugene "Bull" Connor, used high-pressure water jets and police dogs against protesters, including children. Footage of the police response was broadcast on national television news and dominated the nation's attention, shocking many white Americans and consolidating black Americans behind the movement.[139] Not all of the demonstrators were peaceful, despite the avowed intentions of the SCLC. In some cases, bystanders attacked the police, who responded with force. King and the SCLC were criticized for putting children in harm's way. But the campaign was a success: Connor lost his job, the "Jim Crow" signs came down, and public places became more open to blacks. King's reputation improved immensely.[137]
King was arrested and jailed early in the campaign—his 13th arrest[140] out of 29.[141] From his cell, he composed the now-famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail" that responds to calls on the movement to pursue legal channels for social change. The letter has been described as "one of the most important historical documents penned by a modern political prisoner".[142] King argues that the crisis of racism is too urgent, and the current system too entrenched: "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."[143] He points out that the Boston Tea Party, a celebrated act of rebellion in the American colonies, was illegal civil disobedience, and that, conversely, "everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was 'legal'."[143] Walter Reuther, president of the United Auto Workers, arranged for $160,000 to bail out King and his fellow protestors.[144]
"I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, 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"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season."
—Martin Luther King Jr.[143]File:Bezoek ds Martin Luther King-selectionclip.ogvMartin Luther King Jr. speaking in an interview in the Netherlands, 1964March on Washington, 1963Main article: March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
Leaders of the March on Washington posing in front of the Lincoln Memorial
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963)King, representing the SCLC, was among the leaders of the "Big Six" civil rights organizations who were instrumental in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which took place on August 28, 1963. The other leaders and organizations comprising the Big Six were Roy Wilkins from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Whitney Young, National Urban League; A. Philip Randolph, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; John Lewis, SNCC; and James L. Farmer Jr., of the Congress of Racial Equality.[145]
Bayard Rustin's open homosexuality, support of socialism, and his former ties to the Communist Party USA caused many white and African-American leaders to demand King distance himself from Rustin,[146] which King agreed to do.[147] However, he did collaborate in the 1963 March on Washington, for which Rustin was the primary logistical and strategic organizer.[148][149] For King, this role was another which courted controversy, since he was one of the key figures who acceded to the wishes of United States President John F. Kennedy in changing the focus of the march.[150][151]
Kennedy initially opposed the march outright, because he was concerned it would negatively impact the drive for passage of civil rights legislation. However, the organizers were firm that the march would proceed.[152] With the march going forward, the Kennedys decided it was important to work to ensure its success. President Kennedy was concerned the turnout would be less than 100,000. Therefore, he enlisted the aid of additional church leaders and Walter Reuther, president of the United Automobile Workers, to help mobilize demonstrators for the cause.[153]
File:The March (1964 film).webmThe March, a 1964 documentary film produced by the United States Information Agency. King's speech has been redacted from this video because of the copyright held by King's estate.The march originally was conceived as an event to dramatize the desperate condition of blacks in the southern U.S. and an opportunity to place organizers' concerns and grievances squarely before the seat of power in the nation's capital. Organizers intended to denounce the federal government for its failure to safeguard the civil rights and physical safety of civil rights workers and blacks. The group acquiesced to presidential pressure and influence, and the event ultimately took on a far less strident tone.[154] As a result, some civil rights activists felt it presented an inaccurate, sanitized pageant of racial harmony; Malcolm X called it the "Farce on Washington", and the Nation of Islam forbade its members from attending the march.[154][155]King gave his most famous speech, "I Have a Dream", before the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.I Have a DreamMENU0:0030-second sample from "I Have a Dream" speech by Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963Problems playing this file? See media help.The march made specific demands: an end to racial segregation in public schools; meaningful civil rights legislation, including a law prohibiting racial discrimination in employment; protection of civil rights workers from police brutality; a $2 minimum wage for all workers (equivalent to $17 in 2020); and self-government for Washington, D.C., then governed by congressional committee.[156][157][158] Despite tensions, the march was a resounding success.[159] More than a quarter of a million people of diverse ethnicities attended the event, sprawling from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial onto the National Mall and around the reflecting pool. At the time, it was the largest gathering of protesters in Washington, D.C.'s history.[159]
I (We) Have a DreamMain article: I Have a DreamKing delivered a 17-minute speech, later known as "I Have a Dream". In the speech's most famous passage – in which he departed from his prepared text, possibly at the prompting of Mahalia Jackson, who shouted behind him, "Tell them about the dream!"[160][161] – King said:[162]
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
"I Have a Dream" came to be regarded as one of the finest speeches in the history of American oratory.[163] The March, and especially King's speech, helped put civil rights at the top of the agenda of reformers in the United States and facilitated passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[164][165]
The original typewritten copy of the speech, including King's handwritten notes on it, was discovered in 1984 to be in the hands of George Raveling, the first African-American basketball coach of the University of Iowa. In 1963, Raveling, then 26 years old, was standing near the podium, and immediately after the oration, impulsively asked King if he could have his copy of the speech, and he got it.[166]
St. Augustine, Florida, 1964Main article: St. Augustine movementIn March 1964, King and the SCLC joined forces with Robert Hayling's then-controversial movement in St. Augustine, Florida. Hayling's group had been affiliated with the NAACP but was forced out of the organization for advocating armed self-defense alongside nonviolent tactics. However, the pacifist SCLC accepted them.[167][168] King and the SCLC worked to bring white Northern activists to St. Augustine, including a delegation of rabbis and the 72-year-old mother of the governor of Massachusetts, all of whom were arrested.[169][170] During June, the movement marched nightly through the city, "often facing counter demonstrations by the Klan, and provoking violence that garnered national media attention." Hundreds of the marchers were arrested and jailed. During the course of this movement, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.[171]
offerdeford, Maine, 1964On May 7, 1964, King spoke at Saint Francis College's "The Negro and the Quest for Identity," in offerdeford, Maine. This was a symposium that brought many civil rights leaders together such as Dorothy Day and Roy Wilkins.[172][173] King spoke about how "We must get rid of the idea of superior and inferior races," through nonviolent tactics.[174]
New York City, 1964On February 6, 1964, King delivered the inaugural speech of a lecture series initiated at the New School called "The American Race Crisis." No audio record of his speech has been found, but in August 2013, almost 50 years later, the school discovered an audiotape with 15 minutes of a question-and-answer session that followed King's address. In these remarks, King referred to a conversation he had recently had with Jawaharlal Nehru in which he compared the sad condition of many African Americans to that of India's untouchables.[175] In his March 18, 1964 interview by Robert Penn Warren, King compared his activism to his father's, citing his training in non-violence as a key difference. He also discusses the next phase of the civil rights movement and integration.[176]
Selma voting rights movement and "Bloody Sunday", 1965Main article: Selma to Montgomery marches
The civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965In December 1964, King and the SCLC joined forces with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Selma, Alabama, where the SNCC had been working on voter registration for several months.[177] A local judge issued an injunction that barred any gathering of three or more people affiliated with the SNCC, SCLC, DCVL, or any of 41 named civil rights leaders. This injunction temporarily halted civil rights activity until King defied it by speaking at Brown Chapel on January 2, 1965.[178] During the 1965 march to Montgomery, Alabama, violence by state police and others against the peaceful marchers resulted in much publicity, which made racism in Alabama visible nationwide.
Acting on James Bevel's call for a march from Selma to Montgomery, Bevel and other SCLC members, in partial collaboration with SNCC, attempted to organize a march to the state's capital. The first attempt to march on March 7, 1965, at which King was not present, was aborted because of mob and police violence against the demonstrators. This day has become known as Bloody Sunday and was a major turning point in the effort to gain public support for the civil rights movement. It was the clearest demonstration up to that time of the dramatic potential of King and Bevel's nonviolence strategy.[52]
On March 5, King met with officials in the Johnson Administration in order to request an injunction against any prosecution of the demonstrators. He did not attend the march due to church duties, but he later wrote, "If I had any idea that the state troopers would use the kind of brutality they did, I would have felt compelled to give up my church duties altogether to lead the line."[179] Footage of police brutality against the protesters was broadcast extensively and aroused national public outrage.[180]
King next attempted to organize a march for March 9. The SCLC petitioned for an injunction in federal court against the State of Alabama; this was denied and the judge issued an order blocking the march until after a hearing. Nonetheless, King led marchers on March 9 to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, then held a short prayer session before turning the marchers around and asking them to disperse so as not to violate the court order. The unexpected ending of this second march aroused the surprise and anger of many within the local movement.[181] Meanwhile, on March 11 King cried at the news of Johnson supporting a voting rights bill on television in Marie Foster's living room.[182] The march finally went ahead fully on March 25, 1965.[183][184] At the conclusion of the march on the steps of the state capitol, King delivered a speech that became known as "How Long, Not Long." In it, King stated that equal rights for African Americans could not be far away, "because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice" and "you shall reap what you sow".[b][185][186][187]
Chicago open housing movement, 1966Main article: Chicago Freedom Movement
King stands behind President Johnson as he signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964.In 1966, after several successes in the south, King, Bevel, and others in the civil rights organizations took the movement to the North, with Chicago as their first destination. King and Ralph Abernathy, both from the middle class, moved into a building at 1550 S. Hamlin Avenue, in the slums of North Lawndale[188] on Chicago's West Side, as an educational experience and to demonstrate their support and empathy for the poor.[189]
The SCLC formed a coalition with CCCO, Coordinating Council of Community Organizations, an organization founded by Albert Raby, and the combined organizations' efforts were fostered under the aegis of the Chicago Freedom Movement.[190] During that spring, several white couple/black couple tests of real estate offices uncovered racial steering: discriminatory processing of housing requests by couples who were exact matches in income, background, number of children, and other attributes.[191] Several larger marches were planned and executed: in Bogan, Belmont Cragin, Jefferson Park, Evergreen Park (a suburb southwest of Chicago), Gage Park, Marquette Park, and others.[190][192][193]President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with King in the White House Cabinet Room, 1966King later stated and Abernathy wrote that the movement received a worse reception in Chicago than in the South. Marches, especially the one through Marquette Park on August 5, 1966, were met by thrown bottles and screaming throngs. Rioting seemed very possible.[194][195] King's beliefs militated against his staging a violent event, and he negotiated an agreement with Mayor Richard J. Daley to cancel a march in order to avoid the violence that he feared would result.[196] King was hit by a brick during one march, but continued to lead marches in the face of personal danger.[197]
When King and his allies returned to the South, they left Jesse Jackson, a seminary student who had previously joined the movement in the South, in charge of their organization.[198] Jackson continued their struggle for civil rights by organizing the Operation Breadbasket movement that targeted chain stores that did not deal fairly with blacks.[199]
A 1967 CIA document declassified in 2017 downplayed King's role in the "black militant situation" in Chicago, with a source stating that King "sought at least constructive, positive projects."[200]
Opposition to the Vietnam WarThe black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes. It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws—racism, poverty, militarism, and materialism. It is exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced
–Martin Luther King Jr.[201]We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power... this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.
—Martin Luther King Jr.[202]See also: Opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam WarExternal audioaudio icon You can listen to the speech, "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam", by Martin Luther King here.King was long opposed to American involvement in the Vietnam War,[203] but at first avoided the topic in public speeches in order to avoid the interference with civil rights goals that criticism of President Johnson's policies might have created.[203] At the urging of SCLC's former Director of Direct Action and now the head of the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, James Bevel, and inspired by the outspokenness of Muhammad Ali,[204] King eventually agreed to publicly oppose the war as opposition was growing among the American public.[203]
During an April 4, 1967, appearance at the New York City Riverside Church—exactly one year before his death—King delivered a speech titled "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence."[205] He spoke strongly against the U.S.'s role in the war, arguing that the U.S. was in Vietnam "to occupy it as an American colony"[206] and calling the U.S. government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."[207] He connected the war with economic injustice, arguing that the country needed serious moral change:
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just."[208]
King opposed the Vietnam War because it took money and resources that could have been spent on social welfare at home. The United States Congress was spending more and more on the military and less and less on anti-poverty programs at the same time. He summed up this aspect by saying, "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."[208] He stated that North Vietnam "did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had arrived in the tens of thousands",[209] and accused the U.S. of having killed a million Vietnamese, "mostly children."[210] King also criticized American opposition to North Vietnam's land reforms.[211]
King's opposition cost him significant support among white allies, including President Johnson, Billy Graham,[212] union leaders and powerful publishers.[213] "The press is being stacked against me", King said,[214] complaining of what he described as a double standard that applauded his nonviolence at home, but deplored it when applied "toward little brown Vietnamese children."[215] Life magazine called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi",[208] and The Washington Post declared that King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."[215][216]King speaking to an anti-Vietnam war rally at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, April 27, 1967The "Beyond Vietnam" speech reflected King's evolving political advocacy in his later years, which paralleled the teachings of the progressive Highlander Research and Education Center, with which he was affiliated.[217][218] King began to speak of the need for fundamental changes in the political and economic life of the nation, and more frequently expressed his opposition to the war and his desire to see a redistribution of resources to correct racial and economic injustice.[219] He guarded his language in public to avoid being linked to communism by his enemies, but in private he sometimes spoke of his support for social democracy and democratic socialism.[220][221]
In a 1952 letter to Coretta Scott, he said: "I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic ..."[222] In one speech, he stated that "something is wrong with capitalism" and claimed, "There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism."[223] King had read Marx while at Morehouse, but while he rejected "traditional capitalism", he rejected communism because of its "materialistic interpretation of history" that denied religion, its "ethical relativism", and its "political totalitarianism."[224]
King stated in "Beyond Vietnam" that "true compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar ... it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."[225] King quoted a United States official who said that from Vietnam to Latin America, the country was "on the wrong side of a world revolution."[225] King condemned America's "alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America", and said that the U.S. should support "the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World rather than suppressing their attempts at revolution.[225]
King's stance on Vietnam encouraged Allard K. Lowenstein, William Sloane Coffin and Norman Thomas, with the support of anti-war Democrats, to attempt to persuade King to run against President Johnson in the 1968 United States presidential election. King contemplated but ultimately decided against the proposal on the grounds that he felt uneasy with politics and considered himself better suited for his morally unambiguous role as an activist.[226]
On April 15, 1967, King participated and spoke at an anti-war march from Manhattan's Central Park to the United Nations. The march was organized by the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam and initiated by its chairman, James Bevel. At the U.N. King brought up issues of civil rights and the draft:
I have not urged a mechanical fusion of the civil rights and peace movements. There are people who have come to see the moral imperative of equality, but who cannot yet see the moral imperative of world brotherhood. I would like to see the fervor of the civil-rights movement imbued into the peace movement to instill it with greater strength. And I believe everyone has a duty to be in both the civil-rights and peace movements. But for those who presently choose but one, I would hope they will finally come to see the moral roots common to both.[227]
Seeing an opportunity to unite civil rights activists and anti-war activists,[204] Bevel convinced King to become even more active in the anti-war effort.[204] Despite his growing public opposition towards the Vietnam War, King was not fond of the hippie culture which developed from the anti-war movement.[228] In his 1967 Massey Lecture, King stated:
The importance of the hippies is not in their unconventional behavior, but in the fact that hundreds of thousands of young people, in turning to a flight from reality, are expressing a profoundly discrediting view on the society they emerge from.[228]
On January 13, 1968 (the day after President Johnson's State of the Union Address), King called for a large march on Washington against "one of history's most cruel and senseless wars."[229][230]
We need to make clear in this political year, to congressmen on both sides of the aisle and to the president of the United States, that we will no longer tolerate, we will no longer vote for men who continue to see the killings of Vietnamese and Americans as the best way of advancing the goals of freedom and self-determination in Southeast Asia.[229][230]
Correspondence with Thích Nhất HạnhThích Nhất Hạnh was an influential Vietnamese Buddhist who taught at Princeton University and Columbia University. He had written a letter to Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965 entitled: "In Search of the Enemy of Man". It was during his 1966 stay in the US that Nhất Hạnh met with King and urged him to publicly denounce the Vietnam War.[231] In 1967, King gave a famous speech at the Riverside Church in New York City, his first to publicly question the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.[232] Later that year, King nominated Nhất Hạnh for the 1967 Nobel Peace Prize. In his nomination, King said, "I do not personally know of anyone more worthy of [this prize] than this gentle monk from Vietnam. His ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity".[233]
Poor People's Campaign, 1968Main article: Poor People's CampaignRows of tentsA shantytown established in Washington, D. C. to protest economic conditions as a part of the Poor People's CampaignIn 1968, King and the SCLC organized the "Poor People's Campaign" to address issues of economic justice. King traveled the country to assemble "a multiracial army of the poor" that would march on Washington to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol until Congress created an "economic bill of rights" for poor Americans.[234][235]
The campaign was preceded by King's final book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? which laid out his view of how to address social issues and poverty. King quoted from Henry George and George's book, Progress and Poverty, particularly in support of a guaranteed basic income.[236][237][238] The campaign culminated in a march on Washington, D.C., demanding economic aid to the poorest communities of the United States.
King and the SCLC called on the government to invest in rebuilding America's cities. He felt that Congress had shown "hostility to the poor" by spending "military funds with alacrity and generosity." He contrasted this with the situation faced by poor Americans, claiming that Congress had merely provided "poverty funds with miserliness."[235] His vision was for change that was more revolutionary than mere reform: he cited systematic flaws of "racism, poverty, militarism and materialism", and argued that "reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced."[239]
The Poor People's Campaign was controversial even within the civil rights movement. Rustin resigned from the march, stating that the goals of the campaign were too broad, that its demands were unrealizable, and that he thought that these campaigns would accelerate the backlash and repression on the poor and the black.[240]
Assassination and aftermathMain article: Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
The Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated, is now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.I've Been to the MountaintopMENU0:00Final 30 seconds of "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech by Martin Luther King Jr.Problems playing this file? See media help.On March 29, 1968, King went to Memphis, Tennessee, in support of the black sanitary public works employees, who were represented by AFSCME Local 1733. The workers had been on strike since March 12 for higher wages and better treatment. In one incident, black street repairmen received pay for two hours when they were sent home because of bad weather, but white employees were paid for the full day.[241][242][243]
On April 3, King addressed a rally and delivered his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address[244] at Mason Temple, the world headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. King's flight to Memphis had been delayed by a bomb threat against his plane.[245] In the prophetic peroration of the last speech of his life, in reference to the bomb threat, King said the following:
And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.[246]
King was booked in Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel (owned by Walter Bailey) in Memphis. Ralph Abernathy, who was present at the assassination, testified to the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations that King and his entourage stayed at Room 306 so often that it was known as the "King-Abernathy suite."[247] According to Jesse Jackson, who was present, King's last words on the balcony before his assassination were spoken to musician Ben Branch, who was scheduled to perform that night at an event King was attending: "Ben, make sure you play 'Take My Hand, Precious Lord' in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty."[248]
King was fatally shot by James Earl Ray at 6:01 p.m., Thursday, April 4, 1968, as he stood on the motel's second-floor balcony. The bullet entered through his right cheek, smashing his jaw, then traveled down his spinal cord before lodging in his shoulder.[249][250] Abernathy heard the shot from inside the motel room and ran to the balcony to find King on the floor.[251] Jackson stated after the shooting that he cradled King's head as King lay on the balcony, but this account was disputed by other colleagues of King; Jackson later changed his statement to say that he had "reached out" for King.[252]
After emergency chest surgery, King died at St. Joseph's Hospital at 7:05 p.m.[253] According to biographer Taylor Branch, King's autopsy revealed that though only 39 years old, he "had the heart of a 60 year old", which Branch attributed to the stress of 13 years in the civil rights movement.[254] King is buried within Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park.[255]
AftermathFurther information: King assassination riotsJackson standing onstage in a long white dressKing's friend Mahalia Jackson (seen here in 1964) sang at his funeral.The assassination led to a nationwide wave of race riots in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Baltimore, Louisville, Kansas City, and dozens of other cities.[256][257][258] Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was on his way to Indianapolis for a campaign rally when he was informed of King's death. He gave a short, improvised speech to the gathering of supporters informing them of the tragedy and urging them to continue King's ideal of nonviolence.[259] The following day, he delivered a prepared response in Cleveland.[260] James Farmer Jr. and other civil rights leaders also called for non-violent action, while the more militant Stokely Carmichael called for a more forceful response.[261] The city of Memphis quickly settled the strike on terms favorable to the sanitation workers.[262]
The plan to set up a shantytown in Washington, D.C., was carried out soon after the April 4 assassination. Criticism of King's plan was subdued in the wake of his death, and the SCLC received an unprecedented wave of donations for the purpose of carrying it out. The campaign officially began in Memphis, on May 2, at the hotel where King was murdered.[263] Thousands of demonstrators arrived on the National Mall and stayed for six weeks, establishing a camp they called "Resurrection City."[264]
President Lyndon B. Johnson tried to quell the riots by making several telephone calls to civil rights leaders, mayors and governors across the United States and told politicians that they should warn the police against the unwarranted use of force.[258] But his efforts didn't work out: "I'm not getting through," Johnson told his aides. "They're all holing up like generals in a dugout getting ready to watch a war."[258] Johnson declared April 7 a national day of mourning for the civil rights leader.[265] Vice President Hubert Humphrey attended King's funeral on behalf of the President, as there were fears that Johnson's presence might incite protests and perhaps violence.[266] At his widow's request, King's last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church was played at the funeral,[267] a recording of his "Drum Major" sermon, given on February 4, 1968. In that sermon, King made a request that at his funeral no mention of his awards and honors be made, but that it be said that he tried to "feed the hungry", "clothe the naked", "be right on the [Vietnam] war question", and "love and serve humanity."[268] His good friend Mahalia Jackson sang his favorite hymn, "Take My Hand, Precious Lord", at the funeral.[269] The assassination helped to spur the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.[258]
Two months after King's death, James Earl Ray—who was on the loose from a previous prison escape—was captured at London Heathrow Airport while trying to leave England on a false Canadian passport. He was using the alias Ramon George Sneyd on his way to white-ruled Rhodesia.[270] Ray was quickly extradited to Tennessee and charged with King's murder. He confessed to the assassination on March 10, 1969, though he recanted this confession three days later.[271] On the advice of his attorney Percy Foreman, Ray pleaded guilty to avoid a trial conviction and thus the possibility of receiving the death penalty. He was sentenced to a 99-year prison term.[271][272] Ray later claimed a man he met in Montreal, Quebec, with the alias "Raoul" was involved and that the assassination was the result of a conspiracy.[273][274] He spent the remainder of his life attempting, unsuccessfully, to withdraw his guilty plea and secure the trial he never had.[272] Ray died in 1998 at age 70.[275]
Allegations of conspiracyMain article: Martin Luther King Jr. assassination conspiracy theories
The sarcophagus of Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, GeorgiaRay's lawyers maintained he was a scapegoat similar to the way that John F. Kennedy's assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is seen by conspiracy theorists.[276] Supporters of this assertion said that Ray's confession was given under pressure and that he had been threatened with the death penalty.[272][277] They admitted that Ray was a thief and burglar, but claimed that he had no record of committing violent crimes with a weapon.[274] However, prison records in different U.S. cities have shown that he was incarcerated on numerous occasions for charges of armed robbery.[278] In a 2008 interview with CNN, Jerry Ray, the younger brother of James Earl Ray, claimed that James was smart and was sometimes able to get away with armed robbery. Jerry Ray said that he had assisted his brother on one such robbery. "I never been with nobody as bold as he is," Jerry said. "He just walked in and put that gun on somebody, it was just like it's an everyday thing."[278]
Those suspecting a conspiracy in the assassination point to the two successive ballistics tests which proved that a rifle similar to Ray's Remington Gamemaster had been the murder weapon. Those tests did not implicate Ray's specific rifle.[272][279] Witnesses near King at the moment of his death said that the shot came from another location. They said that it came from behind thick shrubbery near the boarding house—which had been cut away in the days following the assassination—and not from the boarding house window.[280] However, Ray's fingerprints were found on various objects (a rifle, a pair of binoculars, articles of clothing, a newspaper) that were left in the bathroom where it was determined the gunfire came from.[278] An examination of the rifle containing Ray's fingerprints determined that at least one shot was fired from the firearm at the time of the assassination.[278]
In 1997, King's son Dexter Scott King met with Ray, and publicly supported Ray's efforts to obtain a new trial.[281]
Two years later, King's widow Coretta Scott King and the couple's children won a wrongful death claim against Loyd Jowers and "other unknown co-conspirators." Jowers claimed to have received $100,000 to arrange King's assassination. The jury of six whites and six blacks found in favor of the King family, finding Jowers to be complicit in a conspiracy against King and that government agencies were party to the assassination.[282][283] William F. Pepper represented the King family in the trial.[284]
In 2000, the U.S. Department of Justice completed the investigation into Jowers' claims but did not find evidence to support allegations about conspiracy. The investigation report recommended no further investigation unless some new reliable facts are presented.[285] A sister of Jowers admitted that he had fabricated the story so he could make $300,000 from selling the story, and she in turn corroborated his story in order to get some money to pay her income tax.[286][287]
In 2002, The New York Times reported that a church minister, Ronald Denton Wilson, claimed his father, Henry Clay Wilson—not James Earl Ray—assassinated King. He stated, "It wasn't a racist thing; he thought Martin Luther King was connected with communism, and he wanted to get him out of the way." Wilson provided no evidence to back up his claims.[288]
King researchers David Garrow and Gerald Posner disagreed with William F. Pepper's claims that the government killed King.[289] In 2003, Pepper published a book about the long investigation and trial, as well as his representation of James Earl Ray in his offer for a trial, laying out the evidence and criticizing other accounts.[290][291] King's friend and colleague, James Bevel, also disputed the argument that Ray acted alone, stating, "There is no way a ten-cent white boy could develop a plan to kill a million-dollar black man."[292] In 2004, Jesse Jackson stated:
The fact is there were saboteurs to disrupt the march. And within our own organization, we found a very key person who was on the government payroll. So infiltration within, saboteurs from without and the press attacks. ... I will never believe that James Earl Ray had the motive, the money and the mobility to have done it himself. Our government was very involved in setting the stage for and I think the escape route for James Earl Ray.[293]
LegacySee also: Memorials to Martin Luther King Jr. and List of streets named after Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. statue over the west entrance of Westminster Abbey, installed in 1998South AfricaSee also: Black Consciousness MovementKing's legacy includes influences on the Black Consciousness Movement and civil rights movement in South Africa.[294][295] King's work was cited by, and served as, an inspiration for South African leader Albert Lutuli, who fought for racial justice in his country and was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.[296]
United KingdomSee also: Northern Ireland civil rights movementKing influenced Irish politician and activist John Hume. Hume, the former leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, cited King's legacy as quintessential to the Northern Irish civil rights movement and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, calling him "one of my great heroes of the century."[297][298][299]
In the United Kingdom, The Northumbria and Newcastle Universities Martin Luther King Peace Committee[300] exists to honor King's legacy, as represented by his final visit to the UK to receive an honorary degree from Newcastle University in 1967.[301][302] The Peace Committee operates out of the chaplaincies of the city's two universities, Northumbria and Newcastle, both of which remain centres for the study of Martin Luther King and the US civil rights movement. Inspired by King's vision, it undertakes a range of activities across the UK as it seeks to "build cultures of peace."
In 2017, Newcastle University unveiled a bronze statue of King to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his honorary doctorate ceremony.[303] The Students Union also voted to rename their bar Luthers.[304]
United States
Banner at the 2012 Republican National ConventionKing has become a national icon in the history of American liberalism and American progressivism.[305] His main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the U.S. Just days after King's assassination, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968.[306] Title VIII of the Act, commonly known as the Fair Housing Act, prohibited discrimination in housing and housing-related transactions on the basis of race, religion, or national origin (later expanded to include sex, familial status, and disability). This legislation was seen as a tribute to King's struggle in his final years to combat residential discrimination in the U.S.[306] The day following King's assassination, school teacher Jane Elliott conducted her first "Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes" exercise with her class of elementary school students in Riceville, Iowa. Her purpose was to help them understand King's death as it related to racism, something they little understood as they lived in a predominantly white community.[307]
King's wife Coretta Scott King followed in her husband's footsteps and was active in matters of social justice and civil rights until her death in 2006. The same year that Martin Luther King was assassinated, she established the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, dedicated to preserving his legacy and the work of championing nonviolent conflict resolution and tolerance worldwide.[308] Their son, Dexter King, serves as the center's chairman.[309][310] Daughter Yolanda King, who died in 2007, was a motivational speaker, author and founder of Higher Ground Productions, an organization specializing in diversity training.[311]
Even within the King family, members disagree about his religious and political views about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. King's widow Coretta publicly said that she believed her husband would have supported gay rights.[312] However, his youngest child, Bernice King, has said publicly that he would have been opposed to gay marriage.[313]
On February 4, 1968, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, in speaking about how he wished to be remembered after his death, King stated:
I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind.[261][314]
Martin Luther King Jr. was among hundreds of artists whose material was destroyed in the 2008 Universal Studios fire.[315]
Martin Luther King Jr. DayMain article: Martin Luther King Jr. DayBeginning in 1971, cities such as St. Louis, Missouri, and states established annual holidays to honor King.[316] At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King. Observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, it is called Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Following President George H. W. Bush's 1992 proclamation, the holiday is observed on the third Monday of January each year, near the time of King's birthday.[317][318] On January 17, 2000, for the first time, Martin Luther King Jr. Day was officially observed in all fifty U.S. states.[319] Arizona (1992), New Hampshire (1999) and Utah (2000) were the last three states to recognize the holiday. Utah previously celebrated the holiday at the same time but under the name Human Rights Day.[320]
VenerationMartin Luther King of GeorgiaPastor and MartyrHonored in Holy Christian Orthodox ChurchEpiscopal Church (United States)Evangelical Lutheran Church in AmericaCanonized September 9, 2016, The Christian Cathedral by Timothy Paul BaymonFeast April 4January 15 (Episcopalian and Lutheran)Martin Luther King Jr.[321] was canonized[322] by Archbishop Timothy Paul of the Holy Christian Orthodox Church[323] (not in communion with the Eastern Orthodox Church)[324] on September 9, 2016[325] in the Christian Cathedral in Springfield, Massachusetts,[326] his feast day is April 4, the date of his assassination. King is honored[327] with a Lesser Feast on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America[328] on April 4[329] or January 15.[330] The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America commemorates King liturgically on the anniversary of his birth, January 15.[331]
Ideas, influences, and political stancesChristianity
King at the 1963 Civil Rights March in Washington, D.C.As a Christian minister, King's main influence was Jesus Christ and the Christian gospels, which he would almost always quote in his religious meetings, speeches at church, and in public discourses. King's faith was strongly based in Jesus' commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself, loving God above all, and loving your enemies, praying for them and blessing them. His nonviolent thought was also based in the injunction to turn the other cheek in the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus' teaching of putting the sword back into its place (Matthew 26:52).[332] In his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, King urged action consistent with what he describes as Jesus' "extremist" love, and also quoted numerous other Christian pacifist authors, which was very usual for him. In another sermon, he stated:
Before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the Gospel. This was my first calling and it still remains my greatest commitment. You know, actually all that I do in civil rights I do because I consider it a part of my ministry. I have no other ambitions in life but to achieve excellence in the Christian ministry. I don't plan to run for any political office. I don't plan to do anything but remain a preacher. And what I'm doing in this struggle, along with many others, grows out of my feeling that the preacher must be concerned about the whole man.[333][334]
King's private writings show that he rejected biblical literalism; he described the Bible as "mythological," doubted that Jesus was born of a virgin and did not believe that the story of Jonah and the whale was true.[335]
The Measure of a ManIn 1959, King published a short book called The Measure of a Man, which contained his sermons "What is Man?" and "The Dimensions of a Complete Life". The sermons argued for man's need for God's love and criticized the racial injustices of Western civilization.[336]
NonviolenceA close-up of RustinKing worked alongside Quakers such as Bayard Rustin to develop nonviolent tactics.World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Nonviolence is a good starting point. Those of us who believe in this method can be voices of reason, sanity, and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred, and emotion. We can very well set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace can be built.
—Martin Luther King Jr.[337]Veteran African-American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin was King's first regular advisor on nonviolence.[338] King was also advised by the white activists Harris Wofford and Glenn Smiley.[339] Rustin and Smiley came from the Christian pacifist tradition, and Wofford and Rustin both studied Mahatma Gandhi's teachings. Rustin had applied nonviolence with the Journey of Reconciliation campaign in the 1940s,[340] and Wofford had been promoting Gandhism to Southern blacks since the early 1950s.[339]
King had initially known little about Gandhi and rarely used the term "nonviolence" during his early years of activism in the early 1950s. King initially believed in and practiced self-defense, even obtaining guns in his household as a means of defense against possible attackers. The pacifists guided King by showing him the alternative of nonviolent resistance, arguing that this would be a better means to accomplish his goals of civil rights than self-defense. King then vowed to no longer personally use arms.[341][342]
In the aftermath of the boycott, King wrote Stride Toward Freedom, which included the chapter Pilgrimage to Nonviolence. King outlined his understanding of nonviolence, which seeks to win an opponent to friendship, rather than to humiliate or defeat him. The chapter draws from an address by Wofford, with Rustin and Stanley Levison also providing guidance and ghostwriting.[343]
King was inspired by Gandhi and his success with nonviolent activism, and as a theology student, King described Gandhi as being one of the "individuals who greatly reveal the working of the Spirit of God".[344] King had "for a long time ... wanted to take a trip to India."[345] With assistance from Harris Wofford, the American Friends Service Committee, and other supporters, he was able to fund the journey in April 1959.[346][347] The trip to India affected King, deepening his understanding of nonviolent resistance and his commitment to America's struggle for civil rights. In a radio address made during his final evening in India, King reflected, "Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity."
King's admiration of Gandhi's nonviolence did not diminish in later years. He went so far as to hold up his example when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, hailing the "successful precedent" of using nonviolence "in a magnificent way by Mohandas K. Gandhi to challenge the might of the British Empire ... He struggled only with the weapons of truth, soul force, non-injury and courage."[348]
Another influence for King's nonviolent method was Henry David Thoreau's essay On Civil Disobedience and its theme of refusing to cooperate with an evil system.[349] He also was greatly influenced by the works of Protestant theologians Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich,[350] and said that Walter Rauschenbusch's Christianity and the Social Crisis left an "indelible imprint" on his thinking by giving him a theological grounding for his social concerns.[351][352] King was moved by Rauschenbusch's vision of Christians spreading social unrest in "perpetual but friendly conflict" with the state, simultaneously critiquing it and calling it to act as an instrument of justice.[353] However, he was apparently unaware of the American tradition of Christian pacifism exemplified by Adin Ballou and William Lloyd Garrison.[354] King frequently referred to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount as central for his work.[352][355][356][357] King also sometimes used the concept of "agape" (brotherly Christian love).[358] However, after 1960, he ceased employing it in his writings.[359]
Even after renouncing his personal use of guns, King had a complex relationship with the phenomenon of self-defense in the movement. He publicly discouraged it as a widespread practice, but acknowledged that it was sometimes necessary.[360] Throughout his career King was frequently protected by other civil rights activists who carried arms, such as Colonel Stone Johnson,[361] Robert Hayling, and the Deacons for Defense and Justice.[362][363]
Criticism within the movementKing was criticized by other black leaders during the course of his participation in the civil rights movement. This included opposition by more militant thinkers such as Nation of Islam member Malcolm X.[364] Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee founder Ella Baker regarded King as a charismatic media figure who lost touch with the grassroots of the movement[365] as he became close to elite figures like Nelson Rockefeller.[366] Stokely Carmichael, a protege of Baker's, became a black separatist and disagreed with King's plea for racial integration because he considered it an insult to a uniquely African-American culture.[367][368]
Activism and involvement with Native AmericansKing was an avid supporter of Native American rights. Native Americans were also active supporters of King's civil rights movement which included the active participation of Native Americans.[369] In fact, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) was patterned after the NAACP's Legal Defense and Education Fund.[370] The National Indian Youth Council (NIYC) was especially supportive in King's campaigns especially the Poor People's Campaign in 1968.[371] In King's book Why We Can't Wait he writes:
Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or to feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it.[372]
King assisted Native American people in south Alabama in the late 1950s.[370] At that time the remaining Creek in Alabama were trying to completely desegregate schools in their area. The South had many egregious racial problems: In this case, light-complexioned Native children were allowed to ride school buses to previously all white schools, while dark-skinned Native children from the same band were barred from riding the same buses.[370] Tribal leaders, upon hearing of King's desegregation campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, contacted him for assistance. He promptly responded and through his intervention the problem was quickly resolved.[370]
In September 1959, King flew from Los Angeles, California, to Tucson, Arizona.[373] After giving a speech at the University of Arizona on the ideals of using nonviolent methods in creating social change. He put into words his belief that one must not use force in this struggle "but match the violence of his opponents with his suffering."[373] King then went to Southside Presbyterian, a predominantly Native American church, and was fascinated by their photos. On the spur of the moment, King wanted to go to an Indian Reservation to meet the people so Reverend Casper Glenn took King to the Papago Indian Reservation.[373] At the reservation King met with all the tribal leaders, and others on the reservation then ate with them.[373] King then visited another Presbyterian church near the reservation, and preached there attracting a Native American crowd.[373] He later returned to Old Pueblo in March 1962 where he preached again to a Native American congregation, and then went on to give another speech at the University of Arizona.[373] King would continue to attract the attention of Native Americans throughout the civil rights movement. During the 1963 March on Washington there was a sizable Native American contingent, including many from South Dakota, and many from the Navajo nation.[370][374] Native Americans were also active participants in the Poor People's Campaign in 1968.[371]
King was a major inspiration along with the civil rights movement which inspired the Native American rights movement of the 1960s and many of its leaders.[370] John Echohawk a member of the Pawnee tribe and the executive director and one of the founders of the Native American Rights Fund stated:
Inspired by Dr. King, who was advancing the civil rights agenda of equality under the laws of this country, we thought that we could also use the laws to advance our Indianship, to live as tribes in our territories governed by our own laws under the principles of tribal sovereignty that had been with us ever since 1831. We believed that we could fight for a policy of self-determination that was consistent with U.S. law and that we could govern our own affairs, define our own ways and continue to survive in this society.[375]
PoliticsAs the leader of the SCLC, King maintained a policy of not publicly endorsing a U.S. political party or candidate: "I feel someone must remain in the position of non-alignment, so that he can look objectively at both parties and be the conscience of both—not the servant or master of either."[376] In a 1958 interview, he expressed his view that neither party was perfect, saying, "I don't think the Republican party is a party full of the almighty God nor is the Democratic party. They both have weaknesses ... And I'm not inextricably bound to either party."[377] King did praise Democratic Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois as being the "greatest of all senators" because of his fierce advocacy for civil rights causes over the years.[378]
King critiqued both parties' performance on promoting racial equality:
Actually, the Negro has been betrayed by both the Republican and the Democratic party. The Democrats have betrayed him by capitulating to the whims and caprices of the Southern Dixiecrats. The Republicans have betrayed him by capitulating to the blatant hypocrisy of reactionary right-wing northern Republicans. And this coalition of southern Dixiecrats and right-wing reactionary northern Republicans defeats every bill and every move towards liberal legislation in the area of civil rights.[379]
Although King never publicly supported a political party or candidate for president, in a letter to a civil rights supporter in October 1956 he said that he had not decided whether he would vote for Adlai Stevenson II or Dwight D. Eisenhower at the 1956 presidential election, but that "In the past, I always voted the Democratic ticket."[380] </ref> In his autobiography, King says that in 1960 he privately voted for Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy: "I felt that Kennedy would make the best president. I never came out with an endorsement. My father did, but I never made one." King adds that he likely would have made an exception to his non-endorsement policy for a second Kennedy term, saying "Had President Kennedy lived, I would probably have endorsed him in 1964."[381]
In 1964, King urged his supporters "and all people of goodwill" to vote against Republican Senator Barry Goldwater for president, saying that his election "would be a tragedy, and certainly suicidal almost, for the nation and the world."[382]
King supported the ideals of social democracy and democratic socialism, although he was reluctant to speak directly of this support due to the anti-communist sentiment being projected throughout the United States at the time, and the association of socialism with communism. King believed that capitalism could not adequately provide the necessities of many American people, particularly the African-American community.[222]
CompensationSee also: Reparations for slavery debate in the United StatesKing stated that black Americans, as well as other disadvantaged Americans, should be compensated for historical wrongs. In an interview conducted for Playboy in 1965, he said that granting black Americans only equality could not realistically close the economic gap between them and whites. King said that he did not seek a full restitution of wages lost to slavery, which he believed impossible, but proposed a government compensatory program of $50 billion over ten years to all disadvantaged groups.[383]
He posited that "the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils."[384] He presented this idea as an application of the common law regarding settlement of unpaid labor, but clarified that he felt that the money should not be spent exclusively on blacks. He stated, "It should benefit the disadvantaged of all races."[385]
Family planningOn being awarded the Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Margaret Sanger Award on May 5, 1966, King said:
Recently, the press has been filled with reports of sightings of flying saucers. While we need not give credence to these stories, they allow our imagination to speculate on how visitors from outer space would judge us. I am afraid they would be stupefied at our conduct. They would observe that for death planning we spend billions to create engines and strategies for war. They would also observe that we spend millions to prevent death by disease and other causes. Finally they would observe that we spend paltry sums for population planning, even though its spontaneous growth is an urgent threat to life on our planet. Our visitors from outer space could be forgiven if they reported home that our planet is inhabited by a race of insane men whose future is bleak and uncertain.
There is no human circumstance more tragic than the persisting existence of a harmful condition for which a remedy is readily available. Family planning, to relate population to world resources, is possible, practical and necessary. Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess.
What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of the billions who are its victims ...[386][387][third-party source needed]
TelevisionActress Nichelle Nichols planned to leave the science-fiction television series Star Trek in 1967 after its first season, wanting to return to musical theater.[388] She changed her mind after talking to King[389] who was a fan of the show. King explained that her character signified a future of greater racial harmony and cooperation.[390] King told Nichols, "You are our image of where we're going, you're 300 years from now, and that means that's where we are and it takes place now. Keep doing what you're doing, you are our inspiration."[391] As Nichols recounted, "Star Trek was one of the only shows that [King] and his wife Coretta would allow their little children to watch. And I thanked him and I told him I was leaving the show. All the smile came off his face. And he said, 'Don't you understand for the first time we're seen as we should be seen. You don't have a black role. You have an equal role.'"[388] For his part, the series' creator, Gene Roddenberry, was deeply moved upon learning of King's support.[392]
IsraelKing believed Israel has a right to exist, saying "Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect her right to exist, its territorial integrity and the right to use whatever sea lanes it needs. Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality."[393]
HomosexualityA boy once asked King about how he should deal with his homosexuality. King replied:[394][395]
Your problem is not at all an uncommon one. However, it does require careful attention. The type of feeling that you have toward boys is probably not an innate tendency, but something that has been culturally acquired. Your reasons for adopting this habit have now been consciously suppressed or unconsciously repressed. Therefore, it is necessary to deal with this problem by getting back to some of the experiences and circumstances that lead to the habit. In order to do this I would suggest that you see a good psychiatrist who can assist you in bringing to the forefront of conscience all of those experiences and circumstances that lead to the habit. You are already on the right road toward a solution, since you honestly recognize the problem and have a desire to solve it.
State surveillance and coercionFBI surveillance and wiretapping
Memo describing FBI attempts to disrupt the Poor People's Campaign with fraudulent claims about King‍—‌part of the COINTELPRO campaign against the anti-war and civil rights movementsFBI director J. Edgar Hoover personally ordered surveillance of King, with the intent to undermine his power as a civil rights leader.[396][397] The Church Committee, a 1975 investigation by the U.S. Congress, found that "From December 1963 until his death in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was the target of an intensive campaign by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to 'neutralize' him as an effective civil rights leader."[398]
In the fall of 1963, the FBI received authorization from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to proceed with wiretapping of King's phone lines, purportedly due to his association with Stanley Levison.[399] The Bureau informed President John F. Kennedy. He and his brother unsuccessfully tried to persuade King to dissociate himself from Levison, a New York lawyer who had been involved with Communist Party USA.[400][401] Although Robert Kennedy only gave written approval for limited wiretapping of King's telephone lines "on a trial basis, for a month or so",[402] Hoover extended the clearance so his men were "unshackled" to look for evidence in any areas of King's life they deemed worthy.[112]
The Bureau placed wiretaps on the home and office phone lines of both Levison and King, and bugged King's rooms in hotels as he traveled across the country.[400][403] In 1967, Hoover listed the SCLC as a black nationalist hate group, with the instructions: "No opportunity should be missed to exploit through counterintelligence techniques the organizational and personal conflicts of the leaderships of the groups ... to insure [sic] the targeted group is disrupted, ridiculed, or discredited."[397][404]
NSA monitoring of King's communicationsIn a secret operation code-named "Minaret", the National Security Agency monitored the communications of leading Americans, including King, who were critical of the U.S. war in Vietnam.[405] A review by the NSA itself concluded that Minaret was "disreputable if not outright illegal."[405]
Allegations of communismFor years, Hoover had been suspicious of potential influence of communists in social movements such as labor unions and civil rights.[406] Hoover directed the FBI to track King in 1957, and the SCLC when it was established.[3]
Due to the relationship between King and Stanley Levison, the FBI feared Levison was working as an "agent of influence" over King, in spite of its own reports in 1963 that Levison had left the Party and was no longer associated in business dealings with them.[407] Another King lieutenant, Jack O'Dell, was also linked to the Communist Party by sworn testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).[408]
Despite the extensive surveillance conducted, by 1976 the FBI had acknowledged that it had not obtained any evidence that King himself or the SCLC were actually involved with any communist organizations.[398]
For his part, King adamantly denied having any connections to communism. In a 1965 Playboy interview, he stated that "there are as many Communists in this freedom movement as there are Eskimos in Florida."[409] He argued that Hoover was "following the path of appeasement of political powers in the South" and that his concern for communist infiltration of the civil rights movement was meant to "aid and abet the salacious claims of southern racists and the extreme right-wing elements."[398] Hoover did not believe King's pledge of innocence and replied by saying that King was "the most notorious liar in the country."[410] After King gave his "I Have A Dream" speech during the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, the FBI described King as "the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country."[403] It alleged that he was "knowingly, willingly and regularly cooperating with and taking guidance from communists."[411]
The attempts to prove that King was a communist was related to the feeling of many segregationists that blacks in the South were content with the status quo, but had been stirred up by "communists" and "outside agitators."[412] As context, the civil rights movement in 1950s and '60s arose from activism within the black community dating back to before World War I. King said that "the Negro revolution is a genuine revolution, born from the same womb that produces all massive social upheavals—the womb of intolerable conditions and unendurable situations."[413]
CIA surveillanceCIA files declassified in 2017 revealed that the agency was investigating possible links between King and Communism after a Washington Post article dated November 4, 1964, claimed he was invited to the Soviet Union and that Ralph Abernathy, as spokesman for King, refused to comment on the source of the invitation.[414] Mail belonging to King and other civil rights activists was intercepted by the CIA program HTLINGUAL.[415]
Allegations of adultery
The only meeting of King and Malcolm X, outside the United States Senate chamber, March 26, 1964, during the Senate debates regarding the (eventual) Civil Rights Act of 1964.[416]The FBI having concluded that King was dangerous due to communist infiltration, attempts to discredit King began through revelations regarding his private life. FBI surveillance of King, some of it since made public, attempted to demonstrate that he also had numerous extramarital affairs.[403] Lyndon B. Johnson once said that King was a "hypocritical preacher".[417]
In his 1989 autobiography And the Walls Came Tumbling Down, Ralph Abernathy stated that King had a "weakness for women", although they "all understood and believed in the biblical prohibition against sex outside of marriage. It was just that he had a particularly difficult time with that temptation."[418] In a later interview, Abernathy said that he only wrote the term "womanizing", that he did not specifically say King had extramarital sex and that the infidelities King had were emotional rather than sexual.[419]
Abernathy criticized the media for sensationalizing the statements he wrote about King's affairs,[419] such as the allegation that he admitted in his book that King had a sexual affair the night before he was assassinated.[419] In his original wording, Abernathy had stated that he saw King coming out of his room with a woman when he awoke the next morning and later said that "he may have been in there discussing and debating and trying to get her to go along with the movement, I don't know...the Sanitation Worker's Strike."[419]
In his 1986 book Bearing the Cross, David Garrow wrote about a number of extramarital affairs, including one woman King saw almost daily. According to Garrow, "that relationship ... increasingly became the emotional centerpiece of King's life, but it did not eliminate the incidental couplings ... of King's travels." He alleged that King explained his extramarital affairs as "a form of anxiety reduction." Garrow asserted that King's supposed promiscuity caused him "painful and at times overwhelming guilt."[420] King's wife Coretta appeared to have accepted his affairs with equanimity, saying once that "all that other business just doesn't have a place in the very high-level relationship we enjoyed."[421] Shortly after Bearing the Cross was released, civil rights author Howell Raines gave the book a positive review but opined that Garrow's allegations about King's sex life were "sensational" and stated that Garrow was "amassing facts rather than analyzing them."[422]
The FBI distributed reports regarding such affairs to the executive branch, friendly reporters, potential coalition partners and funding sources of the SCLC, and King's family.[423] The bureau also sent anonymous letters to King threatening to reveal information if he did not cease his civil rights work.[424] The FBI–King suicide letter sent to King just before he received the Nobel Peace Prize read, in part:The FBI–King suicide letter,[425] mailed anonymously by the FBIThe American public, the church organizations that have been helping—Protestants, Catholics and Jews will know you for what you are—an evil beast. So will others who have backed you. You are done. King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significant [sic]). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation.[426]
The letter was accompanied by a tape recording—excerpted from FBI wiretaps—of several of King's extramarital liaisons.[427] King interpreted this package as an attempt to drive him to suicide,[428] although William Sullivan, head of the Domestic Intelligence Division at the time, argued that it may have only been intended to "convince Dr. King to resign from the SCLC."[398] King refused to give in to the FBI's threats.[403]
In 1977, Judge John Lewis Smith Jr. ordered all known copies of the recorded audiotapes and written transcripts resulting from the FBI's electronic surveillance of King between 1963 and 1968 to be held in the National Archives and sealed from public access until 2027.[429]
In May 2019, FBI files emerged alleging that King "looked on, laughed and offered advice" as one of his friends raped a woman. His biographer, David Garrow, wrote that "the suggestion... that he either actively tolerated or personally employed violence against any woman, even while drunk, poses so fundamental a challenge to his historical stature as to require the most complete and extensive historical review possible".[430] These allegations sparked a heated debate among historians.[431] Clayborne Carson, Martin Luther King biographer and overseer of the Dr. King records at Stanford University states that he came to the opposite conclusion of Garrow saying "None of this is new. Garrow is talking about a recently added summary of a transcript of a 1964 recording from the Willard Hotel that others, including Mrs. King, have said they did not hear Martin's voice on it. The added summary was four layers removed from the actual recording. This supposedly new information comes from an anonymous source in a single paragraph in an FBI report. You have to ask how could anyone conclude King looked at a rape from an audio recording in a room where he was not present."[432] Carson bases his position of Coretta Scott King's memoirs where she states "I set up our reel-to-reel recorder and listened. I have read scores of reports talking about the scurrilous activities of my husband but once again, there was nothing at all incriminating on the tape. It was a social event with people laughing and telling dirty jokes. But I did not hear Martin's voice on it, and there was nothing about sex or anything else resembling the lies J. Edgar and the FBI were spreading." The tapes that could confirm or refute the allegation are scheduled to be declassified in 2027.[433]
Police observation during the assassinationA fire station was located across from the Lorraine Motel, next to the boarding house in which James Earl Ray was staying. Police officers were stationed in the fire station to keep King under surveillance.[434] Agents were watching King at the time he was shot.[435] Immediately following the shooting, officers rushed out of the station to the motel. Marrell McCollough, an undercover police officer, was the first person to administer first aid to King.[436] The antagonism between King and the FBI, the lack of an all points bulletin to find the killer, and the police presence nearby led to speculation that the FBI was involved in the assassination.[437]
Awards and recognition
King showing his medallion, which he received from Mayor Wagner
Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where King ministered, was renamed Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in 1978.King was awarded at least fifty honorary degrees from colleges and universities.[438] On October 14, 1964, King became the (at the time) youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to him for leading nonviolent resistance to racial prejudice in the U.S.[439][440] In 1965, he was awarded the American Liberties Medallion by the American Jewish Committee for his "exceptional advancement of the principles of human liberty."[438][441] In his acceptance remarks, King said, "Freedom is one thing. You have it all or you are not free."[442]
In 1957, he was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP.[443] Two years later, he won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for his book Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story.[444] In 1966, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America awarded King the Margaret Sanger Award for "his courageous resistance to bigotry and his lifelong dedication to the advancement of social justice and human dignity."[445] Also in 1966, King was elected as a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[446] In November 1967 he made a 24-hour trip to the United Kingdom to receive an honorary degree from Newcastle University, being the first African-American to be so honored by Newcastle.[302] In a moving impromptu acceptance speech,[301] he said
There are three urgent and indeed great problems that we face not only in the United States of America but all over the world today. That is the problem of racism, the problem of poverty and the problem of war.
In addition to being nominated for three Grammy Awards, the civil rights leader posthumously won for Best Spoken Word Recording in 1971 for "Why I Oppose The War In Vietnam".[447]
In 1977, the Presidential Medal of Freedom was posthumously awarded to King by President Jimmy Carter. The citation read:
Martin Luther King Jr. was the conscience of his generation. He gazed upon the great wall of segregation and saw that the power of love could bring it down. From the pain and exhaustion of his fight to fulfill the promises of our founding fathers for our humblest citizens, he wrung his eloquent statement of his dream for America. He made our nation stronger because he made it better. His dream sustains us yet.[448]
King and his wife were also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.[449]
King was second in Gallup's List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.[450] In 1963, he was named Time Person of the Year, and in 2000, he was voted sixth in an online "Person of the Century" poll by the same magazine.[451] King placed third in the Greatest American contest conducted by the Discovery Channel and AOL.[452]
Five-dollar billOn April 20, 2016, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced that the $5, $10, and $20 bills would all undergo redesign prior to 2020. Lew said that while Lincoln would remain on the front of the $5 bill, the reverse would be redesigned to depict various historical events that had occurred at the Lincoln Memorial. Among the planned designs are images from King's "I Have a Dream" speech and the 1939 concert by opera singer Marian Anderson.[453]
WorksStride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (1958) ISBN 978-0-06-250490-6The Measure of a Man (1959) ISBN 978-0-8006-0877-4Strength to Love (1963) ISBN 978-0-8006-9740-2Why We Can't Wait (1964) ISBN 978-0-8070-0112-7Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967) ISBN 978-0-8070-0571-2The Trumpet of Conscience (1968) ISBN 978-0-8070-0170-7A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. (1986) ISBN 978-0-06-250931-4The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. (1998), ed. Clayborne Carson ISBN 978-0-446-67650-2"All Labor Has Dignity" (2011) ed. Michael Honey ISBN 978-0-8070-8600-1"Thou, Dear God": Prayers That Open Hearts and Spirits. Collection of King's prayers. (2011), ed. Lewis Baldwin ISBN 978-0-8070-8603-2MLK: A Celebration in Word and Image (2011). Photographed by Bob Adelman, introduced by Charles Johnson ISBN 978-0-8070-0316-9See also Biography portal Civil rights movement portalflag Georgia (U.S. state) portal Evangelical Christianity portal Saints portalicon Society portalflag United States portalCivil rights movement in popular cultureEquality before the lawList of civil rights leadersList of peace activistsList of streets named after Martin Luther King Jr.Memorials to Martin Luther King Jr.Post–civil rights era in African-American historySermons and speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.United States labor lawViolence begets violence
Moneta J. Sleet Jr. (February 14, 1926 – September 30, 1996) was an American press photographer best known for his work as a staff photographer for Ebony magazine. In 1969 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography for his photograph of Coretta Scott King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s widow, at her husband's funeral. Sleet was the first African-American man to win the Pulitzer, and the first African American to win the award for journalism.[1][2][3] He died of cancer in 1996 at the age of 70.[4]Contents1 Early life and education2 Ebony magazine3 Civil Rights Movement4 Personal life5 See also6 External links7 ReferencesEarly life and educationSleet was born in Owensboro, Kentucky.[5] He was editor of the school newspaper at Western High School, his alma mater.[6] He graduated cum laude from Kentucky State College (now Kentucky State University), a historically black college, in 1947 and went on to obtain a master's degree in journalism from New York University (NYU) in 1950. He also studied at the School of Modern Photography where he furthered his photography skills. During this same time Sleet served in an all-African American unit in World War II and was an assistant at a commercial operated studio. After his education at NYU he was a sport’s journalist for the Amsterdam News in New York and then John P. Davis' magazine Our World.[5][7]
Ebony magazine
Sleet's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Coretta Scott King and Bernice King at Martin Luther King's funeralSleet began working for Ebony magazine in 1955.[3] Over the next 41 years, he captured photos of young Muhammad Ali, Dizzy Gillespie, Stevie Wonder, Haile Selassie, Jomo Kenyatta, former ambassador Andrew Young in a blue leather jacket and jeans in his office at the United Nations, Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah, Liberia's William Tubman and Billie Holiday.[8] He gained the affection and esteem of many civil rights leaders, many of whom called on him by name. When Coretta Scott King found out that no African American photographers had been assigned to cover her husband's funeral service, she demanded that Sleet be a part of the press pool. If he wasn't, she threatened to bar all photographers from the service.[9] Besides his photo of Coretta Scott King, he also captured grieving widow Betty Shabazz at the funeral of her husband Malcolm X.[2] His collection Special Moments in African American History: The photographs of Moneta Sleet Jr. 1955-1996 was published posthumously in 1999.
Civil Rights MovementDuring Sleet’s 41 years at Ebony, he also worked by Martin Luther King Jr’s side for 13 years capturing historical moments of the civil rights movement. A famous image of Rosa Parks, MLK, Ralph Abernathy, Ralph Bunche, and Coretta Scott King leading marchers was captured by Moneta. He also captured images of MLK’s I Have a Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial, the march from Selma to Montgomery, and the Montgomery bus boycott.[10]
Personal lifeSleet married his wife Juanita in 1950 and had two sons and one daughter: Gregory M. Sleet, a judge who used to be on the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, Lisa, and Michael Sleet. Sleet was also a member of Sigma Pi Phi, the oldest African-American Greek-lettered organization, along with MLK. He was a part of an overseas press club so he took a lot of pictures of international world leaders.
Sleet, while a resident of Baldwin, New York, died of cancer at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center on September 30, 1996.


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