Tag: Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Organization Calls for Reparations

By Michael April 7, 2020 0

On the 52 Anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the organization he co-founded in 1957, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, called for the federal government to pay reparations to descendants of people enslaved in the country.

Slavery began on these shores twelve years after the colonial period began when a shipload of enslaved Africans docked at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. One hundred and sixty-eight years later ( 1787), when the framers of the constitution met in Philadelphia to charter a new government under the name selected back in 1776 by Thomas Jefferson, as the United States of America, slavery was all but codified. Enslaved Africans were considered the property of any white man — or white woman through inheritance — who could afford to own them. read more

In the Shadow of a King

By Michael February 18, 2019 0

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Charles Steele, Jr. was 22 years old on the day that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on the third-floor balcony of a colored motel in Memphis, Tennessee. By that time, King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference had won two important victories.

First, congressional passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This measure opened areas of public accommodations to the nation’s Negro citizens. Despite King’s work in this area, on his April 1968 visit to Memphis, he chose to patronize the Black-owned Lorraine Motel. read more

Finally, A King, A Native Son,Finds Honor At Home

By Michael August 28, 2017 0

He was born a King in 1929 and would live a life committed to equality and justice for all humankind. The dash between the starting line and the finishing line ended in 1968. Some would say that was a short dash, but oh boy, did he pack a lot of life in those 39 years.

The King ran his race well. He was, as they said about the baseball legend, LeRoy “Satchel” Paige, “Sneaky fast.”

He burst upon the scene on December 5, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama as an itinerant Baptist preacher, one hundred and 60 miles southwest of his childhood home on “Sweet” Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia.

In moving to Montgomery after earning a doctoral degree in Religion and Philosophy at Boston College, King traded the Georgia segregationist Governor, Samuel Marvin Griffin for Alabama’s populist Governor, James “Big Jim” Folsom.

In the parlance of the 1950s, a populist sought to engage the common white working class in government and politics. To paraphase Folsom’s successor, George Wallace, “There is not a dime’s worth of difference between,” a populist and a segregationist, as each political philosophy ignored the plight of Blacks within a given political sub-division.

Probably because King was a newcomer to Montgomery and the city’s white political brokers could not control his purse strings, he was picked to lead the Montgomery Improvement Association’s bus boycott. You remember the story, how our dear sister, Rosa Parks refused to give up her sit in the Negro section of a city bus so that a white man could sit down.

King’s leadership during the Montgomery bus boycott caused his house to be bombed. He stood trial for trumped up charges, which he beat. Some political observers who recall the trial believe that a deal was struck between King’s father and Montgomery’s power elites; that King would leave Montgomery in exchange for a favorable verdict.

King returned home to Atlanta where he served as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church. Back in Atlanta King never forced a major confrontation with the city’s white power structure like he had done in Montgomery and would do in other cities throughout the country.

However, he did “sit-in” with Spelman College students at the lunch counter at Rich’s Department Store. He attempted to dine at the Pickrick Restaurant owned by Lester Maddox, who would become the Governor of Georgia. Maddox threatened to beat King with an axle-handle if he stepped foot inside the Pickrick.

His advocacy of nonviolent direct action in supporting integration of public accommodations, voting rights, and housing discrimination put a bull’s eye on his back.

But before a sniper squeezed off a single round into his right jaw as he stood playfully outside of room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968, the King would tell white America on August 28, 1963 about a dream that he had which envisioned people being judged by the “content of their character and not by the color of their skin.”

Fourteen months later, on October 14, 1964 King was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. He was 35 years old and when he gave his acceptance speech at the University of Oslo in Norway two months later, no one in the audience suspected that in less than four years his light would belong to the ages.

He returned from Norway to Atlanta without fanfare. There was hardly any recognition that King had become the first person from Georgia to earn a Nobel Prize for Peace.

On April 3, 1968, King told Black Americans that he had been taken up to a great mountain where he behold the universal God and was shown the land promised by the God of the Old Testament.

The next day, King paid the ultimate price for his belief in justice and equality. Yet no public recognition was given for the sacrifice he had made. Instead of recognition, on April 9, 1968, Governor Lester Maddox caused Georgia State Troopers to surround the capitol to prevent anyone in King’s funeral dirge from using the rest room facilities in the state capitol.

For 37 years King would be the only Georgian to receive this prestigious prize. Yet still, no public recognition from the state of Georgia to acknowledge his contributions to humankind.

In 2002, Jimmy Carter, a former Governor of Georgia and former President of the USA was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.

Carter rightfully should have been awarded the Nobel Prize long before he was, but the committee did not bestow this honor upon him until one year after the state of Georgia removed the Stars and Bars, a symbol of Georgia’s Confederate past from its state flag. It was as if, the Nobel Prize Committee refused to acknowledge anyone from Georgia  other than King, who preached racial reconciliation, as long as the state held onto symbols of the the old south.

Interestingly, the confederate flag was taken down by Georgia Governor Roy Barnes, who as a young state senator from West Cobb County, in the 1980s had opposed a state holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On August 22, 2011, the federal government honored Dr. King with “The Stone of Hope” at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial in the District of Columbia.

Three years later, the state of Georgia began efforts to honor Dr. King on the grounds of its capital.

August 28, 2017 was a grand day, with fine speeches from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, State Representative Calvin Smyre, Rev. Dr. Bernice King and Governor Nathan Deal. On this day, King’s supporters were protected by State Troopers who were armed and ready to prevent anyone from disrupting the proceedings.

Finally, an honor fit for a King, whose statue now faces the rising sun on the east side of the state capitol, overlooking the Atlanta streets where he played as a little boy, forging the character that would shape a state, a nation and a world.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

Amelia: Defender of the Vote

By Michael August 27, 2015 0

Amelia Boynton Robinson, “Queen Mother” to those close to her, was the perpetual defender of the Negro vote. She transitioned on August 26, 2015, eight days after her 111th birthday.

Amelia learned the importance of voting from her parents George and Annie Platts. Her father was a businessman in Savannah, Georgia. He owned a lumber company, built an eleven room house for his family – which still stands today – and owned one of the few automobiles on the Savannah roadway in the early 1900’s. He would have owned two automobiles, but Amelia’s mother did not want to learn to drive a car, so he bought her a horse and buggy to get around Savannah.

Before Amelia’s family acquired the horse and buggy, her mother would use the public bus to get around town. One day while paying the fare at the front of the bus, the bus driver instructed her to go to the back of the bus in order to board it. She refused. The driver refused to allow her to board at the front entrance of the bus. Amelia’s mom threw the money for the bus fare into the driver’s face, grabbed Amelia’s hand and walked off to their destination.

Amelia’s fighting spirit in the face of an injustice was born.

When she was nine or ten years old, a Savannah judge perturbed Amelia’s mom. Annie Platts pointed her finger in the judge’s face and told him that she would vote him out of office in the next election. A bold and brave promise for a black woman in the early 20th century south.

“When I was a young girl, I would ride in the horse and buggy with my mother as she worked in the community to get black people registered to vote in Savannah, Georgia,” Amelia recalled during an interview at the 2012 National Democratic Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

After the votes were counted following that  election, that judge had been voted out of office. Amelia saw the awesome power of the vote.

Upon completion of the high school program offered in Savannah, she enrolled in the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, where she came under the tutelage of Robert Russo Moton and George Washington Carver.

In 1927 she earned a degree from Tuskegee. She moved to Americus, Georgia, home of the future 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, who was only two years old at that time. She taught school in Americus for six months in the segregated school system. As a young woman, Amelia had a very feisty spirit and when asked by her principal if she had any comments to make regarding the administration of the school, she spoke up. The principal had never heard a sharp critique of his administrative abilities and could not abide Amelia’s stinging assessment of his bothersome nature and the lack of school materials. He promptly fired her. She obtained another teaching position in Georgia, but again found herself out of work three months later.

Then, through a Tuskegee connection, she received a call from the U S Department of Agriculture. They were developing an extension agency in Alabama modeled after the traveling school that had been put together by Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver at Tuskegee. This job landed her in Selma, Alabama where she teamed up with a Tuskegee classmate, Samuel W. Boynton, who was already working for the Department of Agriculture.

Amelia and Boynton would later marry and become a powerful force in Dallas County, Alabama; chiefly because of their efforts in registering black people in the county to vote. Boynton, who went by the initials SW, started a real estate company and the two of them would help black people to acquire land so that they could meet the requirement for registering to vote. SW was often hounded by whites in the county because of his independent wealth and political activities of his quick witted wife. One day a group of white men came to his office prepared to beat him into submission, Amelia grabbed a  stick and ran them out of their office.

For two decades Amelia and SW fought the political battles for the local black community; then in the early 1960’s the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee – the student arm of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference – came to town. They were put to work on voter registration. Tensions began to mount in Selma. There were clashes with the local sheriff’s department. Progress was slow until Amelia got the ear of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

She told King how her mother, in the early days of the “roaring twenties,” had taught a valuable lesson to an old Savannah judge through the power of voter registration. King committed some of SCLC’s resources to Selma. They set up an office and manned it on a rotational basis with men like Hosea Williams, Andrew Young, and C. T. Vivian.

According to C. T. Vivian, “When we were assigned to an office, we had to stay there until your relief came. If your relief had been waylaid because they had been arrested in a protest somewhere else, you had to stay there. Martin would not allow us to leave our post unattended.”

So the Boynton home became a home away from home for the SCLC members who were assigned to Selma. Amelia would cook meals and have them over. The skeleton of what would become the 1965 Voting Rights Act was drafted on her dining room table.

Fifty years ago, this past March, Amelia was left for dead on the Edmund Pettis Bridge. She had been a marked woman by Sheriff Jim Clark, who ordered his officers and others whom he deputized, to beat marchers who attempted to leave Selma and take their case for voters rights to the State Capitol in Montgomery. Seeing an unresponsive Amelia on the bridge, Clark first ordered her to be placed in a ambulance for transport to the hospital, then directed the undertaker to take possession of her body. Suddenly, Amelia began to breathe again. And she did not stop breathing until 50 years and five months later.

Eight years ago when Jim Clark died, Amelia summoned her friend, former Tuskegee Chief of Police, Leon Frazier and asked him to take her to pay her respects to Clark.

“I asked her why did she wanted to go to Jim Clark’s funeral,” Frazier said a few hours after receiving word that “Queen Mother” had transitioned. “She said she wanted the world to know that she did not hate Jim Clark for the meanness he had shown to her. So I took her to Elba, Alabama along with Mrs. Harriett, her caregiver. We were the only dark faces in the church.”

Amelia’s life, conceived through the love of her parents ended in love.

“Her last years were all about love,” Frazier said. “Love was the message she spoke to people everywhere she went. She especially wanted the children to be loved.”

 

Harold Michael Harvey, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” and “Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System,” available at Amazon and at haroldmichaelharvey.com. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

 

SOURCES:

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/08/26/434925503/amelia-boynton-robinson-survivor-of-bloody-sunday-dies-at-104

http://www.biography.com/people/amelia-boynton-21385459

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/civil-rights-activist-amelia-boynton-robinson-dies-104-33331218 read more

Dr. King On Economic Boycotts

By Michael February 5, 2015 0

During his last sermon, April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke on economic boycotts. He believed that economic boycotts could be used to gain civil and political rights.

Dr. King, was a pragmatist. He realized that to bring about change in America it would require programmatic solutions.He knew the real power of the civil rights movement centered around the power of economic boycotts.

In what history records, as the “I See the Promise Land” speech, Dr. King put forth his future plan to call for economic boycotts against the major corporations in America:

“We don’t have to argue with anybody.We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words.We don’t need any bricks and bottles, we don’t need any Molotov cocktails, we just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, ‘God sent us by here to say to you that you are not treating his children right. And we have come by here to make the first item on your agenda – – fair treatment where God’s children are concerned. Now if you are not prepared to do that, we have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.'”

This was Dr. King’s plan for economic boycotts in America. He called out three corporations that night. The Coca-Cola Company, Sealtest Milk Company, and Wonder Bread. At that time, all three had a poor record with respect to employing black workers. He did not get the opportunity to execute his plan of economic boycotts.

A couple of King’s disciples used this method to bring more black faces into corporate America. This strategy worked.

So why was it mothballed and tucked away in the dustbin of history?

I pose this question because of the huge economic support that the African American community is pouring into the financial coiffeurs of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Television Network. This financial aid comes as a result of viewing the television program “Empire.”  This show currently has the highest rating of any of its kind on television.

Black viewership of Empire presents an interesting dichotomy. On one hand, Black viewers decry the depiction of issues important to the African American community by Fox News. Especially, its treatment of President Barack Obama. While on the other hand, they can not wait for Murdoch to air the next episode of Empire.

In no way am I suggesting that Empire does not have any serious artistic merits. It has a strong cast. It seems fool hearted to me, to pour millions of dollars into a media empire, which takes a deem editorial view to every issue important to the African American community.

As Dr. King said his last night on earth, ” Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal.”

Somewhere, on our journey, we have forgotten these sage words of our last great leader.

 

Excerpts from “I See the Promise Land,” Martin Luther King, Jr., Masonic Temple, Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968

 

Harold Michael Harvey, JD, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” available at Amazon and at haroldmichaelharvey.com. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

Dr. King’s Vietnam War Speech

By Michael February 4, 2015 2

Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke out against war during an address at Riverside Church in New York, April 4, 1967. Exactly one year later, Dr.  Martin Luther King, Jr. would breathe his last breath. Some say he should not have gotten himself involved in the Vietnam War. However, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed that it was his abounding moral duty to lift his voice up for peace. He made his position clear and the distance between him and President Lyndon B. Johnson began to widen.

In the following passage below, Dr. King opined that if America is to be, her dark brothers and sisters must be free:

“For those who ask the question, ‘Aren’t you a civil rights leader?’ and thereby mean to exclude me from the movement for peace, I have this further answer. In 1957, when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself until the descendants of its slaves were loosed completely from the shackles they still wear. In a way we were agreeing with Langston Hughes, that black bard of Harlem, who had written earlier:”

 

Langston Hughes Pondering the conundrum of being Negro and American

O, yes, I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath?
America will be!

During the month of February let us recall the words beyond the dream. You know, Jesus gave that wonderful sermon on the Mount of Olive, then came down from that mountain and put the beatitudes into the practical reality of everyday living.  Our churches don’t tend to talk about that Jesus too much.

So too did Martin Luther King, Jr., walk a revolutionary path from the Lincoln Memorial to the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Our history don’t tend to talk about that Martin Luther King too much, either.

If we are serious about eliminating war, poverty and racism, then we must seriously consider how the Master lived beyond the Mount of Olive and pay close attention to the themes of King beyond the Lincoln Memorial.

Excerpts from Beyond Vietnam, by Martin Luther King, Jr., Riverside Church, 1967