Wednesday, April 4, 2018

#MLK50: From the Mountaintop to the Lorraine Motel

Martin Luther King Jr.'s prophetic and nonviolent message
Lorraine Motel on 4/3/68:  Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, MLK Jr.,  Ralph Abernathy
50 years ago on the evening of April 3, 1968 Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. scaled the heights of American rhetoric dismantling the case for violence and reaffirming nonviolent resistance.

U.S. Marshal serves MLK with restraining order to forbid Memphis march on April 8th.
 The King Center provides the following abstract summary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s I've Been to the Mountaintop speech on April 3, 1968 in their website:
Dr. King gave this address at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee the night before he was assassinated. He called for nonviolent protest and a boycott of Memphis area businesses in support of the Memphis Sanitation Workers strike. Conveying a sense of foreboding, he not only recounted a near-death experience when he was stabbed near the heart, but also spoke of the possibility of his own demise at the hands of those who opposed him.
In this speech Reverend King outlined the purpose of the overall nonviolent struggle in broad terms:
 "And that's all this whole thing is about. We aren't engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying -- We are saying that we are God's children. And that we are God's children, we don't have to live like we are forced to live."

He spoke of the importance of maintaining unity, noting how in Ancient Egypt pharaoh had sought to maintain control over his slaves by having them fight among themselves. King then explained the failings of violence, even a little violence and the specific issues of the campaign for the sanitation workers.
"Secondly, let us keep the issues where they are. The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we've got to keep attention on that. That's always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers are on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn't get around to that."
King addressed the resilience and persistence of the Civil Rights movement to resist water cannons and police dogs, and the restraining order to block the march, challenging the authorities to live up to the American traditions of liberty and the rule of law.
"Now about injunctions: We have an injunction and we're going into court tomorrow morning to fight this illegal, unconstitutional injunction. All we say to America is, "Be true to what you said on paper." If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn't committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren't going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren't going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on."

By 1968 the Black power movement led by Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers were calling for armed insurrection in the streets.  Martin Luther King Jr explained the superior power of nonviolent resistance in concrete terms.
"Now the other thing we'll have to do is this: Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively -- that means all of us together -- collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that? After you leave the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the American Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That's power right there, if we know how to pool it.

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're not treating his children right. And we've come by here to ask you 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 do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you."  
 And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy -- what is the other bread? -- Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart's bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain. We are choosing these companies because they haven't been fair in their hiring policies; and we are choosing them because they can begin the process of saying they are going to support the needs and the rights of these men who are on strike. And then they can move on town -- downtown and tell Mayor Loeb to do what is right.  

But not only that, we've got to strengthen black institutions. I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a "bank-in" movement in Memphis. Go by the savings and loan association. I'm not asking you something that we don't do ourselves at SCLC. Judge Hooks and others will tell you that we have an account here in the savings and loan association from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. We are telling you to follow what we are doing. Put your money there. You have six or seven black insurance companies here in the city of Memphis. Take out your insurance there. We want to have an "insurance-in."

Now these are some practical things that we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts. I ask you to follow through here."
The following day they had won in court and the march was on. The civil rights leaders were in good spirits. Reverend King had been suffering from a fever and had been resting throughout the day, but feeling better he got dressed to go out to dinner at 5:30pm.

Less than 24 hours after his historic speech, the 39 year old Baptist Minister and Nobel Laureate was struck down by a sniper's bullet at the Lorraine Motel and by 6:03pm he lay there dying. Andrew Young checked and found a slight pulse. King was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. at St. Joseph Hospital.

Lorraine Motel 4/4/68: Andrew Young, Jesse Jackson, MLK Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Hosea Williams,
On April 5, 1968 in Washington, DC Black power militant Stokely Carmichael held a press conference and appealed for violence and called for retaliation for the killing of Reverend King.
"When White America killed Dr. King last night, it declared war on us. There will be no crying there will be no funerals. The rebellions that have been occurring around the cities of this country is just light stuff to what is about to happen. We have to retaliate for the deaths of our leaders. The executions of those deaths won't be in the courtroom but in the streets of the United States of America. Last night we led all of those youngsters up and down the street to close every store in this area. Because Dr. King was shot and they should have closed those doors. Now some of them kicked glass door windows in. We are not stopping them from kicking in the store windows. We are stopping them from coming out on the streets without guns. When they come out on the streets we want them with guns. If they don't have guns we won't let them throw bricks and bottles, but when they get guns we will be out on the street."
Carmichael had already been advocating for armed insurrection on American streets prior to Dr. King's assassination and on February 17, 1968 explicitly made the case for "offing" blacks who did not agree with hm. Following the death of Martin Luther King Jr. Carmichael's threat was made reality. Newsweek reported that "riots broke out in dozens of cities across the United States. The rampage left 39 dead, 21,000 arrested, more than 2,600 injured and was responsible for damages estimated at $65 million."

Meanwhile in Memphis the local government met the demands that had been made by Reverend King and the striking sanitation workers.  The King family held solemn services for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta, Georgia, attended by thousands including the Vice President of the United States, Hubert Humphrey.

Coretta Scott King requested that King eulogize himself: His last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church, a recording of his famous 'Drum Major' sermon, given on February 4, 1968, was played at the funeral. The King family went on to found the King Center and continued his nonviolent legacy to the present day. Other activists from King's inner circle continued their civil rights work, while some, like John Lewis, entered political life and continued working to realize Reverend King's beloved community.


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