Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was 39 years old when he was assassinated. And his assassination was 39 years ago as of this April 4th.
America still has a lot of deep-seated racial problems. Prejudice and bigotry are still ingrained in our society. But we’ve made a lot of progress. We’ve come a long way from the 1940s, when “any white could strike or beat a Negro, steal or destroy his property, cheat him in a transaction and even take his life without much fear of legal reprisal.”
And this wasn’t just in the South. Jack Johnson — a Black heavyweight boxing champ during the early 1900s — generated hatred and fury everywhere he went. Whites (egged on by the press) staged deadly riots all across the country when Johnson won the heavyweight championship.
So we’ve made progress. And a lot of this progress was made possible by Martin Luther King Jr. In 1955 he led the bus boycott sparked by Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white man. The boycott lasted over a year. During this time, King’s house was bombed and he was arrested. But ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation on all public transit.
He was one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. This was the group that combined the organizing power of Black churches with non-violent protests. Their civil rights protests ultimately led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
And now most cities have at least one major street named after Martin Luther King, Jr. How many streets are named Sheriff Bull Connor Boulevard?
Dr. King was against the Vietnam war. He insisted that the US was in Vietnam “to occupy it as an American colony.” He called the US government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” He also said “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom,” and “One of the greatest casualties of the war in Vietnam is the Great Society... shot down on the battlefield of Vietnam.”
What would he say about our current quagmire in the Middle East? We sure haven’t made much progress in that department.
Like millions of Americans today, Dr. King was spied on by the U.S. government. The main ringleaders of this spying were J. Edgar “Does This Dress Make Me Look Fat” Hoover and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. King was aware of the overlapping importance of civil rights and civil liberties. Some of his quotes include: “A right delayed is a right denied,” and “Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”
Back in Dr. King’s lifetime, global corporations didn’t have anywhere near the stranglehold over American society that they do now. More and more employers today are controlled by corporate headquarters thousands of miles away. These industry leaders have no personal stake in any community; and the people who do have a stake are less and less in control. What would Dr. King say about this? “There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society, with a large segment of people in that society, who feel that they have no stake in it; who feel that they have nothing to lose. People who have a stake in their society, protect that society, but when they don’t have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it.”
Along with the JFK assassination and the 9/11 attacks, Dr. King’s assassination is ripe for conspiracy theories. The red flags include:
The assassin, James Earl Ray, was a small time burglar who had no prior convictions involving violence or guns. He claimed he hadn’t even fired a gun since his discharge from the military 20 years earlier. Ray’s fellow prison inmates said they’d never heard him talk about race or politics. The rooming house where the shots were supposedly fired from didn’t have any of Ray’s fingerprints anywhere. And according to some witnesses, the shots came from a different direction, not from the rooming house.
We’ll probably never know…
Quotations from Martin Luther King, Jr. can be found here, here and here.