Forgotten Lessons Of Dr. King
Martin Luther King, Jr., D.Rel, was a man of abiding principle who stood on a moral courage few could imagine. He must be remembered as a force for change which was so needed when others failed as inconsequential prattlers. He was a wonderful speechwriter who could turn a phrase so aptly that there could be no answer. He was unique.
No one else wrote Dr. King’s speeches, he did. No one else delivered his speeches, he did. No one else took the heat, Martin Luther King, Jr., did. Many laid their lives and welfare on the line for him, but the pastor took the brunt of the abuse. He was a humble man who sincerely believed he was called by God to do the Lord’s work.
Two things Dr. King was not: He was not a racist, nor was he a sucker. His illusions were shattered by perfidious politicians who had sworn to help overturn policies set in motion by Woodrow Wilson. As a pastor, King was well aware of the vagaries of human behavior due to his ministry in a Baptist church, where one sees the best and worst of same. Nor was he stupid. A doctorate earned at Jesuit Boston University, weighted toward history, evidenced his scholarship.
A little known fact about the integration of Southern schools is that Little Rock was chosen as the front line because race relations in the city were the best in the South, in fact, anywhere. It was not a wealthy town, but people worked together because they were fairly equally broke, so they had to depend on each other.
The locale was semi-integrated. Crime was minimal because Little Rock was truly the buckle on the Bible Belt. The people themselves were deeply religious, both races, and they ensured fairly good behavior. Which is why civil rights leaders chose the place for a test case.
This was not done in a vacuum. Black leaders, need it be said without federal backing, went to then-Governor Orval Faubus and secured a deal in which he would be amenable to integrating Central High School on a day certain. Hands were shaken all around, and the wheels were put in motion by a coalition of black religious leaders, white activists (liberal and conservative), and local/state officials.
Let it be clearly understood that the majority of the state officials at that time were members of the Democratic Party. Governor Faubus, Senator J. William Fulbright, and Senator John L. McClellan were all Democrats, all extremely partisan, and all ready to embarrass an extremely popular Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
At some point, Faubus was called by his Washington contingent and told great things were in his future if he would deign to block progress on integration so that a new Democratic president, presumably John F. Kennedy, could aid the movement, take credit for it, and garner future black votes for his party.
Faubus decided his future lay in Washington, so he reneged on his agreement and stood in the school doorway to deprive black students’ entry. The event was so shocking that the civil rights promoters were completely thrown, as was Dwight Eisenhower, who called Faubus and delivered a profanity-laced rebuke on his traitorous behavior.
One can imagine the three-word retort because within hours the United States military under the express authority of the former general, four stars, was mobilized to keep Federal law in force.
None of this was done sans politics. It was a power grab from the first instance, and after Little Rock, King realized he had few friends. But he knew he could count on a number from his own party, Republicans. He did.
From his speeches to his very countenance, Dr. King emphasized personal responsibility and the freedom to exercise it. His main focus in every speech, appearance, and writing was jobs and the freedom to work because he fully understood that work was money, money was power, and power was freedom. He said that welfare was appalling and demeaning. He was dead set against abortion. He despised living in sin. He was a Baptist in every sense of the appellation.
King’s every stance, even his opposition to the Viet Nam War, was carefully thought out before he spoke it. At 39 years of age, the man was experienced beyond his years.
Dr. King, by the way, had read Eric Hoffer who stated, “Every idea that becomes a movement eventually evolves to a business that ultimately turns into a racket.” He was ever on the watch to see that this did not happen, and he turned out the opportunists as quickly as possible.
So sad that civil rights goals became everything Dr. King’s message eschewed.
His memory deserves better.