Sunday, January 15, 2017

Donal Mahoney writes

Another Birthday for Dr. Martin Luther King

The longer I live the greater Martin Luther King looks
compared with those who have tried to carry on his work. 
The man had integrity, guts, ideas and class. 

It was heartbreaking in the Sixties to be young and  
filled with hope for change in America, only to see 
JFK, MLK and RFK murdered in the same decade. 

Young people of all kinds had hope back then even if 
we saw little change. We thought it was time for a quiet
revolution of ideas in America. That never happened.

My hope is Mike Pence doesn’t succeed Donald Trump 
the way Lyndon Johnson succeeded Jack Kennedy. We must
find a peaceful way to get through these next four years.
 Image result for martin luther king painting
 Stone of Hope, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC -- Lei Yixin


  1. The 1960s was a preriod of turmoil in much of the world, as Donal points out. In the US the decade was marked by the assassinations of three of the nation's young heroes, JFK (president John F. Kennedy) in 1963, and his younger brother RFK (Robert F. Kennedy) and MLK (Martin Luther King, Jr.) in 1968. When JFK was murdered, Lyndon Johnson ascended to the presidency, which is what would happen to vice president Mike Pence if Donald Trumo is unable to complete his term of office (by implication, via assassination, but he could also die a natural death, resign his office, or be removed through other legal or illegal means).

  2. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister who led the American civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. His father was originally named Michael King but changed his name, and that of his five-year-old son, to Martin Luther King, in honor of the 16th century German religious reformer Martin Luther, after a 1934 trip to attend the Fifth Baptist World Alliance Congress in Berlin. At 15, the young King entered Morehouse College in Atlanta and at 18 decided to follow his father's profession. He graduated with a B.A. in sociology in 1948 and enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with a B.Div. degree in 1951. Three years later, at 25, he became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, while continuing his doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University, receiving his Ph.D. in 1955. Later that year Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus, leading to a boycott of the city's buses that lasted for 385 days, before a court ruling ended racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses. During the boycott, King was arrested and his house was bombed, but he emerged from the ordeal as a national figure. In 1957 he founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to harness the moral authority and organizing power of African-American churches to conduct nonviolent protests to promote civil rights reform; King led the organization until his murder. He also became specifically targeted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as someone to be watched. During a book signing in 1958 he was stabbed in the chest but recovered after a lengthy hospitalization. The SCLC led an unsuccessful 1962 struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, during which he was swept up in a mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators, but he declined bail until the city made concessions, which the city leaders immediately reneged on. When returned to the city he was sentenced to 45 days in jail, of which he served three before evangelist Billy Graham paid his $178 fine.

  3. In April 1963 the SCLC began a campaign against racial segregation and economic injustice in Birmingham, Alabama; employing nonviolent but intentionally confrontational tactics, protesters occupied public spaces with marches and sit-ins, openly violating laws that they considered unjust in order to provoke mass arrests. The Birmingham Police Department led by Eugene "Bull" Connor responded with high-pressure water jets and police dogs against protesters, including children, gaining national attention and sympathy for King's movement. King was arrested for the 13th time and composed the "Letter from Birmingham Jail" to defend his tactics of illegal civil disobedience. King also helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, regarded as one of the highlights of American oratory; more than 250,000 people attended the event, making it the largest gathering of protesters in Washington, DC's history up to that time. That fall, the FBI began tapping his phone out of concern of Communist infiltration of the SCLC, but when no such evidence emerged, the Bureau continued to use incidental details caught on tape, including sexual impropriety, in attempts to force King out of his preeminent leadership position. In tandem with King's nonviolent approach to the problems of racial segregation and discrimination, more militant figures, including black separatists Stokeley Carmichael of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Nation of Islam imam Malcolm X, increased their criticism of his approach.

  4. In 1964 he became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance, then joined forces with SNCC, which had begun working on voter registration in Selma, Alabama; a judge issued an injunction that barred any gathering of 3 or more people affiliated with various civil rights groups or 41 of the movement's leaders, but King defied the injunction by speaking at Brown Chapel on 2 January 1965. However, due to church duties he was not present during an abortive march from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital, on 7 March ("Bloody Sunday"), when the demonstrators were brutalized by mob and police violence. The SCLC petitioned for an injunction in federal court against the State of Alabama for a new march scheduled for 9 March, but the court denied the petiotion and blocked the march itself until after a hearing. King responded by leading marchers to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, then held a short prayer session before asking them to disperse rather than violate the court order. After the court proceedings, the march went ahead on 25 March. In 1966 he worked against segregated housing in Chicago, Illinois; King was hit by a brick during one march but continued to lead scheduled marches in the face of personal danger, though he canceled one march to avoid elevated violence. Exactly one year before his death he began publicly speaking against the undeclared American war in Viet Nam and criticizing his nation's racism against poor non-white populations around the world. In 1968 he planned the Poor People's Campaign, a national occupation of Washington, DC, to address issues of economic justice. On 29 March he went to Memphis, Tennessee, to support a local strike by sanitary public works employees; he was assassinated there on 4 April. He was 39. The SCLC continued to organize the Washington project, however: Thousands of demonstrators established a shanty town they called Resurrection City on the National Mall and stayed for six weeks.

  5. Beginning in 1971 various cities and states declared his birthday to be a holiday, and over 6 million people signed a petition to make it a national holiday, the largest petition in favor of an issue in American history. On 2 November 1983 president Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor him, and the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day was observed on 20 January 1986; since 1992 it has been held on the third Monday of January. Some states delayed their observances, however: New Hampshire had celebrated the day as Civil Rights Day until 1999, and Utah as Human rights Day until 2000; but the last real holdouts were Arizona and South Carolina. In 1986 Arizona governor Bruce Babbitt had issued an executive order creating a paid state holiday just before he left office, but the following year his successor Evan Mecham reversed that decision days after taking office. In 1990 the National Football League threatened to move Super Bowl XXVII, which was planned for Arizona in 1993, unless the holiday was restored, but voters failed to vote for the measure and the Super Bowl was moved to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. In a 1992 referendum, the voters finally approved state-level recognition of the holiday. In 2000 South Carolina recognized King's birthday as an official state holiday; prior to this, employees could choose between celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day or one of three Confederate holidays. Several Southern states celebrate it in conjucton with Robert E. Lee Day, in honor of the Confederate general, and Virginia jointed celebrated it with Lee-Jackson Day (Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson had been Lee's principal lieutenant) until 2000, when Lee-Jackson Day was moved to the Friday before the Martin Luther King Jr. Monday. The Episcopal Church in the United States of America holds a feast day in honor of his martyrdom each year on the anniversary of his death, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America liturgically commemorates him on his birthday. After more than two decades of planning, fund-raising, and construction The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington DC opened to the public on 22 August 2011; a dedication ceremony was scheduled for 28 August, the anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech that King had delivered from the steps of the nearby Lincoln Memorial, but a hurricane forced its postponement until October. The memorial covers four acres (1.6 ha) and includes the Stone of Hope, a 30-ft (9.1 m) granite statue of King by sculptor Lei Yixin, who had earlier sculpted Mao Zedong, the leader of his People's Republic of China; two other pieces of granite symbolize the "mountain of despair" that the "I Have a Dream" speech referenced ("Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope"). A 450-ft (140 m) crescent-shaped inscription wall includes 14 excerpts from his sermons and speeches, from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to his last sermon, delivered at the Washington National Cathedral four days before his assassination. The memorial's design, by ROMA Design Group, a San Francisco-based architecture firm, was selected out of 900 candidates from 52 countries. Its official address is 1964 Independence Avenue SW, a direct reference to the 1964 Civil Rights Act which King's actions had helped inspire.


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