Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Powerful Excerpts from MLK Biography

From Let the Trumpet Sound: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr., by Stephen B. Oates

Sage advice from his father:
“Every way I turn people are congratulating me for you,” Daddy wrote King in December [1954?].  “You see young man you are becoming very popular.  As I told you you must be much in prayer.  Persons like yourself are the ones the devil turns all of his forces loose to destroy.”  (57)

Clarifying his philosophy and approach:
It is not passive nonresistance to evil, it is active nonviolent resistance to evil....  Freedom is never given to anybody.  For the oppressor has you in domination because he plans to keep you there.  He never voluntarily gives it up.  And that is where the strong resistance comes.  We’ve got to keep on keepin’ on, in order to gain freedom.  It is not done voluntarily.  It is done through the pressure that comes about from people who are oppressed....  Rivers of blood may have to flow before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood.  (78-79)

Advice from colleague Bayard Rustin:
Martin, I don’t see how you can make the challenge you are making here without a very real possibility of your being murdered, and I wonder if you have made your peace with that.  I have the feeling the Lord has laid his hands on you, and that is a dangerous, dangerous thing.  (95)

Evidence of the nobility of his aims:
Our use of passive resistance in Montgomery is not based on resistance to get rights for ourselves, but to achieve friendship with the men who are denying us our rights, and change them through friendship and a bond of Christian understanding before God.  (116)

Evidence of his noble motivations:
I do not know what lies ahead of us.  There may be beatings, jailings, and tear gas.  But I would rather die on the highways of Alabama than make a butchery of my conscience.  There is nothing more tragic in all this world than to know right and not do it.  I cannot stand in the midst of all these glaring evils and not take a stand.  (351)

People asked him: “Since violence is the new cry, isn’t there a danger that you will lose touch with the people in the ghetto and be out of step with the times if you don’t change your views on nonviolence?”  King told them, “I refuse to determine what is right by taking a Gallup poll of trends of the time.”  A true leader “is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.”  “If every Negro in the United States turns to violence, I will choose to be that one lone voice preaching that this is the wrong way.”  (421)

When his parents first learned of his assassination:
Daddy and Momma King heard the news [of MLK’s death] over the radio, and they sat there, unable to say anything, weeping silently together.  “Suddenly, in a few seconds of radio time, it was all over,” Daddy King remembered.  “My first son, whose birth had brought me such joy that I jumped up in the hall outside the room where he was born and touched the ceiling—the child, the scholar, the preacher … all of it was gone.”  (493)

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