The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is forever enhanced by discovery of a 24-minute recording of his first meeting with the national media, which occurred during a 1962 speech that was the first ever by an African American at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
To help celebrate King’s birthday on the Jan. 18 national holiday, the club unveiled the long lost recording last week along with riveting commentary by other civil rights pioneers.
They included Simeon Booker, 97, an African-American reporter who arranged the speech as a member of the club in the still-segregated nation's capital.
King’s speech and the panel’s context provide an inspiring perspective about the unjust and otherwise dire conditions they helped change.
In 1952, Booker became the first black reporter at the Washington Post. Later, and sometimes at great risk to his safety, he went on to report iconic stories about the civil rights movement during his five-decade career writing for the JET and Ebony magazines.
Booker, whose stories for JET about the 1955 torture and lynching in Mississippi of 14-year-old Emmett Till outraged black communities nationally, took the lead in urging the press club's speakers committee to invite King. The club had never previously invited even such black luminaries as Thurgood Marshall, Ralph Bunche, Jesse Owens or Jackie Robinson. Booker himself was just the second press club member who was of African-American descent. Another man joined briefly in the mid-1950s but never became active in the club’s activities.
Civil rights leaders Simeon Booker, Carol McCabe Booker and Judy Richardson at the National Press Club Jan. 12, 2016 (Justice Integrity Project photo)
The club's program focused heavily on racial conditions at the time of King's speech and less so on the progress that King helped inspire. Neither did it dwell on King's horrid and still-suspicious assassination in 1968. The murder and its investigation have been the subject of lingering questions by his family, others in the civil rights community and many other researchers who still question whether the late convicted assassin James Earl Ray acted alone in shooting at King while he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The murder prompted riots in cities across the nation and many setbacks in the civil rights-antiwar-labor alliance that King was helping lead then.
Those chapters of American history were just a few years removed from 1962 when, as described by the press club's panel, even the nation’s capital was so segregated that blacks (called “Negroes”) faced great difficulty in finding a place to eat downtown, much less in renting a hotel room or obtaining a lecture audience before a racially mixed audience. Legal, medical, dentistry and other national professional bodies were still segregated at that time for the most part.
Gilbert Klein, a journalism professor at American University and former club president, helped arrange the Jan. 12 program about the 1962 King lecture. To open last week's program, Klein took the stage in the same club ballroom where King had spoken. Klein described how the 1962 invitation was so controversial that the club’s speaker committee chairman resigned in protest.
An audio recording was made of the speech and filed away in the Club’s Archives and later transferred to the Library of Congress. No television footage of the speech in its entirety exists. The Club's History and Heritage Committee recently retrieved the recording and found it is of significant historical value. Coming just days after Dr. King was released from jail in Albany, Ga., the civil rights leader outlined his vision for non-violent protest as the best way to achieve racial equality. The 1962 audiotape of 24 minutes was played below as part of the panel discussion.
Club president John Hughes of Bloomberg News described the discovery of King’s long-long audio recording and the creation of last week's program as the highlight of his year-long term that ended last week as the press club's volunteer president. "Martin Luther King's 1962 speech was one of the most important events to ever happen at the National Press Club," Hughes said. "I am honored this event at long last is getting proper recognition with such distinguished guests."
In a preview column, Hughes predicted that the evening's highlight would be King's own words:
I have been reviewing a transcript of King's speech in preparation for the program. I am struck by how many common King themes he struck, including his "dream" of civil rights. Keep in mind his most famous "I Have A Dream" speech was more than a year away.
But on July 19, 1962 at the National Press Club, King had this to say:
[King said]: "We are simply seeking to bring into full realization the American dream, a dream yet unfulfilled, a dream of equality of opportunity, of privilege and property widely distributed, a dream of a land where men no longer argue that the color of a man’s skin determines the content of his character. The dream of a land where every man will respect the dignity and the worth of human personality."
These words will be on the memorial that will take up a permanent home at the Club. I have read these words -- now you have too. But on Tuesday night, we will hear them for the first time in King's own voice -- at the National Press Club -- in the same room where he delivered them 53 years ago.
Hughes is shown at left with an image of King photographed that day of July 19, 1962 overlooking panelists.
They are, from left next to Hughes, Courtland Cox, a former organizer in Mississippi for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, “SNCC;” Booker and his wife, Carol McCabe Booker; independent film maker and former SNCC organizer Judy Richardson; and John W. Franklin of the Smithsonian Institution’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Joining the panel also were King's friend, lawyer and advisor Clarence B. Jones, a scholar in residence at Stanford University Martin Luther King Institute who spoke by telephone about how he helped Dr. King draft the speech.
Rounding out the program at end was WUSA-TV news anchor Bruce Johnson (shown at right), who described current problems by the media in recruiting racially diverse management suitable for coverage of African American and urban communities.
The remainder of this column excerpts comments from the panelists and moderator Joe Madison, the Sirius/XM host of "The Joe Madison Show" weekdays from 6 to 10.am. and a perennially top-ranked broadcaster in terms of audience reach. (All current photos for this column, aside from that of Klein from the American University site, are by the Justice Integrity Project, which freely grants permission for others to use.)
An extensive appendix provides links to others’ reports on the program (including reports by Julia Haskins of the press club for its website and Charles Robinson of Ebony and Maryland Public Radio.
Appended also is an in-depth Washington Post magazine column by Wil Hapgood in 2007 profiling Booker's remarkable career. Included also are several other columns, including retrospectives on King's 1963 "I Have A Dream" speech and former FBI agent and whistleblowing author William W. Turner's death this month. Excerpts are included also of retirement honors for the press club's Richard McClary, who worked at the club for 49 years.
Moderator Joe Madison, shown below at left and known widely to audiences as "The Black Eagle" during his long career, initiated the discussion by describing more of Booker's career.
Booker drew appreciative audience laughs when he deferred to his wife several times to amplify on the specifics of his career.
Booker had begun his newspaper career with the black press in Cleveland but won a prestigious Nieman fellowship to Harvard University in 1950 and a job offer from Washington Post Publisher Philip Graham after completion. After two years at the Post Booker returned to the black press as a Washington, DC-based national correspondent for JET and Ebony, where he reported on some of the nation's most important and hazardous civil rights stories.
One of those was the boycott in Alabama that King helped organize in late 1955 to halt segregation on bus lines in the state's capital of Montgomery.
Just before King's scheduled speech in 1962 at the press club, he was fined for protesting segregation in Albany, GA. He refused to pay the $178 fine and received a 45-day jail sentence that would have foreclosed his talk except that an anonymous donor paid the fine.
Panelist Courtland Cox, a Mississippi organizer during the Civil Rights movement and now SNCC Legacy Board president, described the goals of the speech, as did King's friend Clarence Jones.
Jones, affiliated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said he encouraged King to challenge the audience of journalists: “I wanted him to say as part of the speech, ‘Why has it taken so long for a Negro to speak at the Press Club?’”
Jones recalled this response from his friend: "Dr. King said, “No, that would be off the issue” of larger problems of race relations in America.
Cox, shown at right, described problems this way: “It wasn’t just the Press Club. It was the whole environment. It was the whole society for the black community, and for Simeon to take that stand took a whole lot of courage.”
“Dr. King [had] this incredible intelligence but he was also a charismatic leader,” recalled Judy Richardson, a lecturer, former SNCC staff member, and documentary film maker who worked on the Public Broadcasting Service series “Eyes on the Prize.”
Panelist John Franklin, senior manager in the Office of External Affairs at the African American history museum, said the speech's presentation doubtless surprised and impressed the audience. “They probably expected a preacher, but not a scholar, and....they were probably surprised at the presentation, the decorum, at his civility.”
Reflecting on current media issues, WUSA-TV anchor Bruce Johnson described many community-oriented efforts and lingering problems in news management. “You have to work at diversity, and that’s what Dr. King was saying,” Johnson said. “You’re changing the mindset, you’re changing the culture.”
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Panelist Judy Richardson and John W. Franklin recall Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a panel discussion at the National Press Club Jan. 12, 2016 (Justice Integrity Project photo).
National Press Club, MLK's NPC Speech -- At Last -- In His Own Voice, John Hughes, Jan. 7, 2016. People ask me, "What has been the highlight of your NPC presidency?" I respond, "I think Tuesday night will be it." Excerpts from Martin Luther King's historic National Press Club speech will be aired at 7:30pm for the first time since they were delivered 53 years ago in the Club's ballroom. The event is nearly sold out as I write this column.
For me, this event has been a full year in the making. While writing my NPC inaugural speech, I mentioned the titans who have spoken at the Club -- people like FDR, Mandela, Kennedy, Reagan, Gorbachev, and of course, King. I was struck that in all my years as a Club member, I had heard plenty of lore about appearances by FDR, Kennedy and Mandela. But I had heard very little about King. Why was that? His visit seemed to have gotten lost in Club history.
As I wrote last February in my first article about King's visit, the Club will now have a permanent memorial to King's visit. The plaque will be unveiled at Tuesday's event. But the night will feature so much more than a memorial unveiling. Joe Madison, the human and civil rights activist and prominent African American radio host known on SiriusXM’s Urban View channel, will moderate an amazing program that features Simeon Booker, the National Press Club's 1982 Fourth Estate Award winner and one of the first African Americans to join the Club. He was in the room when King delivered the speech in 1962.
Also commenting on the speech will be an accomplished panel. Details here. Gil Klein of the History & Heritage Committee has been the outstanding organizer of this event and NPC Archivist Jeff Schlosberg has been crucial in creating the memorial plaque.
Dr. Martin Luther King is shown in a file photo meeting with President Lyndon B. Johnson in the White House
C-SPAN, Martin Luther King's Lost Speech, Jan. 12, 2016. In July, 1962, Martin Luther King Jr. was the first African American to speak at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Members of the Club located 53-year old recordings of the speech and organized a panel of civil rights leaders and journalists to discuss its importance. close
National Press Club, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'Lost' Speech, Gilbert Klein (shown at right in an American University file photo), Jan. 11, 2016. Excerpts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s National Press Club speech will be aired for the first time since they were delivered 53 years ago at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, in the National Press Club's ballroom in Washington, DC. SiriusXM Radio will broadcast on its Urban Channel the program for the sold-out event.
Ebony, Martin Luther King's Decades Old "Lost" Speech Surfaces, Charles F. Robinson, III, Jan. 18, 2016. Charles F. Robinson, III, is an award-winning journalist who works in television, radio, and print.
An address given to the National Press Club in 1962, but lost to time, has been unearthed and made available on digital audio. As the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday approached this year, the National Press Club recently went public last week with excerpts from remarks delivered 53 years ago by the slain Civil Rights leader to the organization. The club is a longstanding professional institution for journalists and has played host to a number of world newsmakers, but in July 1962, was the first African American invited to speak there.
In those days, it was a segregated group dominated by Southern reporters who questioned King and the importance and sustainability of the Civil Rights movement. One of the constant questions from government officials and reporters was: “What do you Negroes want?” This was early in the Civil Rights movement and it was an evolving answer. This conversation however, was a predictor of what was to come and the challenges the Civil Rights community would face.
It was probably the first time many White journalists got the opportunity to see and listen to the King first hand. As a student of Mahatma Ghandi, he urged his supporters to adhere to non-violence. Not an easy request to make in the wake of lynchings, fire bombings and the freedom rides where Whites and Blacks tried to end the practice of segregation. Unbeknownst to them, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had King and others in the Civil Rights Movement under surveillance during this time, indicating the U.S. government’s clear interest in his increasing power.
Booker was very familiar with the 33-year-old King, and had placed the southern preacher on the cover of the magazine several times, which was unusual. Dr. King had gained some notoriety because of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Civil Rights leader had never addressed the national media or a large audience.
Dr. King peppered the audience with emerging changes in the south at the hands of the federal government. He noted some in south resistant to change often used the phrase, “over my dead body will any change come.”
King talked about the past but, he focused on the future and the struggle to move beyond the current moment to a more “egalitarian society.” He did not leave the North out of this struggle, noting the many ways they also practiced segregation.
Instead King would take a scholarly approach to the race in the speech. It likely shocked many in the audience. The Southern Baptist Preacher didn't deliver a “fire and brimstone” rhetoric but a reasoned response to the issue of the day.
National Press Club, Panel explores context of MLK's 1962 speech at NPC, Julia Haskins, Jan. 13, 2016. On July 19, 1962, Martin Luther King Jr. became the first African American to address the National Press Club. Nearly fifty-three years later on Jan. 12, portions of the speech were played for the first time since being delivered in the Club ballroom where King stood.
The event also marked the unveiling of a plaque commemorating King’s speech that will hang outside the ballroom. Human and civil rights activist Joe Madison, the radio host known on SiriusXM’s Urban View channel as "The Black Eagle,” moderated a panel that provided context and insight into King’s remarks.
King’s speech came at a pivotal moment; just days before he had been released from jail in Albany, Ga., only to address the audience at an organization where he was not entirely welcome. It was panelist Simeon Booker -- the NPC’s 1982 Fourth Estate Award winner and second African American member -- who advocated for King’s visit as a member of the Club’s speakers committee. Booker was joined onstage by his wife, Carol McCabe Booker.
However, Jones said King believed his speech was well-received for an audience that had little grasp of the struggles faced by African Americans in the 1960’s. King’s presence in and of itself held major significance, Jones said, and his discussion of racism was important, if not uncomfortable, for a white audience.
“He said ‘I thought it went over very well, but sometimes even some of our friends ...have difficulty when you talk about matters publicly that they are embarrassed to hear,’” Jones recalled.
Catching Our Attention On Related Justice, Racial & Media Issues
Washington Post, The Man From Jet: Simeon Booker not only covered a tumultuous era, he lived it, Wil Haygood, July 15, 2007. The other reporters would spot him sitting in front of the Sumner courthouse in Tallahatchie County, Miss. He'd be plotting how to get his interviews, where to find a bed, how he might fuel up the car -- and keep himself safe.
He was the man from Ebony and Jet magazines, which meant, in a symbolic manner, beginning in the 1950s, he was the man from Negro and black America with a press pass. He was all over the South -- before it became a beat and a newspaper cause -- writing up his stories, getting them printed. When it was happening, when history was rolling like some kind of grainy as-yet-unseen newsreel, he didn't think about it much at all. "You just did the job," he says. His name is Simeon Booker, and for more than half a century, he watched and wrote about the heartbreaking and majestic and fitful upheavals of a nation. He retired from Jet only last year, when he was pushing 90.
In a way -- and he's practically rising up out of his chair as he says it -- Emmett Till made Jet magazine, helped make Simeon Booker. The white press would only say things like 'Negro Boy Missing in Mississippi.' But when Jet broke the story -- then the entire black press picked us up."
It was Jet that used the first photographs of young Till -- in his grown-man's hat -- smiling outward. With the publication of the photographs of Till's mutilated body, it seemed like the whole world was talking about little Jet magazine. It was a tricky and dangerous assignment. But, somehow, he stayed safe.
At times, it seemed as if he had eyes in the back of his head. He didn't, but he did have help from unexpected quarters: J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. Booker had established what he regarded as a remarkable friendship with Cartha "Deke" DeLoach, a top Hoover assistant. DeLoach introduced Booker to Hoover, took Booker's phone calls, told him which cities were safe and which the bureau felt unsafe for a black reporter to be trolling around in the night.
"How do you think Jet and Ebony got all those stories down South?" Booker says, his voice rising. "I know what all the civil rights people have said about Hoover and the FBI. But the FBI was of great help to me."
William Weyland Turner (Photo: Spartacus Educational)
WhoWhatWhy, William Turner: From G-Man to Newsman: Obituary Tribute to a Courageous FBI Agent Turned Critic, Joseph E. Green, Jan. 9, 2016. I first met William Weyland Turner at a political conference, in a hotel bar in Los Angeles. He was 71, and Parkinson’s disease made his every move a staggering, slow-motion effort; walking, taking a sip of a drink, even laughing. Yet his brain remained sharp.
William Turner – or, forever after, Bill – was in the final chapter of one hell of a life. He stayed with the Bureau from 1951 to 1961, becoming increasingly dubious about its tactics and the curious obsessions of its leader, J. Edgar Hoover. Turner had become increasingly uncomfortable with the director’s focus on rooting out a largely illusionary Communist threat, the beginnings of COINTELPRO (a program that targeted mostly black organizations, such as the Black Panthers, as well as Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King), wiretapping and illegal “black-bag” jobs. In Turner’s opinion, the FBI seemed to be little more than the church of J. Edgar Hoover, which was dangerous for national security.
Washington Post, The reverential task of keeping Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy alive, DeNeen L. Brown, Jan. 17, 2016. For one guide at King's memorial on the Mall, answering visitors' questions and offering them context about the civil rights leader is a personal mission. At his monument on the Mall, keepers of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy work hard to keep his story alive, imparting lessons to crowds, recalling his speeches, and acknowledging civil rights foot soldiers who arrive here, literally walking through the statue’s split in the “Mountain of Despair.”
Here, National Park Service guide John W. McCaskill often greets civil rights icons visiting the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. They are older now. Many in the crowds of tourists fail to recognize them or their sacrifices.
“I have seen so many people who were part of the struggle come through this ‘Mountain of Despair,’ ” McCaskill says, pointing to the walkway carved in the sculpture, which is called the “Stone of Hope” and draws its name from a line in King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech: “With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” The statue is portrayed at left.
WGBH-FM (Boston), Silverglate: Remembering King And The March On Washington. He Was There, Marilyn Schairer, Jan. 18, 2016. In 1963, as a young college student and budding reporter, Harvey Silverglate, a Cambridge-based civil-liberties and criminal-defense attorney, had the gut instinct to report on what resulted in one of the major events in U.S. history. On August 28, 1963, Silverglate joined more than 200-thousand Americans to travel to Washington D.C for a political rally, called, “The March on Washington” for jobs and freedom.
Silverglate says something inside him told him to go to the march. He tells WGBH Morning Edition host Bob Seay, “I had a sense that the country was ready for something big to happen, by way of enforcement of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equality under the law to all Americans. I also had the sense that this particular event was going to be an historical one…and I convinced my editor to let me go as a reporter and report on the event.” At the time, Silverglate was working as a cub reporter for the Ridgewood ( N.J.) Herald-News.
The event was a key moment in the civil rights moment and as Silverglate said, “galvanized a nation."The day culminated with the memorable and impromptu, “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr., which became a spirited call for racial injustice and equality. As the nation’s pauses to observe its annual commemoration of King, who would have turned 87 on his Birthday, January 15, Silverglate spoke with Seay about King’s legacy and the significance of the march.
He says he was most impressed by how tightly organized the event was…calling it was a huge, sprawling demonstration. “What was most noticeable to me was that the who people who showed up were from all social classes and all political stripes…radical student groups, and very established groups such as the NAACP, and they were all acting in unison…. just an amazing event.”
He tells Seay, “there were fears violence could break out, and it was surprising to many observers that there wasn’t violence, because some of the marchers were treated quite badly by people who showed up as provocateurs and by people who lived in Washington. The group, he says, managed to not take the bait. The discipline he says was just amazing.”
It was a significant day in many aspects. In discussing Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, Silverglate says, “if you look at that speech very carefully, and take it phrase by phrase, you can see what he was getting at. He was getting at the notion of enforcement of provision of the 14th Amendment which guarantees all of us equality under the law. He says King emphasized equality, and wasn’t looking for special favors…but equality. Silverglate says it was an inspiring message. The day changed the life of Silverglate, and the focus of his career. He who went on to law school and became a civil liberties lawyer, in addition to successful parallel writing career on the subject as a book author and columnist.
Boston Herald, King's dream misinterpreted: The road to inequality is paved with P.C. intentions, Harvey A. Silverglate (shown in a recent file photo below), Jan. 20, 2002. It was the summer between my junior and senior college years. I was working as a cub reporter for the Ridgewood (N.J.) Herald-News, preparing for what I then thought was going to be a career in journalism. I took note of plans for a major civil rights demonstration in Washington, D.C., sponsored by groups seeking to pressure Congress to enact legislation that would put the nail in the coffin of Jim Crow segregation in the South and the less obvious but still pernicious racial discrimination in the North. My editor was hesitant.
However, it was hardly just a local story. The event galvanized a nation, and at the center of that response was the "I Have a Dream" address by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which would turn out to be his most famous and oft-quoted. What was it about the speech that was so riveting and persuasive it convinced a whole nation that equality was both a legal and a moral imperative, and pushed a theretofore reluctant Congress and president to enact the monumental Civil Rights Act of 1964?
I thought then, and now, that the genius of King's speech was its appeal to a principle that had been honored more in the breach than the observance since the adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1791 and the 14th Amendment in 1868. It was nonetheless a deeply moral principle contained in the nation's fundamental texts - the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights - and somehow deeply imprinted on the American psyche.
PaulCraigRoberts.org, Martin Luther King, Paul Craig Roberts, Jan. 19, 2016. Like all false flag attacks and assassinations, the 1968 murder of Martin Luther King was covered up. In the King case, James Earl Ray was the framed-up patsy, just as Oswald was in the case of President John F. Kennedy and Sirhan Sirhan was in the case of Robert Kennedy.The King family, along with everyone who paid attention to the evidence, knew that they and the public were officially handed a cover-up. After years of effort, the King family managed to bring the evidence to light in a civil case. Confronted with the real evidence, it took the jury one hour to conclude that Martin Luther King was murdered by a conspiracy that included governmental agencies. Martin Luther King, like John F. Kennedy, was a victim of the paranoia of the Washington national security establishment.
Richard McClary (Photo by Noel St. John, used with permission)
National Press Club, Club bartender Richard McClary hangs up the bar towel, Ferdous Al-Faruque, Jan. 6, 2016. After 49 years at the Club, McClary retired on Dec. 31. The Club is hosting a reception to honor McClary at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, in the First Amendment Lounge. Richard has also been an eyewitness to some of the most critical moments in Washington’s and the country's history. He watched journalists diligently carry on with their duties, such as in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the Washington riots following Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.
Real Clear Politics, For Press Club Bartender, It's Last Call After 49 Years, Ellie Potter, Jan. 17, 2016. The National Press Club recognizes members who have been part of the organization for 25 and 50 years or more as Silver Owls and Gold Owls, respectively. On Wednesday, it honored a man who served many of these members for decades by awarding him the esteemed Gold Owl status and a free lifelong membership to the club.
This new member, Richard “Richie” McClary, served as a bartender for 49 years in The Reliable Source, the press club’s 13th floor bar, before retiring on Dec. 31. The club welcomed him into the Gold Owls despite his career falling just short of the 50-year mark. “He was a living tradition, if you will,” NPC President John Hughes said. “I mean, 49 years, think about it -- to imagine what he has seen and the people that he has seen come through the club. He’s a walking and living encyclopedia of the history of the National Press Club in a major way, and that’s why we really salute him.” McClary has left behind a legacy of class, a legacy that has made the club a better place for all who walk through its doors, Hughes said.
“Richie was here every single day, and his commitment to quality and being such a top-class individual, I think, resulted in the entire Reliable Source becoming such a great place to be — just a real classy, friendly place,” Hughes said. Raul Mansilla worked as a fellow bartender with McClary for 18 years, which were always a pleasure, he said. The duo never argued or had any problems, and McClary’s easiness to work with was especially appealing. The D.C. resident knew many of the members and their drink preferences, Mansilla said.
For some members, he was like family. Mesfin Mekonen, manager of The Reliable Source, said some members came to the bar just to visit with the bartender, and have been asking for him since he retired. “Everybody has been saying they miss him,” Mekonen said. “Richie’s a friend of everybody I can say. Everyone.”
Huffington Post, Rise Like Lions, Clarence B. Jones with Eric Kasum, Jan. 17, 2016. What if Dr. Martin Luther King had lived? What if he had not walked out onto the balcony in Memphis that day? Or, what if the assassin's bullet had missed?
On the occasion of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday (Jan. 15) and a national holiday to honor his memory (Jan. 18), it's appropriate to ask: To what cause would he have dedicated the rest of his life? What was his unfinished business?
As a friend, advisor and personal lawyer who spent countless hours with him, marched with him, witnessed the events of Selma and Birmingham first-hand, and contributed a key portion of his momentous "I Have a Dream" speech, I believe I know the answer.
If my friend Martin is looking down upon us right now -- and I believe he is -- he would say that ending poverty is THE existential issue for us today. Public squalor in the presence of unprecedented private wealth is morally obscene and ethically unacceptable.
Does his dream live on?
The heartbreaking truth: Poverty is undiminished -- just as real and oppressive as prejudice ever was. It is a wound in our American soul that is rotting and festering. Our prisons are full-to-bursting with poor people. They weren't born in prison, they were born free -- but into a system impacted by the earlier institution of slavery and the contagious virus of white supremacy.
Unz Review, Mahatma Gandhi, Peter Lee, Jan. 15, 2016. In the case of Martin Luther King, America's deep state intersected with politics and civil rights and Thurgood Marshall's strategy for African American legal equality in some ugly and dangerous ways. And they intersect at a most unpleasant and unhappy point, one that is largely ignored when putting an optimistic, feel-good gloss over Dr. King's struggle for civil rights: the infamous MLK sex tape gambit cooked up by the FBI.
The most uncomfortable issue raised by the existence of tapes is not the matter of Dr. King’s human appetites and deficiencies in the area of marital fidelity. It is the potential for blackmail, the leverage that the FBI and the US government could have brought to bear against Dr. King and his direction of the civil rights movement by exploiting the tapes. And the case of the tapes also shines an awkward light on the relationship between America’s deep state and another African-American civil rights giant: Thurgood Marshall.
For background, I highly recommend Gilbert King’s Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America. The book also offers some more fascinating insights into the relationship between J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, the political civil rights movement served by Dr. King, and the “lawfare” civil rights legal battle fought with similar dedication and personal courage by Thurgood Marshall.