MARTIN LUTHER KING personal photo album rare aunt civil rights autographs 1977
When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network.
MARTIN LUTHER KING personal photo album rare aunt civil rights autographs 1977:
An exceedingly rare photo album that belonged to Martin Luther King Jr. Aunt and his father's sister Woodie King Brown who lived in Detroit. Photo album mostly taken by Woodie King Brown of Detroit (MLK Sr sister) CONTAINS POLAROID PICTURES MANY SIGNED!!! by great civil rights leaders from the Martin Luther ing JR Center for Social Change First Annual Dinner at the New York Hilton. 11.5x10 inches rough grass woven covers but loose but ok, photos held to pages with yellowing glue and color. Pictures inside include Ted Kennedy (many signed), Leonard Woodcock (signed) Andrew Young (signed), Jack and Judy Carter (Jimmy Carters son), Benjamin Mays (signed) and many many others. Also includes Jimmy Carter inauguration invitation and tickets. Fine photos of King family members at Inaugural breakfast and there other photos of King family members (MLK Sr, Albert KIngYolands, Issac, Dexter, Vernon, Angelina, Bernice, Christine). Some of the photos are of Freddye S. Henderson, Dexter Scot King, Doug Cunningham, Odessa Prevot (cousin), Benjamin Mays, Linda Page, Roberta Grange, andmuchy more.
Stapled pages are of attendees and corporations. Letter is from 1978 Christian Peace Conference to Dr MLK sr. Letter is addressed to Woodie KIng Brown. Mlk Sr. sister.
There is a signed letter from 1977 addressed to Jerome Brown from Coleman Young the Mayor of The City of Detroit
There is a photo from 1965 Depicting MLK Sr with 3 other gentlemen.
THere is also a photo by Moneta Sleet (verr rare African American photographer) from EBONY magazine of Martin relatives
Lastly there is a photo of Rev McPhee from Nassau Bahamas shaking hands with the great Alberta King, MLK Jr. Mother.
Coretta Scott King (April 27, 1927 – January 30, 2006) was an American author, activist, civil rights leader, and the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr. from 1953 until his death in 1968. Coretta Scott King helped lead the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. King was an active advocate for African-American equality. King met her husband while in college, and their participation escalated until they became central to the movement. In her early life, Coretta was an accomplished singer, and she often incorporated music into her civil rights work.
King played a prominent role in the years after her husband's 1968 assassination when she took on the leadership of the struggle for racial equality herself and became active in the Women's Movement. King founded the King Center and sought to make his birthday a national holiday. King finally succeeded when Ronald Reagan signed legislation which established Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. She later broadened her scope to include both opposition to apartheid and advocacy for LGBT rights. King became friends with many politicians before and after Martin Luther King's death, most notably John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Robert F. Kennedy. John F. Kennedy's phone call to her during the 1960 election was what she liked to believe was behind his victory.
In August 2005, King suffered a stroke which paralyzed her right side and left her unable to speak; five months later she died of respiratory failure due to complications from ovarian cancer. Her funeral was attended by some 10,000 people, including four of five living US presidents. She was temporarily buried on the grounds of the King Center until being interred next to her husband. She was inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame and was the first African-American to lie in State in the Georgia State Capitol. King has been referred to as "First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement".
Contents [hide]1 Childhood and education2 New England Conservatory of Music and Martin Luther King Jr.3 Civil Rights Movement (1955–1968)3.1 House bombing3.2 John F. Kennedy phone call3.3 Kennedy presidency3.4 FBI tapes3.5 Johnson presidency4 Assassination of husband4.1 Early widowhood5 Later life5.1 Opposition to apartheid5.2 Peacemaking5.3 LGBT equality5.4 The King Center6 Illness and death7 Family life8 Lawsuits9 Legacy9.1 Portrayals in film10 Recognition and tributes10.1 Congressional resolutions11 See also12 Footnotes13 References14 External linksChildhood and educationCoretta Scott was born in Marion, Alabama, the third of four children of Obadiah Scott (1899–1998) and Bernice McMurry Scott (1904–1996). She was born in her parents' home with her paternal great-grandmother Delia Scott, a former slave, presiding as midwife. Coretta's mother became known for her musical talent and singing voice. As a child Bernice attended the local Crossroads School and only had a fourth grade education. Bernice's older siblings, however, attended boarding school at the Booker T. Washington founded Tuskegee Institute. The senior Mrs. Scott worked as a school bus driver, a church pianist, and for her husband in his business ventures. She served as Worthy Matron for her Eastern Star chapter and was a member of the local Literacy Federated Club.
Obie, Coretta's father, was the first black person in their neighborhood to own a vehicle. Before starting his own businesses he worked as a policeman. Along with his wife, he ran a clothes shop far from their home and later opened a general store. He also owned a lumber mill, which was burned down by white neighbors after Scott refused to lend his mill to a white male logger Her maternal grandparents were Mollie (née Smith; 1868 – d.) and Martin van Buren McMurry (1863–1950) – both were of African-American and Irish descent. Mollie was born a slave to plantation owner Jim Blackburn and Adeline (Blackburn) Smith. Coretta's maternal grandfather, Martin, was born to a slave of Black Native American ancestry, and her white master who never acknowledged Martin as his son. He eventually owned a 280-acre farm. Because of his diverse origins, Martin appeared to be White; however, he displayed contempt for the notion of passing. As a self-taught reader with little formal education, he is noted for having inspired Coretta's passion for education. Coretta's paternal grandparents were Cora (née McLaughlin; 1876 – 1920) and Jefferson F. Scott (1873–1941). Cora died before Coretta's birth. Jeff Scott was a farmer and a prominent figure in the rural black religious community; he was born to former slaves Willis and Delia Scott.
At age 10, Coretta worked to increase the family's income. She had an older sister named Edythe Scott Bagley (1924–2011) an older sister named Eunice who did not survive childhood, and a younger brother named Obadiah Leonard (1930–2012). According to a DNA analysis, she was partly descended from the Mende people of Sierra Leone. The Scott family had owned a farm since the American Civil War, but were not particularly wealthy. During the Great Depression the Scott children picked cotton to help earn money and shared a bedroom with their parents. At age 12, Coretta Scott entered Lincoln School as a seventh grader, and with temperament changes. Scott also developed an interest in the opposite sex.
Coretta described herself as a tomboy during her childhood, primarily because she could climb trees and recalled wrestling boys. In addition, she also mentioned having been stronger than a male cousin and threatening before accidentally cutting that same cousin with an axe. His mother threatened her, and along with the words of her siblings, stirred her to becoming more ladylike once she got older. She saw irony in the fact that despite these early physical activities, she still was involved in nonviolent movements. Her brother Obadiah thought she always "tried to excel in everything she did." Her sister Edythe believed her personality was like their grandmother Cora McLaughlin Scott's, after whom she was named. Though lacking formal education themselves, Coretta Scott's parents intended for all of their children to be educated. Coretta quoted her mother as having said, "My children are going to college, even if it means I only have but one dress to put on."
The Scott children attended a one room elementary school 5 miles (8 km) from their home and were later bused to Lincoln Normal School, which despite being 9 mi (14 km) from their home, was the closest black high school in Marion, Alabama, due to racial segregation in schools. The bus was driven by Coretta's mother Bernice, who bused all the local black teenagers. By the time Scott had entered the school, Lincoln had suspended tuition and charged only four dollars and fifty cents per year. In her last two years there, Scott became the leading soprano for the school's senior chorus. Scott directed a choir at her home church in North Perry Country. Coretta Scott graduated valedictorian from Lincoln Normal School in 1945 where she played trumpet and piano, sang in the chorus, and participated in school musicals and enrolled at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio during her senior year at Lincoln. After being accepted to Antioch, Scott applied for Interracial Scholarship Fund for financial aid. During her last two years in high school, Coretta lived with her parents. Her older sister Edythe already attended Antioch as part of the Antioch Program for Interracial Education, which recruited non-white students and gave them full scholarships in an attempt to diversify the historically white campus. Coretta said of her first college:
Antioch had envisioned itself as a laboratory in democracy, but had no black students. (Edythe) became the first African American to attend Antioch on a completely integrated basis, and was joined by two other black female students in the fall of 1943. Pioneering is never easy, and all of us who followed my sister at Antioch owe her a great debt of gratitude.
Coretta studied music with Walter Anderson, the first non-white chair of an academic department in a historically white college. She also became politically active, due largely to her experience of racial discrimination by the local school board. She became active in the nascent civil rights movement; she joined the Antioch chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the college's Race Relations and Civil Liberties Committees. The board denied her request to perform her second year of required practice teaching at Yellow Springs public schools, for her teaching certificate Coretta Scott appealed to the Antioch College administration, which was unwilling or unable to change the situation in the local school system and instead employed her at the college's associated laboratory school for a second year.
New England Conservatory of Music and Martin Luther King Jr.Coretta transferred out of Antioch when she won a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. It was while studying singing at that school with Marie Sundelius that she met Martin Luther King, Jr. after mutual friend Mary Powell gave King her phone number after he asked about girls on the campus. Coretta was the only one remaining after Powell named two girls and King proved to not be impressed with the other. Scott initially showed little interest in meeting him, even after Powell told her that he had a promising future, but eventually relented and agreed to the meeting. King called her on the telephone and when the two met in person, Scott was surprised by how short he was. King would tell her that she had all the qualities that he was looking for in a wife, which Scott dismissed since the two had only just met. She told him "I don't see how you can say that. You don't even know me." But King was assured and asked to see her again. She readily accepted his invitation to a weekend party.
She continued to see him on a regular basis in the early months of 1952. Two weeks after meeting Scott, King wrote to his mother that he had met his wife. Their dates usually consisted of political and racial discussions, and in August of that year Coretta met King's parents Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. Before meeting Martin, Coretta had been in relationships her entire time in school, but never had any she cared to develop. Once meeting with her sister Edythe face-to-face, Coretta detailed her feelings for the young aspiring minister and discussed the relationship as well. Edythe was able to tell her sister had legitimate feelings for him, and she also became impressed with his overall demeanor.
Despite envisioning a career for herself in the music industry, Coretta knew that would not be possible if she were to marry Martin Luther King. However, since King possessed many of the qualities she liked in a man, she found herself "becoming more involved with every passing moment." When asked by her sister what made King so "appealing" to her she responded, "I suppose it's because Martin reminds me so much of our father." At that moment, Scott's sister knew King was "the one."
King's parents visited him in the fall and had suspicions about Coretta Scott after seeing how clean his apartment was. While the Kings had tea and meals with their son and Scott, Martin, Sr. turned his attention to her and insinuated that her plans of a career in music were not fitting for a Baptist minister's wife. After Coretta did not respond to his questioning of their romance being serious, Martin, Sr. asked if she took his son "seriously". King's father also told her that there were many other women his son was interested in, and had "a lot to offer." After telling him that she had "a lot to offer" as well, Martin Luther King, Sr. and his wife went on to try and meet with members of Coretta's family. Once the two obtained Edythe's number from Coretta, they sat down with her and had lunch with her. During their time together, Martin Luther King, Sr. tried to ask Edythe about the relationship between her sister and his son. Edythe insisted that her sister was an excellent choice for Martin Luther King, Jr., but also felt that Coretta did not need to bargain for a husband.
On Valentine's Day 1953, the couple announced their plans to marry in the Atlanta Daily World. With a wedding set in June, only four months away at that time, Coretta still did not have a commitment to marrying King and consulted with her sister in a letter sent just before Easter Vacation. King's father had expressed resentment in his choice of Coretta over someone from Alabama, and accused his son of spending too much time with her and neglecting his studies. Martin took his mother into another room and told her of his plans to marry Coretta and told her the same thing when he drove her home later while also berating her for not having made a good impression on his father. When Martin declared his intentions to get a doctorate and marry Coretta after, Martin, Sr. finally gave his blessing. In 1964, the Time profile of Martin Luther King, Jr., when he was chosen as Time's "Man of the Year", referred to her as "a talented young soprano." She was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
Coretta Scott and Martin Luther King, Jr. were married on June 18, 1953, on the lawn of her mother's house; the ceremony was performed by Martin Jr.'s father, Martin Luther King, Sr. Coretta had the vow to obey her husband removed from the ceremony, which was unusual for the time. After completing her degree in voice and piano at the New England Conservatory, she moved with her husband to Montgomery, Alabama, in September 1954. Mrs. King recalled: "After we married, we moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where my husband had accepted an invitation to be the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Before long, we found ourselves in the middle of the Montgomery bus boycott, and Martin was elected leader of the protest movement. As the boycott continued, I had a growing sense that I was involved in something so much greater than myself, something of profound historic importance. I came to the realization that we had been thrust into the forefront of a movement to liberate oppressed people, not only in Montgomery but also throughout our country, and this movement had worldwide implications. I felt blessed to have been called to be a part of such a noble and historic cause."
Civil Rights Movement (1955–1968)
Mrs. King with her husband and daughter Yolanda in 1956On September 1, 1954, Martin Luther King, Jr. became the full-time pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. It was a sacrifice for Coretta, who had to give up her dreams of becoming a classical singer. Her devotion to the cause while giving up on her own ambitions would become symbolic of the actions of African-American women during the movement. The couple moved into the church's parsonage on South Jackson Street shortly after this. Coretta became a member of the choir and taught Sunday school, as well as participating in the Baptist Training Union and Missionary Society. She made her first appearance at the First Baptist Church on March 6, 1955, where according to E. P. Wallace, she "captivated her concert audience."
The Kings welcomed their first child Yolanda on November 17, 1955, who was named at Coretta's insistence and became the church's attention. After her husband became involved in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, King often received threats directed towards him. In January 1956, King answered numerous phone calls threatening her husband's life, as rumors intended to make African-Americans dissatisfied with King's husband spread that Martin had purchased a Buick station wagon for her. Martin Luther King, Jr. would give her the nickname "Yoki," and thereby, allow himself to refer to her out of her name. By the end of the boycott, Mrs. King and her husband had come to believe in nonviolent protests as a way of expression consistent with biblical teachings. Two days after the integration of Montgomery's bus service, on December 23, a gunshot rang through the front door of the King home while King, her husband and Yolanda were asleep. The three were not harmed. On Christmas Eve of 1955, King took her daughter to her parents's house and met with her siblings as well. Yolanda was their first grandchild. King's husband joined them the next day, at dinner time.
On February 21, 1956, King's husband announced he would return to Montgomery after picking up Coretta and their daughter from Atlanta, who were staying with his parents. During Martin Luther King, Sr.'s opposition to his son's choice to return to Montgomery, Mrs. King picked up her daughter and went upstairs, which he would express dismay in later and tell her that she "had run out on him." Two days later, Coretta and her husband drove back to Montgomery. Coretta took an active role in advocating for civil rights legislation. On April 25, 1958, King made her first appearance at a concert that year at Peter High School Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama. With a performance sponsored by the Omicron Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, King changed a few songs in the first part of the show but still continued with the basic format used two years earlier at the New York gala as she told the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The concert was important for Coretta as a way to continue her professional career and participate in the movement. The concert gave the audience "an emotional connection to the messages of social, economic, and spiritual transformation."
On September 3, 1958, King accompanied her husband and Ralph Abernathy to a courtroom. Her husband was arrested outside the courtroom for "loitering" and "failing to obey an officer." A few weeks later, King visited Martin's parents in Atlanta. At that time, she learned that he had been stabbed while signing copies of his book Stride Toward Freedom on September 20, 1958. King rushed to see her husband, and stayed with him for the remainder of his time in the hospital recovering. On February 3, 1959, King, her husband and Lawrence Reddick started a five-week tour of India. The three were invited to hundreds of engagements. During their trip, Coretta used her singing ability to enthuse crowds during their month long stay. The two returned to the United States on March 10, 1959.
House bombingOn January 30, 1956, Coretta and Dexter congregation member Roscoe Williams's wife Mary Lucy heard the "sound of a brick striking the concrete floor of the front porch." Coretta suggested that the two women get out of the front room and went into the guest room, as the house was disturbed by an explosion which caused the house to rock and fill the front room with smoke and shattered glass. The two went to the rear of the home, where Yolanda was sleeping and Coretta called the First Baptist Church and reported the bombing to the woman who answered the phone. Martin returned to their home, and upon finding Coretta and his daughter unharmed, went outside. He was confronted by an angry crowd of his supporters, who had brought guns. He was able to turn them away with an impromptu speech.
A white man was reported by a lone witness to have walked halfway up to King's door and throwing something against the door before running back to his car and speeding off. Ernest Walters, the lone witness, did not manage to get the license plate number because of how quickly the events transpired. Both of the couple's fathers contacted them over the bombing. The two arrived nearly at the same time, along with her husband's mother and brother. Coretta's father Obie said he would take her and her daughter back to Marion if his son-in-law did not take them to Atlanta. Coretta refused the proclamation, and insisted on staying with her husband. Despite Martin Luther King, Sr. also advocating that she leave with her father, King persisted in leaving with him. Author Octavia B. Vivian wrote "That night Coretta lost her fear of dying. She committed herself more deeply to the freedom struggle, as Martin had done four days previously, when jailed for the first time in his life." Coretta would later call it the first time she realized "how much I meant to Martin in terms of supporting him in what he was doing".
John F. Kennedy phone callMartin Luther King was jailed on October 19, 1960, for picketing in a department store. After being released three days later, Coretta's husband was sent back to jail on October 22 for driving with an Alabama license while being a resident of Georgia and was sent to jail for four months of hard labor. After her husband's arrest, King believed he would not make it out alive and telephoned her friend Harris Wofford and cried while saying "They're going to kill him. I know they are going to kill him." Directly after speaking with her, Wofford contacted Sargent Shriver in Chicago, where presidential candidate John F. Kennedy was campaigning at the time, and told Shriver of King's fears for her husband. After Shriver waited to be with Kennedy alone, he suggested that he telephone King and express sympathy. Kennedy called King, after agreeing with the proposal.
Sometime afterward, Bobby Kennedy obtained King's release from prison. Martin Luther King, Sr. was so grateful for the release that he voted for Kennedy and said "I'll take a catholic or the devil himself if he'll wipe the tears from my daughter-in-law's eyes." According to Coretta, Kennedy said "I want to express my concern about your husband. I know this must be very hard on you. I understand you are expecting a baby, and I just want you to know that I was thinking about you and Dr. King. If there is anything I can do to help, please feel free to call on me." Kennedy's contact with King was learned about quickly by reporters, with Coretta admitting that it "made me feel good that he called me personally and let me know how he felt."
Kennedy presidencyDuring Kennedy's presidency, she and her husband had come to respect him and understood his reluctance at times to not get involved openly with civil rights. In April 1962, Coretta served as delegate for the Women's Strike for Peace Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Martin drove her to the hospital on March 28, 1963, where King gave birth to their fourth child Bernice. After King and her daughter were due to come home, Martin rushed back to drive them himself. After her husband's arrest on April 12, 1963, King tried to make direct contact with President Kennedy at the advisement of Wyatt Tee Walker, and succeeded in speaking with Robert F. Kennedy. President Kennedy was with his father Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr, who was not feeling well. In what has been noted as making Kennedy seem less sympathetic towards the Kings, the president redirected Mrs. King's call to the White House switchboard.
The next day, President Kennedy reported to King that the FBI had been sent into Birmingham the previous night and confirmed that her husband was fine. He was allowed to speak with her on the phone and told her to inform Walker of Kennedy's involvement. She told her husband of her assistance from the Kennedys, which her husband took as the reason "why everybody is suddenly being so polite." Regarding the March on Washington, Coretta said, "It was as though heaven had come down." Coretta had been home all day with their children, since the birth of their daughter Bernice had not allowed her to attend Easter Sunday church services. Since Mrs. King had issued her own statement regarding the aid of the president instead of doing as her husband had told her and report to Wyatt Walker, this according to author Taylor Branch, made her portrayed by reports as "an anxious new mother who may have confused her White House fantasies with reality."
Coretta went to a Women Strike for Peace rally in New York, in the early days of November 1963. After speaking at the meeting held in the National Baptist Church, King joined the march from Central Park to the United Nations Headquarters. The march was timed to celebrate the group's second anniversary and celebrated the successful completion of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Coretta and Martin learned of John F. Kennedy's assassination when reports initially indicated he had only been seriously wounded. King joined her husband upstairs and watched Walter Cronkite announce the president's death. King sat with her visibly shaken husband following the confirmation.
Coretta Scott with her husband and Vice President-elect Hubert Humphrey on December 17, 1964The FBI planned to mail tapes of her husband's alleged affairs to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference office since surveillance revealed that Coretta opened her husband's mail when he was traveling. The FBI learned that King would be out of office by the time the tapes were mailed and that his wife would be the one to open it. J. Edgar Hoover even advised to mail "it from a southern state." Coretta sorted the tapes with the rest of the mail, listened to them, and immediately called her husband, "giving the Bureau a great deal of pleasure with the tone and tenor of her reactions." King played the tape in her presence, along with Andrew Young, Ralph Abernathy and Joseph Lowery. Publicly, Mrs. King would say "I couldn't make much out of it, it was just a lot of mumbo jumbo." The tapes were part of a larger attempt by J. Edgar Hoover to denounce King by revelations in his personal life.
Johnson presidencyMost prominently, perhaps, she worked hard to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. King spoke with Malcolm X days before his assassination. Malcolm X told her that he was not in Alabama to make trouble for her husband, but instead to make white people have more appreciation for King's protests, seeing his alternative. On March 26, 1965, King's father joined her and her husband for a march that would later end in Montgomery. Her father "caught a glimpse of America's true potential" and for the called it "the greatest day in the whole history of America" after seeing chanting for his daughter's husband by both Caucasians and African-Americans.
Coretta Scott King criticized the sexism of the Civil Rights Movement in January 1966 in New Lady magazine, saying in part, "Not enough attention has been focused on the roles played by women in the struggle. By and large, men have formed the leadership in the civil rights struggle but...women have been the backbone of the whole civil rights movement." Martin Luther King, Jr. himself limited Coretta's role in the movement, and expected her to be a housewife. King participated in a Women Strike for Peace protest in January 1968, at the capital of Washington, D.C. with over five thousand women. In honor of the first woman elected to the House of Representatives, the group was called the Jeannette Rankin Brigade. Coretta co-chaired the Congress of Women conference with Pearl Willen and Mary Clarke.
Assassination of husbandMain article: Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. She learned of the shooting after being called by Jesse Jackson when she returned from shopping with her eldest child Yolanda. King had difficulty settling her children with the news that their father was deceased. She received a large number of telegrams, including one from Lee Harvey Oswald's mother, which she regarded as the one that touched her the most.
In an effort to prepare her daughter Bernice, then only five years old, for the funeral, she tried to explain to her that the next time she saw her father he would be in a casket and would not be speaking. When asked by her son Dexter when his father would return, King lied and told him that his father had only been badly hurt. Senator Robert Kennedy ordered three more telephones to be installed in the King residence for King and her family to be able to answer the flood of calls they received and offered a plane to transport her to Memphis. Coretta spoke to Kennedy the day after the assassination and asked if he could persuade Jacqueline Kennedy to attend her husband's funeral with him.
Robert Kennedy promised her that he would help "any way" he could. King was told to not go ahead and agree to Kennedy's offer by Southern Christian Leadership Conference members, who told her about his presidential ambitions. She ignored the warnings and went along with his request. On April 5, 1968, King arrived in Memphis to retrieve her husband's body and decided that the casket should be kept open during the funeral with the hope that her children would realize upon seeing his body that he would not be coming home. Mrs. King called photographer Bob Fitch and asked for documentation to be done, having known him for years. On April 7, 1968, former Vice President Richard Nixon visited Mrs. King and recalled his first meeting with her husband in 1955. Nixon also went to Mrs. King's husband's funeral on April 9, 1968, but did not walk in the procession. Nixon believed participating in the procession would be "grandstanding."
On April 8, 1968, Mrs. King and her children headed a march with sanitation workers that her husband had planned to carry out before his death. After the marchers reached the staging area at the Civic Center Plaza in front of Memphis City Hall, onlookers proceeded to take pictures of King and her children but stopped when she addressed everyone at a microphone. She said that despite the Martin Luther King, Jr. being away from his children at times, "his children knew that Daddy loved them, and the time that he spent with them was well spent." Prior to Martin's funeral, Jacqueline Kennedy met with her. The two spent five minutes together and despite the short visit, Coretta called it comforting. King's parents arrived from Alabama. Robert Kennedy and his wife Ethel came, the latter being embraced by Mrs. King. Mrs. King and her sister-in-law Christine King Farris tried to prepare the children for seeing Martin's body. With the end of the funeral service, Mrs. King led her children and mourners in a march from the church to Morehouse College, her late husband's alma mater.
Early widowhoodTwo days after her husband's death, King spoke at Ebenezer Baptist Church and made her first statement on his views since he had died. She said her husband told their children, "If a man had nothing that was worth dying for, then he was not fit to live." She brought up his ideals and the fact that he may be dead, but concluded that "his spirit will never die." Not very long after the assassination, Coretta took his place at a peace rally in New York City. Using notes he had written before his death, King constructed her own speech. Coretta approached the African-American entertainer and activist Josephine Baker to take her husband's place as leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Baker declined after thinking it over, stating that her twelve adopted children (known as the "rainbow tribe") were "...too young to lose their mother". Shortly after that Mrs. King decided to take the helm of the movement herself.
Coretta Scott King eventually broadened her focus to include women's rights, LGBT rights, economic issues, world peace, and various other causes. As early as December 1968, she called for women to "unite and form a solid block of women power to fight the three great evils of racism, poverty and war", during a Solidarity Day speech. On April 27, 1968, King spoke at an anti-war demonstration in Central Park in place of her husband. King made it clear that there was no reason "why a nation as rich as ours should be blighted by poverty, disease and illiteracy." King used notes taken from her husband's pockets upon his death, which included the "Ten Commandments on Vietnam." On June 5, 1968, Bobby Kennedy was shot after winning the California primary for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. After he died the following day, Ethel Kennedy, who King had spoken to with her husband only two months earlier, was widowed. King flew to Los Angeles to comfort Ethel over Bobby's death. On June 8, 1968, while King was attending the late senator's funeral, the Justice Department made the announcement of James Earl Ray's arrest.
Not long after this, the King household was visited by Mike Wallace, who wanted to visit her and the rest of her family and see how they were fairing that coming Christmas. She introduced her family to Wallace and also expressed her belief that there would not be another Martin Luther King, Jr. because he comes around "once in a century" or "maybe once in a thousand years". She furthered that she believed her children needed her more than ever, and that there was hope for redemption in her husband's death. In January 1969, King and Bernita Bennette left for a trip to India. Before arriving in the country, the two stopped in Verona, Italy and King was awarded the Universal Love Award. King became the first non-Italian to receive the award. King traveled to London with her sister, sister-in-law, Bernita and several others to preach at St. Paul's Cathedral. Before, no woman had ever delivered a sermon at a regularly appointed service in the cathedral.
As a leader of the movement, Mrs. King founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta. She served as the center's president and CEO from its inception until she passed the reins of leadership to son Dexter Scott King. Removing herself from leadership, allowed her to focus on writing, public speaking and spend time with her parents.
She published her memoirs, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1969. President Richard Nixon was advised against visiting her on the first anniversary of his death, since it would "outrage" many people.
Coretta Scott King was also under surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 1968 until 1972. Her husband's activities had been monitored during his lifetime. Documents obtained by a Houston, Texas television station show that the FBI worried that Coretta Scott King would "tie the anti-Vietnam movement to the civil rights movement." The FBI studied her memoir and concluded that her "selfless, magnanimous, decorous attitude is belied by...[her] actual shrewd, calculating, businesslike activities." A spokesman for the King family said that they were aware of the surveillance, but had not realized how extensive it was.
Coretta Scott King, along with Rosalynn Carter, Andrew Young, Jimmy Carter, and other civil rights leaders during a visit to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, January 14, 1979Every year after the assassination of her husband in 1968, Coretta attended a commemorative service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta to mark his birthday on January 15. She fought for years to make it a national holiday. In 1972, she said that there should be at least one national holiday a year in tribute to an African-American man, "and, at this point, Martin is the best candidate we have." Murray M. Silver, an Atlanta attorney, made the appeal at the services on January 14, 1979. Coretta Scott King later confirmed that it was the "...best, most productive appeal ever..." Coretta Scott King was finally successful in this campaign in 1986, when Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was made a federal holiday.
After the death of J. Edgar Hoover, King made no attempt to hide her bitterness towards him for his work against her husband in a long statement. Coretta Scott King attended the state funeral of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973, as a very close friend of the former president. On July 25, 1978, King held a press conference in defense of then-Ambassador Andrew Young and his controversial statement on political prisoners in American jails. On September 19, 1979, Mrs. King visited the Lyndon B. Johnson ranch to meet with Lady Bird Johnson. In 1979 and 1980 Dr. Noel Erskine and Mrs. King co-taught a class on "The Theology of Martin Luther King, Jr." at the Candler School of Theology (Emory University). On September 29, 1980, King's signing as a commentator for CNN was announced by Ted Turner.
On August 26, 1983, King resented endorsing Jesse Jackson for president, since she wanted to back up someone she believed could beat Ronald Reagan, and dismissed her husband becoming a presidential candidate had he lived. On June 26, 1985, King was arrested with her daughter Bernice and son Martin Luther King III while taking part in an anti-apartheid protest at the Embassy of South Africa in Washington, D.C.Coretta Scott attends the signing of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by President Ronald Reagan on November 2, 1983When President Ronald Reagan signed legislation establishing the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, she was at the event. Reagan called her to personally apologize for a remark he made during a nationally televised conference, where he said we would know in "35 years" whether or not King was a communist sympathizer. Reagan clarified his remarks came from the fact that the papers had been sealed off until the year 2027. King accepted the apology and pointed out the Senate Select Committee on Assassinations had not found any basis to suggest her husband had communist ties. On February 9, 1987, eight civil rights activists were jailed for protesting the exclusion of African-Americans during the filming of The Oprah Winfrey Show in Cumming, Georgia. Oprah Winfrey tried to find out why the "community has not allowed black people to live there since 1912." King was outraged over the arrests, and wanted members of the group, "Coalition to End Fear and Intimidation in Forsyth County," to meet with Georgia Governor Joe Frank Harris to "seek a just resolution of the situation." On March 8, 1989, King lectured hundreds of students about the civil rights movement at the University of San Diego. King tried to not get involved in the controversy around the naming of the San Diego Convention Center after her husband. She maintained it was up to the "people within the community" and that people had tried to get her involved in with "those kind of local situations."
On January 17, 1993, King showed disdain for the U.S. missile attack on Iraq. In retaliation, she suggested peace protests. On February 16, 1993, King went to the FBI Headquarters and gave an approving address on Director William S. Sessions for having the FBI "turn its back on the abuses of the Hoover era." King commended Sessions for his "leadership in bringing women and minorities into the FBI and for being a true friend of civil rights." King admitted that she would not have accepted the arrangement had it not been for Sessions, the then-current director. On January 17, 1994, the day marking the 65th birthday of her husband, King said "No injustice, no matter how great, can excuse even a single act of violence against another human being." In January 1995, Qubilah Shabazz was indicted on charges of using telephones and crossing state lines in a plot to kill Louis Farrakhan. King defended her, saying at Riverside Church in Harlem that federal prosecutors targeted her to tarnish her father Malcolm X's legacy. During the fall of 1995, King chaired an attempt to register one million African-American female voters for the presidential election next year with fellow widows Betty Shabazz and Myrlie Evers and was saluted by her daughter Yolanda in a Washington hotel ballroom. On October 12, 1995, King spoke about the O. J. Simpson murder case, which she negated having a longterm affect on relations between races when speaking to an audience at Soka University in Calabasas. On January 24, 1996, King delivered a 40-minute speech at the Loyola University's Lake Shore campus in Rogers Park. She called for everyone to "pick up the torch of freedom and lead America towards another great revolution." On June 1, 1997, Betty Shabazz suffered extensive and life-threatening burns after her grandson Malcolm Shabazz started a fire in their home. In response to the hospitalization of her longtime friend, Mrs. King donated $5,000 to a rehabilitation fund for her. Shabazz died on June 23, 1997, three weeks after being burned.
During the 1990s, King was subject to multiple break-ins and encountered Lyndon Fitzgerald Pace, a man who admitted killing women in the area. He broke in the house in the middle of the night and found her while she was sitting in her bed. After nearly eight years of staying in the home following the encounter, King moved to a condominium unit which had also been the home, albeit part-time, for singers Elton John and Janet Jackson. In 1999, the King family finally succeeded in getting a jury verdict saying her husband was the victim of a murder conspiracy after suing Loyd Jowers, who claimed six years prior to having paid someone other than James Earl Ray to kill her husband. On April 4, 2000, King visited her husband's grave with her sons, daughter Bernice and sister-in-law. Regarding plans to construct a monument for her husband in Washington, D.C., King said it would "complete a group of memorials in the nation's capital honoring democracy's greatest leaders, including Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and now Martin Luther King, Jr." She became vegan in the last 10 years of her life.
Opposition to apartheidDuring the 1980s, Coretta Scott King reaffirmed her long-standing opposition to apartheid, participating in a series of sit-in protests in Washington, D.C. that prompted nationwide demonstrations against South African racial policies.
King had a 10-day trip to South Africa in September 1986. On September 9, 1986, she cancelled meeting President P. W. Botha and Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi. The next day, she met with Allan Boesak. The UDF leadership, Boesak and Winnie Mandela had threatened avoiding meeting King if she met with Botha and Buthelezi. She also met with Mandela that day, and called it "one of the greatest and most meaningful moments of my life." Mandela's husband was still being imprisoned in Pollsmoor Prison after being transferred from Robben Island in 1982. Prior to leaving the United States for the meeting, King drew comparisons between the civil rights movement and Mandela's case. Upon her return to the United States, she urged Reagan to approve economic sanctions against South Africa.
PeacemakingCoretta Scott King was a long-time advocate for world peace. Author Michael Eric Dyson has called her "an earlier and more devoted pacifist than her husband." Although Mrs. King would object to the term "pacifism"; she was an advocate of non-violent direct action to achieve social change. In 1957, Mrs. King was one of the founders of The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (now called Peace Action), and she spoke in San Francisco while her husband spoke in New York at the major anti-Vietnam war march on April 15, 1967 organized by the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam.
Mrs. King was vocal in her opposition to capital punishment and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
LGBT equalityCorretta Scott King was an early supporter in the struggle for lesbian and gay civil rights. In August, 1983 in Washington, DC she urged the amendment of the Civil Rights Act to include gays and lesbians as Protected class.
In response to the Supreme Court's 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick that there was no constitutional right to engage in consensual sodomy, King's longtime friend, Winston Johnson of Atlanta, came out to her and was instrumental in arranging King as the featured speaker at the September 27, 1986 New York Gala of the Human Rights Campaign Fund. As reported in the New York Native King stated that she was there to express her solidarity with the gay and lesbian movement. She applauded gays and lesbians as having "always been a part of the civil rights movement."
On April 1, 1998 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, Mrs. King called on the civil rights community to join in the struggle against homophobia and anti-gay bias. "Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood", she stated. "This sets the stage for further repression and violence that spread all too easily to victimize the next minority group."
In a speech in November 2003 at the opening session of the 13th annual Creating Change Conference, organized by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Coretta Scott King made her now famous appeal linking the Civil Rights Movement to LGBT rights: "I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people. ... But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King, Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream, to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people."
Coretta Scott King's support of LGBT rights was strongly criticized by some black pastors. She called her critics "misinformed" and said that Martin Luther King's message to the world was one of equality and inclusion.
In 2003, she invited the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to take part in observances of the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech. It was the first time that an LGBT rights group had been invited to a major event of the African-American community.
On March 23, 2004, she told an audience at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Pomona, New Jersey, that same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue. She denounced a proposed amendment advanced by President George W. Bush to the United States Constitution that would ban equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. In her speech King also criticized a group of black pastors in her home state of Georgia for backing a bill to amend that state's constitution to block gay and lesbian couples from marrying. Scott King is quoted as saying "Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriage."
The King CenterEstablished in 1968 by Coretta Scott King, The King Center is the official memorial dedicated to the advancement of the legacy and ideas of Martin Luther King, Jr., leader of a nonviolent movement for justice, equality and peace. Two days after her husband's funeral, King began planning $15 million for funding the memorial. She handed the reins as CEO and president of the King Center down to her son, Dexter Scott King, who still runs the center today. The Kings initially had difficulty gathering the papers since they were in different locations, including colleges he attended and archives. King had a group of supporters begin gathering her husband's papers in 1967, the year before his death. After raising funds from a private sector and the government, she financed the building of the complex in 1981.
In 1984, she came under criticism by Hosea Williams, one of her husband's earliest followers, for having used the King Center to promote "authentic material" on her husband's dreams and ideals, and disqualified the merchandise as an attempt to exploit her husband. She sanctioned the kit, which contained a wall poster, five photographs of King and his family, a cassette of the I Have a Dream speech, a booklet of tips on how to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and five postcards with quotations from King himself. She believed it to be the authentic way to celebrate the holiday honoring her husband, and denied Hosea's claims.
King sued her husband's alma mater of Boston University over who would keep over 83,000 documents in December 1987, and said the documents belonged with the King archives. However, her husband was held to his word by the university; he had stated after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 that his papers would be kept at the college. Coretta's lawyers argued that the statement was not binding and mentioned that King had not left a will at the time of his death. King testified that President of Boston University John R. Silber in a 1985 meeting demanded that she send the university all of her husband's documents instead of the other way around. King released the statement, "Dr. King wanted the south to be the repository of the bulk of his papers. Now that the King Center library and archives are complete and have one of the finest civil-rights collections in all the world, it is time for the papers to be returned home."
On January 17, 1992, President George H. W. Bush laid a wreath at the tomb of her husband and met with and was greeted by Mrs. King at the center. King praised Bush's support for the holiday, and joined hands with him at the end of a ceremony and sang "We Shall Overcome." On May 6, 1993, a court rejected her claims to the papers after finding that a July 16, 1964 letter King's husband wrote to the institute had constituted a binding charitable pledge to the university and outright stating that Martin Luther King retained ownership of his papers until giving them to the university as gifts or his death. King however, said her husband had changed his mind about allowing Boston University to keep the papers. After her son Dexter took over as the president of the King Center for the second time in 1994, King was given more time to write, address issues and spend time with her parents.
Illness and deathMain article: Death and funeral of Coretta Scott King
Coretta Scott King's temporary gravesite in Atlanta, GeorgiaBy the end of her 77th year, Coretta began experiencing health problems. Her husband's former secretary, Dora McDonald, assisted her part-time in this period. Hospitalized in April 2005, a month after speaking in Selma at the 40th anniversary of the Selma Voting Rights Movement, she was diagnosed with a heart condition and was discharged on her 78th and final birthday. Later, she suffered several small strokes. On August 16, 2005, she was hospitalized after suffering a stroke and a mild heart attack. Initially, she was unable to speak or move her right side. King's daughter Bernice reported that she had been able to move her leg on Sunday, August 21 while her other daughter and oldest child Yolanda asserted that the family expected her to fully recover. She was released from Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta on September 22, 2005, after regaining some of her speech and continued physiotherapy at home. Due to continuing health problems, Mrs. King cancelled a number of speaking and traveling engagements throughout the remainder of 2005. On January 14, 2006, Coretta made her last public appearance in Atlanta at a dinner honoring her husband's memory. On January 26, 2006, King checked into a rehabilitation center in Rosarito Beach, Mexico under a different name. Doctors did not learn her real identity until her medical records arrived the next day, and did not begin treatment due to her condition.
Coretta Scott King died on the late evening of January 30, 2006, at the rehabilitation center in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, In the Oasis Hospital where she was undergoing holistic therapy for her stroke and advanced stage ovarian cancer. The main cause of her death is believed to be respiratory failure due to complications from ovarian cancer. The clinic at which she died was called the Hospital Santa Monica, but was licensed as Clinica Santo Tomas. After reports indicated that it was not legally licensed to "perform surgery, take X-rays, perform laboratory work or run an internal pharmacy, all of which it was doing," as well as reports of it being operated by highly controversial medical figure Kurt Donsbach, it was shut down by medical commissioner Dr. Francisco Versa. King's body was flown from Mexico to Atlanta on February 1, 2006.
King's eight-hour funeral at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia was held on February 7, 2006. Bernice King did her eulogy. U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter attended, as did their wives, with the exception of former First Lady Barbara Bush who had a previous engagement. The Ford family was absent due to the illness of President Ford (who himself died later that year). Senator and future President Barack Obama, among other elected officials, attended the televised service.
President Jimmy Carter and Rev. Joseph Lowery delivered funeral orations, and were critical of the Iraq War and the wiretapping of the Kings. Mrs. King was temporarily laid in a mausoleum on the grounds of the King Center until a permanent place next to her husband's remains could be built. She had expressed to family members and others that she wanted her remains to lie next to her husband's at the King Center. On November 20, 2006, the new mausoleum containing the bodies of both Dr. and Mrs. King was unveiled in front of friends and family. The mausoleum is the third resting place of Martin Luther King, and the second of Mrs. King.
Family lifeMartin often called Coretta "Corrie," even when the two were still only dating. The FBI captured a dispute between the couple in the middle of 1964, where the two both blamed each other for making the Civil Rights Movement even more difficult. Martin confessed in a 1965 sermon of his secretary having to remind him of his wife's birthday and the couple's wedding anniversary. For a time, many accompanying her husband would usually hear Coretta argue with him in telephone conversations. King resented her husband whenever he failed to call her about the children while he was away, and learned of his plans to not include her in formal visits, such as the White House. However, when King failed to meet to his own standards by missing a plane and fell into a level of despair, Coretta told her husband over the phone that "I believe in you, if that means anything." Author Ron Ramdin wrote "King faced many new and trying moments, his refuge was home and closeness to Coretta, whose calm and soothing voice whenever she sang, gave him renewed strength. She was the rock upon which his marriage and civil rights leadership, especially at this time of crisis, was founded." After she succeeded in getting Martin Luther King, Jr. Day made a federal holiday, King said her husband's dream was "for people of all religions, all socio-economic levels and all cultures to create a world community free from violence, poverty, racism and war so that they could live together in what he called the beloved community or his world house concept."
King considered raising children in a society that discriminated against them serious, and spoke against her husband whenever the two disagreed on financial needs of their family. The Kings had four children; Yolanda, Martin III, Dexter and Bernice. All four children later followed in their parents' footsteps as civil rights activists. King thought she raised them to be proud of the color of their skin, until being asked by her daughter Yolanda why "white people are pretty and Negroes are ugly?" Her daughter Bernice referred to her as "My favorite person." Years after King's death, Bernice would say her mother "spearheaded the effort to establish the King Center in Atlanta as the official living memorial for Martin Luther King Jr., and then went on to champion a national holiday commemorating our father's birthday, and a host of other efforts; and so in many respects she paved the way and made it possible for the most hated man in America in 1968 to now being one of the most revered and loved men in the world." Dexter Scott King's resigning four months after becoming president of the King Center has often been attributed to differences with his mother. Dexter's work saw a reduction of workers from 70 to 14, and also removed a child care center his mother had founded.
King poses next to portrait of her husband in 2004The King family has mostly been criticized for their handling of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s estate, both while Coretta was alive and after her death. The King family sued a California sale in 1992, the family's attorneys filed claims of stolen property against Superior Galleries in Los Angeles Superior Court for the document's return. The King family additionally sued the sale house for punitive damages. In 1994, USA Today paid the family $10,000 in attorney's fees and court costs and also a $1,700 licensing fee for using the "I Have a Dream" speech without permission from them. CBS was sued by the King estate for copyright infringement in November 1996. The network marketed a tape containing excerpts of the "I Have a Dream" speech. CBS had filmed the speech when Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered it in 1963 and did not pay the family a licensing fee.
On April 8, 1998, Mrs. King met with Attorney General Janet Reno as requested by President Bill Clinton. Their meeting took place at the Justice Department four days after the thirtieth anniversary of her husband's death. On July 29, 1998, Mrs. King and her son Dexter met with Justice Department officials. The following day, Associate Attorney General Raymond Fisher told reporters "We discussed with them orally what kind of process we would follow to see if that meets their concerns. And we think it should, but they're thinking about it." On October 2, 1998, the King family filed a suit against Loyd Jowers after he stated publicly he had been paid to hire an assassin to kill Martin Luther King. Mrs. King's son Dexter met with Jowers, and the family contended that the shot that killed Mrs. King's husband came from behind a dense bushy area behind Jim's Grill. The shooter was identified by James Earl Ray's lawyers as Earl Clark, a police officer at the time of King's death, who had been dead for several years before the trial and lawsuits emerged. Jowers himself refused to identify the man he claimed kill Martin Luther King, as a favor to who he confirmed as the deceased killer with alleged ties to organized crimes. The King lawsuit sought unspecified damages from Jowers and other "unknown coconspirators." On November 16, 1999, Mrs. King testified that she hoped the truth would be brought about, regarding the assassination of her husband. Mrs. King believed that while Ray might have had a role in her husband's death, she did not believe he was the one to "really, actually kill him." She was the first to testify of her family, and indicated that they all believed Ray did not act alone. It was at this time that King called for President Bill Clinton to establish a national commission to investigate the assassination, as she believed "such a commission could make a major contribution to interracial healing and reconciliation in America."
LegacyCoretta was viewed during her lifetime and posthumously as having striven to preserve her husband's legacy. The King Center, which she created the year of his assassination, allowed her husband's tomb to be memorialized. King was buried with her husband after her death, on February 7, 2006. King "fought to preserve his legacy" and her construction of the King Center is said to have aided in her efforts.
King has been linked and associated with Jacqueline Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy, as the three all lost their husbands to assassinations. The three were together when Coretta flew to Los Angeles after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy to be with Ethel and shared "colorblind compassion." She has also been compared to Michelle Obama, the first African-American First Lady of the United States.
She is seen as being primarily responsible for the creation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. The holiday is now observed in all fifty states, and has been since 2000. The first observance of the holiday after her death was commemorated with speeches, visits to the couple's tomb and the opening of a collection of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s papers. Her sister-in-law Christine King Farris said "It is in her memory and her honor that we must carry this program on. This is as she would have it."
Portrayals in filmCicely Tyson, in the 1978 television miniseries KingAngela Bassett, in the 2013 television movie Betty and CorettaCarmen Ejogo played Coretta King in both the 2001 HBO film Boycott and the 2014 film Selma.Recognition and tributesCoretta Scott King was the recipient of various honors and tributes both before and after her death. She received honorary degrees from many institutions, including Princeton University, Duke University, and Bates College. She was honored by both of her alma maters in 2004, receiving a Horace Mann Award from Antioch College and an Outstanding Alumni Award from the New England Conservatory of Music.
In 1970, the American Library Association began awarding a medal named for Coretta Scott King to outstanding African-American writers and illustrators of children's literature.
In 1978, Women's Way awarded King with their first Lucretia Mott Award for showing a dedication to the advancement of women and justice similar to Lucretia Mott's.
Many individuals and organizations paid tribute to Scott King following her death, including U.S. President George W. Bush, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Black Justice Coalition, and her alma mater Antioch College.
In 1983 she received the Four Freedom Award for the Freedom of Worship. In 1987 she received a Candace Award for Distinguished Service from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.
In 1997, Coretta Scott King was the recipient of the Academy of Achievement's Golden Plate Award. 
In 2004, Coretta Scott King was awarded the prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize by the Government of India.
In 2006, the Jewish National Fund, the organization that works to plant trees in Israel, announced the creation of the Coretta Scott King forest in the Galilee region of Northern Israel, with the purpose of "perpetuating her memory of equality and peace", as well as the work of her husband. When she learned about this plan, King wrote to Israel's parliament:
"On April 3, 1968, just before he was killed, Martin delivered his last public address. In it he spoke of the visit he and I made to Israel. Moreover, he spoke to us about his vision of the Promised Land, a land of justice and equality, brotherhood and peace. Martin dedicated his life to the goals of peace and unity among all peoples, and perhaps nowhere in the world is there a greater appreciation of the desirability and necessity of peace than in Israel."In 2007, The Coretta Scott King Young Women's Leadership Academy (CSKYWLA) was opened in Atlanta, Georgia. At its inception, the school served girls in grade 6 with plans for expansion to grade 12 by 2014. CSKYWLA is a public school in the Atlanta Public Schools system. Among the staff and students, the acronym for the school's name, CSKYWLA (pronounced "see-skee-WAH-lah"), has been coined as a protologism to which this definition has given – "to be empowered by scholarship, non-violence, and social change." The school is currently under the leadership of Dione Simon (Principal). There Is Also A High School With A Graduating Class Next Year. The High School Is Currently Under The Leadership Of Termerion McCrary Lakes. That year was also the first observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day following her death, and she was honored.
Super Bowl XL was dedicated to King and Rosa Parks. Both were memorialized with a moment of silence during the pregame ceremonies. The children of both Parks and King then helped Tom Brady with the ceremonial coin toss. In addition two choirs representing the states of Georgia (King's home state) and Alabama (Park's home state) accompanied Dr. John, Aretha Franklin and Aaron Neville in the singing of the National Anthem.
She was inducted into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame in 2009.
Congressional resolutionsUpon the news of her death, moments of reflection, remembrance, and mourning began around the world. In the United States Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist presented Senate Resolution 362 on behalf of all U.S. Senators, with the afternoon hours filled with respectful tributes throughout the U.S. Capitol.
On August 31, 2006, following a moment of silence in memoriam to the death of Coretta Scott King, the United States House of Representatives presented House Resolution 655 in honor of her legacy. In an unusual action, the resolution included a grace period of five days in which further comments could be added to it.This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (February 2015) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)The ReverendMartin Luther King Sr.Martin Luther King Sr, c1977-81.jpgBorn Michael KingDecember 19, 1899Stockbridge, Georgia, United StatesDied November 11, 1984 (aged 84)Atlanta, Georgia, United StatesCause of death Heart attackOccupation Religious ministerPolitical party Republican PartySpouse(s) Alberta Williams King (1926–1974; her death)Children Christine King FarrisMartin Luther King Jr. (deceased)Alfred Daniel Williams King (deceased)Parent(s) James King (1863–1933)Delia Linsey King (1875–1924)SignatureMartin Luther King, Sr. Signature.svgMartin Luther King Sr. (born Michael King; December 19, 1899 – November 11, 1984), was an American Baptist pastor, missionary, and an early figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He was the father of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Contents [hide]1 Early life2 Ebenezer Baptist Church3 Murder of wife4 Later life and death5 In film6 See also7 References7.1 Footnotes7.2 Further readingEarly lifeKing was born Michael King in Stockbridge, Georgia, the son of Delia (née Linsey) and James Albert King. He led the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and became a leader of the Civil Rights Movement, as the head of the NAACP chapter in Atlanta and of the Civic and Political League. He encouraged his son to become active in the movement.
Ebenezer Baptist ChurchKing was a member of the Baptist Church and decided to become a preacher after being inspired by ministers who were prepared to stand up for racial equality. He left Stockbridge for Atlanta, where his sister Woodie was boarding with Reverend A.D. Williams, then pastor of the First Baptist Church (Atlanta, Georgia). He attended Dillard University for a two-year degree. After King started courting Williams' daughter, Alberta, her family encouraged him to finish his education and to become a preacher. King completed his high school education at Bryant Preparatory School, and began to preach in several black churches in Atlanta.
In 1926, King started his ministerial degree at the Morehouse School of Religion. On Thanksgiving Day in 1926, after eight years of courtship, he married Alberta in the Ebenezer Church. The couple had three children in four years: a daughter, Willie Christine King (born 1927), Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr., 1929–1968), and a second son, Alfred Daniel Williams King (1930–1969).
King became leader of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in March 1931 after the death of Williams. With the country in the midst of the Great Depression, church finances were struggling, but King organized membership and fundraising drives that restored these to health. By 1934, King had become a widely respected leader of the local church. That year, he also changed his name (and that of his eldest son) from Michael King to Martin Luther King after becoming inspired during a trip to Germany by the life of Martin Luther (1483–1546), the German theologian who initiated the Protestant Reformation (though he never changed his name legally).[unreliable source?]
King was the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church for four decades, wielding great influence in the black community and earning some degree of respect from the white community. He also broadcast on WAEC, a religious radio station in Atlanta.
In his 1950 essay An Autobiography of Religious Development, King Jr. wrote that his father was a major influence on his entering the ministry. He said, "I guess the influence of my father also had a great deal to do with my going in the ministry. This is not to say that he ever spoke to me in terms of being a minister, but that my admiration for him was the great moving factor; He set forth a noble example that I didn't mind following."
King Jr. often recounted that his father frequently sent him to work in the fields. He said that in this way he would gain a healthier respect for his forefathers.
In his autobiography, King Jr. remembered his father leaving a shoe shop because he and his son were asked to change seats. He said, "This was the first time I had seen Dad so furious. That experience revealed to me at a very early age that my father had not adjusted to the system, and he played a great part in shaping my conscience. I still remember walking down the street beside him as he muttered, 'I don't care how long I have to live with this system, I will never accept it.'"
Another story related by King Jr. was that once the car his father was driving was stopped by a police officer, and the officer addressed the senior King as "boy". King pointed to his son, saying, "This is a boy, I'm a man; until you call me one, I will not listen to you."
King Jr. became an associate pastor at Ebenezer in 1948, and his father wrote a letter of recommendation for him to Crozer Theological Seminary. Despite theological differences, father and son would later serve together as joint pastors at the church.
King was a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement in Georgia, where he rose to become the head of the NAACP in Atlanta and the Civic and Political League. He led the fight for equal teachers' salaries in Atlanta. He also played an instrumental role in ending Jim Crow laws in the state. King had refused to ride on Atlanta's bus system since the 1920s after a vicious attack on black passengers with no action against those responsible. King stressed the need for an educated, politically active black ministry.
In October 1960, when King Jr., was arrested at a peaceful sit-in in Atlanta, Robert Kennedy telephoned the judge and helped secure his release. Although King Sr. had previously opposed Kennedy because he was a Catholic, he expressed his appreciation for these calls and switched his support to Kennedy. At this time, King had been a lifelong registered Republican, and had endorsed Republican Richard Nixon.
King Jr. soon became a popular civil rights activist. Taking inspiration from Mohandas Gandhi of India, he led nonviolent protests in order to win greater rights for African Americans.
King Jr. was shot and killed in 1968. King Sr.'s youngest son, Alfred Daniel Williams King, died of an accidental drowning on July 21, 1969, nine days before his 39th birthday.
In 1969, King was one of several members of the Morehouse College board of trustees held hostage on the campus by a group of students demanding reform in the school’s curriculum and governance. One of the students was Samuel L. Jackson, who was suspended for his actions. Jackson subsequently became an actor and Academy Award nominee.
King played a notable role in the nomination of Jimmy Carter as the Democratic candidate for President in the 1976 election. After Carter's success in the Iowa caucus, the New Hampshire primary and the Florida primary, some liberal Democrats were worried about his success and began an "ABC" ("Anyone But Carter") movement to try to head off his nomination. King pointed to Carter's leadership in ending the era of segregation in Georgia, and helping to repeal laws restricting voting which especially disenfranchised African Americans. With King's support, Carter continued to build a coalition of black and white voters and win the nomination. King delivered the invocation at the 1976 and 1980 Democratic National Conventions. King was also a member of Omega Psi Phi.
Murder of wifeKing Sr.'s wife and King Jr.'s mother, Alberta, was murdered by Marcus Wayne Chenault on Sunday, June 30, 1974, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church during Sunday services. Chenault was a black man from Ohio who stood up and yelled, "You are serving a false God", and began to fire from two pistols while Alberta was playing "The Lord's Prayer" on the church organ. Upon capture, the assassin disclosed that his intended target was Martin Luther King Sr., who was elsewhere that Sunday. After failing to see Mr. King Sr., the killer instead fatally shot Alberta King and Rev. Edward Boykin. Chenault stated that he was driven to murder after concluding that "black ministers were a menace to black people" and that "all Christians are my enemies".
Later life and deathWith his son's widow Coretta Scott King, King was present when President Carter awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom to King Jr. posthumously in 1977. In 1980, he published his autobiography. King died of a heart attack at the Crawford W. Long Hospital in Atlanta on November 11, 1984, at age 84. He was interred next to his wife Alberta at the South View Cemetery in Atlanta.
Poster for the 2016 documentary film In the Hour of Chaos.In the Hour of Chaos is a 2016 American documentary drama written and directed by Bayer Mack (The Czar of Black Hollywood), which tells the story of King Sr.'s rise from an impoverished childhood in the violent backwoods of Georgia to become patriarch of one of the most famous – and tragedy-plagued – families in history.
From The Huffington Post:
The documentary weaves strands of three stories into one. The underpinnings of the documentary are the events of the time — everything from the Atlanta Riots and the disenfranchisement of blacks throughout the South to the era of prohibition and war time. Over this background, there are two more stories — that of Daddy King and the story of Daddy’s influence on Martin Jr.
Part one of In the Hour of Chaos aired on public television in early 2016 and the full film was released online July 1, 2016.
See also Biography portalMartin Luther King Jr., King's son, American clergyman, activist, and leader in the Civil Rights Movement; famous for his "I Have A Dream" speech in 1963.Martin Luther King III, one of King's grandsons.
In a speech expressing his views on ‘‘the true mission of the Church’’ Martin Luther King, Sr. told his fellow clergymen that they must not forget the words of God: ‘‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor.… In this we ﬁnd we are to do something about the brokenhearted, poor, unemployed, the captive, the blind, and the bruised’’ (King, Sr., 17 October 1940). Martin Luther King, Jr. credited his father with inﬂuencing his decision to join the ministry, saying: ‘‘He set forth a noble example that I didn’t [mind] following’’ (Papers 1:363).
King, Sr. was born Michael King on 19 December 1897, in Stockbridge, Georgia. The eldest son of James and Delia King, King, Sr. attended school from three to ﬁve months a year at the Stockbridge Colored School. ‘‘We had no books, no materials to write with, and no blackboard,’’ he wrote, ‘‘But I loved going’’ (King, Sr., 37).
King experienced a number of brutal incidents while growing up in the rural South, including witnessing the lynching of a black man. On another occasion he had to subdue his drunken father who was assaulting his mother. His mother took the children to Floyd Chapel Baptist Church to ‘‘ease the harsh tone of farm life’’ according to King (King, Sr., 26). Michael grew to respect the few black preachers who were willing to speak out against racial injustices, despite the risk of violent white retaliation. He gradually developed an interest in preaching, initially practicing eulogies on the family’s chickens. By the end of 1917, he had decided to become a minister.
In the spring of 1918, King left Stockbridge to join his sister, Woodie, in Atlanta. The following year, Woodie King boarded at the home of A. D. Williams, minister of Ebenezer Baptist Church. King seized the opportunity to introduce himself to the minister’s daughter, Alberta Williams. Her parents welcomed King into the family circle, eventually treating him as a son and encouraging the young minister to overcome his educational limitations.
In March 1924, the engagement of Alberta to Michael King was announced at Ebenezer’s Sunday services. Meanwhile, King served as pastor of several churches in nearby College Park, while studying at Bryant Preparatory School. He followed the urging of Alberta Williams and her father to seek admission to Morehouse College and was admitted in 1926. King found the work difﬁcult; however, he relied on the help of classmate Melvin H. Watson, the son of a longtime clerk at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Sandy Ray of Texas, a fellow seminarian. ‘‘We shared an awe of city life, of cars, of the mysteries of college scholarship, and, most of all, of our callings to the ministry,’’ King recalled (King, Sr., 77).
On Thanksgiving Day 1926, Michael Luther King and Alberta Christine Williams were married at Ebenezer. The newlyweds moved into an upstairs bedroom of the Williams’ house on Auburn Avenue. The King family quickly expanded, with the birth of Willie Christine in 1927, Michael Luther, Jr. in 1929, and Alfred Daniel Williams in 1930, a month after King, Sr. received his bachelor’s degree in Theology.
After the death of A. D. Williams in 1931, King, Sr. succeeded his father-in-law as pastor of Ebenezer. According to King’s recollections, A. D. Williams inspired him in many ways. Both men preached a social gospel Christianity that combined a belief in personal salvation with the need to apply the teachings of Jesus to the daily problems of their black congregations.
The Kings raised their children in what King, Jr. described as ‘‘a very congenial home situation,’’ with parents who ‘‘always lived together very intimately’’ (Papers 1:360). Hidden from view were his parents’ negotiations regarding their conﬂicting views on discipline. Although King, Sr. believed that the ‘‘switch was usually quicker and more persuasive’’ in disciplining his boys, he increasingly deferred to his wife’s less stern but effective approach to childrearing (King, Sr., 130).
In 1934, King, Sr. attended the World Baptist Alliance in Berlin. Traveling by ocean liner to France, he and 10 other ministers also toured historic sites in Palestine and the Holy Land. ‘‘In Jerusalem, when I saw with my own eyes the places where Jesus had lived and taught, a life spent in the ministry seemed to me even more compelling,’’ King recalled (King, Sr., 97). A story appearing in the Atlanta Daily World upon King’s return to Atlanta in August 1934 increased his prominence and relative afﬂuence among Atlanta’s elite. This was also reﬂected in the ﬁnal transformation of his name from Michael King to Michael Luther King and ﬁnally Martin Luther King (although close friends and relatives continued to refer to him and his son as Mike or M. L.).
In Atlanta, King, Sr. not only engaged in personal acts of political dissent, such as riding the ‘‘whites only’’ City Hall elevator to reach the voter registrar’s ofﬁce, but was also a local leader of organizations such as the Atlanta Civic and Political League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1939, he proposed, to the unopposition to more cautious clergy and lay leaders, a massive voter registration drive to be initiated by a march to City Hall. At a rally at Ebenezer of more than 1,000 activists, King referred to his own past and urged black people toward greater militancy. ‘‘I ain’t gonna plow no more mules,’’ he shouted. ‘‘I’ll never step off the road again to let white folks pass’’ (King, Sr., 100). A year later, King, Sr. braved racist threats when he became chairman of the Committee on the Equalization of Teachers’ Salaries, which was organized to protest discriminatory policies in teachers’ pay. With the legal assistance of the NAACP, the movement resulted in signiﬁcant gains for black teachers.
Although too young to fully understand his father’s activism, King, Jr. later wrote that dinner discussions in the King household often touched on political matters, as King, Sr. expressed his views about ‘‘the ridiculous nature of segregation in the South’’ (Papers 1:33). King, Jr. remembered witnessing his father standing up to a policeman who stopped the elder King for a trafﬁc violation and referred to him as a ‘‘boy.’’ According to King, Jr., his indignant father responded by pointing to his son and asserting: ‘‘This is a boy. I’m a man, and until you call me one, I will not listen to you.’’ The shocked policeman ‘‘wrote the ticket up nervously, and left the scene as quickly as possible’’ (King, Stride, 20).
King, Sr. was generally supportive of his son’s participation in the civil rights movement; however, during the Montgomery bus boycott, he and his wife were very concerned about the safety of King, Jr. and his family. King, Sr. asked a number of prominent Atlantans, such as Benjamin Mays, to try to convince King, Jr. not to return to Montgomery; but they were unsuccessful. King, Sr. later wrote, ‘‘I could only be deeply impressed with his determination. There was no hesitancy for him in this journey’’ (King, Sr., 172). King, Sr. traveled with the delegation to Oslo in 1964 to see his son accept the Nobel Peace Prize. In his autobiography, King, Sr. recalled, ‘‘As M. L. stood receiving the Nobel Prize, and the tears just streamed down my face, I gave thanks that out of that tiny Georgia town I’d been spared to see this and so much else’’ (King, Sr., 183).
Throughout his life, King, Sr. was a prominent civic leader in Atlanta, serving on the boards of Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and the National Baptist Convention. After the assassination of King, Jr., he spoke at numerous events honoring his son. A strong supporter of Jimmy Carter, he delivered invocations to the Democratic National Convention in 1976 and 1980. After serving Ebenezer for 44 years, he died in Atlanta in 1984.
Alberta Christine Williams King (September 13, 1904 – June 30, 1974) was Martin Luther King, Jr.'s mother and the wife of Martin Luther King, Sr. She played a significant role in the affairs of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. She was shot and killed in the church by Marcus Wayne Chenault six years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Contents [hide]1 Life and career2 Family tragedies, 1968–19743 Death4 Notes5 References6 External linksLife and careerAlberta Christine Willias was born on September 13, 1904, to Reverend Adam Daniel Williams, at the time preacher of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and Jennie Celeste (Parks) Williams. Alberta Williams graduated from high school at the Spelman Seminary, and earned a teaching certificate at the Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute (now Hampton University) in 1924.
Williams met Martin L. King (then known as Michael King), whose sister Woodie was boarding with her parents, shortly before she left for Hampton. After graduating, she announced her engagement to King at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. She taught for a short time before their Thanksgiving Day 1926 wedding, but she had to quit because married female teachers were not then allowed.
Their first child, daughter Willie Christine King, was born on September 11, 1927. Michael Luther King Jr. followed on January 15, 1929, then Alfred Daniel Williams King I, named after his grandfather, on July 30, 1930. About this time, Michael King changed his name to Martin Luther King, Sr.
Alberta King worked hard to ikidl self-respect into her children. In an essay he wrote at Crozer Seminary, Martin Luther King Jr., who was always close to her, wrote that she "was behind the scenes setting forth those motherly cares, the lack of which leaves a missing link in life."
Alberta King's mother died on May 18, 1941, of a heart attack. The King family later moved to a large yellow brick house three blocks away. Alberta would serve as the organizer and president of the Ebenezer Women's Committee from 1950 to 1962. She was also a talented musician who served as the choir organist and director at Ebenezer, which may have contributed to the respect her son had for the Black arts. By the end of this period, Martin Luther King Sr. and Jr. were joint pastors of the church.
Family tragedies, 1968–1974Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. King was in Memphis to lead a march in support of the local sanitation workers' union. He was pronounced dead one hour later. Mrs. King, a source of strength after her son's assassination, faced fresh tragedy the next year when her younger son and last-born child, Alfred Daniel Williams King I, who had become the assistant pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, drowned in his pool.
DeathAlberta King was shot and killed on June 30, 1974, at age 69 by Marcus Wayne Chenault, a 23-year-old black man from Ohio, who fired two Handguns into her as she sat at the organ of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Chenault stated that he shot King because "all Christians are my enemies," and claimed that he had decided that black ministers were a menace to black people. He said his original target had been Martin Luther King, Sr., but he had decided to shoot his wife instead because she was close to him. One of the church's deacons, Edward Boykin, was also killed in the attack, and a woman was wounded. Alberta was interred at the South View Cemetery in Atlanta. Martin Luther King, Sr., died of a heart attack on November 11, 1984, at age 84 and was interred next to her.
Chenault was sentenced to death; although this sentence was upheld on appeal, he was later resentenced to life in prison, partially as a result of the King family's opposition to the death penalty. On August 3, 1995, he suffered a stroke, and was taken to a hospital, where he died of complications from his stroke on August 19, at age 44.Letter from Birmingham Jailby Martin Luther King, Jr.From the Birmingham jail, where he was imprisoned as a participant in nonviolent demonstrations against segregation, Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in longhand the letter which follows. It was his response to a public statement of concern andcaution issued by eight white religious leaders of the South. Dr. King, who was born in 1929, did his undergraduate work atMorehouse College; attended the integrated Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, one of six black pupilsamong a hundred students, and the president of his class; and won a fellowship to Boston University for his Ph.D.WHILE confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities "unwiseand untimely." Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all of the criticismsthat cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else in the course of the day, and I would have no time forconstructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would liketo answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of "outsiderscoming in." I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operatingin every Southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliate organizations all across theSouth, one being the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Whenever necessary and possible, we share staff,educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago our local affiliate here in Birmingham invited us to beon call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hourcame we lived up to our promises. So I am here, along with several members of my staff, because we were invited here. I amhere because I have basic organizational ties here.Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carriedtheir "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village ofTarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelledto carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call foraid.Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not beconcerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in aninescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Neveragain can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States cannever be considered an outsider.You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not expressa similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being. I am sure that each of you would want to gobeyond the superficial social analyst who looks merely at effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. I would nothesitate to say that it is unfortunate that so-called demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham at this time, but I would say inmore emphatic terms that it is even more unfortunate that the white power structure of this city left the Negro community with noother alternative.IN ANY nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive,negotiation, self-purification, and direct action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. There can be nogainsaying of the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated cityin the United States. Its ugly record of police brutality is known in every section of this country. Its unjust treatment of Negroesin the courts is a notorious reality. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham thanin any other city in this nation. These are the hard, brutal, and unbelievable facts. On the basis of them, Negro leaders sought tonegotiate with the city fathers. But the political leaders consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation.Then came the opportunity last September to talk with some of the leaders of the economic community. In these negotiatingsessions certain promises were made by the merchants, such as the promise to remove the humiliating racial signs from thestores. On the basis of these promises, Reverend Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for HumanRights agreed to call a moratorium on any type of demonstration. As the weeks and months unfolded, we realized that we werethe victims of a broken promise. The signs remained. As in so many experiences of the past, we were confronted with blastedhopes, and the dark shadow of a deep disappointment settled upon us. So we had no alternative except that of preparing for directaction, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and nationalcommunity. We were not unmindful of the difficulties involved. So we decided to go through a process of self-purification. WeLetter From Birmingham Jail 2started having workshops on nonviolence and repeatedly asked ourselves the questions, "Are you able to accept blows withoutretaliating?" and "Are you able to endure the ordeals of jail?" We decided to set our direct-action program around the Easterseason, realizing that, with exception of Christmas, this was the largest shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strongeconomic withdrawal program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this was the best time to bring pressure onthe merchants for the needed changes. Then it occurred to us that the March election was ahead, and so we speedily decided topostpone action until after election day. When we discovered that Mr. Conner was in the runoff, we decided again to postponeaction so that the demonstration could not be used to cloud the issues. At this time we agreed to begin our nonviolent witness theday after the runoff.This reveals that we did not move irresponsibly into direct action. We, too, wanted to see Mr. Conner defeated, so we wentthrough postponement after postponement to aid in this community need. After this we felt that direct action could be delayed nolonger.You may well ask, "Why direct action, why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are exactly rightin your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis andestablish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeksso to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. I just referred to the creation of tension as a part of the work of thenonviolent resister. This may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I haveearnestly worked and preached against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary forgrowth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondageof myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of havingnonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racismto the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. So, the purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packedthat it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. We therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has ourbeloved Southland been bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue.One of the basic points in your statement is that our acts are untimely. Some have asked, "Why didn't you give the newadministration time to act?" The only answer that I can give to this inquiry is that the new administration must be prodded aboutas much as the outgoing one before it acts. We will be sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Mr. Boutwell will bring themillennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is much more articulate and gentle than Mr. Conner, they are bothsegregationists, dedicated to the task of maintaining the status quo. The hope I see in Mr. Boutwell is that he will be reasonableenough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from the devotees ofcivil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal andnonviolent pressure. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privilegesvoluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr hasreminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by theoppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct-action movement that was "well timed" according to the timetable ofthose who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "wait." It rings in theear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This "wait" has almost always meant "never." It has been a tranquilizingthalidomide, relieving the emotional stress for a moment, only to give birth to an ill-formed infant of frustration. We must cometo see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." We have waited for more thanthree hundred and forty years for our God-given and constitutional rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlikespeed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffeeat a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say "wait." But when youhave seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seenhate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vastmajority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; whenyou suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why shecannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyeswhen she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her littlemental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; whenyou have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, "Daddy, why do white people treat coloredpeople so mean?"; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortablecorners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signsreading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger" and your middle name becomes "boy" (however old youare) and your last name becomes "John," and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you areharried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never knowing what toexpect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of"nobodyness" -- then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runsover and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleakness of corrodingdespair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.Letter From Birmingham Jail 3YOU express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we sodiligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is ratherstrange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask, "How can you advocate breaking some laws andobeying others?" The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. Iwould agree with St. Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all."Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-madecode that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. Toput it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law thatuplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust becausesegregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated afalse sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the great Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes an "I - it"relationship for the "I - thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. So segregation is not onlypolitically, economically, and sociologically unsound, but it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin isseparation. Isn't segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement, histerrible sinfulness? So I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court because it is morally right, and I can urgethem to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong.Let us turn to a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority thatis not binding on itself. This is difference made legal. On the other hand, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority tofollow, and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.Let me give another explanation. An unjust law is a code inflicted upon a minority which that minority had no part in enacting orcreating because it did not have the unhampered right to vote. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up thesegregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout the state of Alabama all types of conniving methods are used toprevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties without a single Negro registered to vote, despitethe fact that the Negroes constitute a majority of the population. Can any law set up in such a state be considered democraticallystructured?These are just a few examples of unjust and just laws. There are some instances when a law is just on its face and unjust in itsapplication. For instance, I was arrested Friday on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong with anordinance which requires a permit for a parade, but when the ordinance is used to preserve segregation and to deny citizens theFirst Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and peaceful protest, then it becomes unjust.Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach,and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. It was practiced superbly by theearly Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks before submitting to certainunjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civildisobedience.We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did inHungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germanyduring that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communistcountry today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeyingthese anti-religious laws.I MUST make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few yearsI have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's greatstumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderatewho is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peacewhich is the presence of justice; who constantly says, "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methodsof direct action"; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth oftime; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people ofgood will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much morebewildering than outright rejection.In your statement you asserted that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. Butcan this assertion be logically made? Isn't this like condemning the robbed man because his possession of money precipitated theevil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophicaldelvings precipitated the misguided popular mind to make him drink the hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because Hisunique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to His will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see,as federal courts have consistently affirmed, that it is immoral to urge an individual to withdraw his efforts to gain his basicconstitutional rights because the quest precipitates violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.Letter From Birmingham Jail 4I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth of time. I received a letter this morning from a white brother inTexas which said, "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but is it possible that you arein too great of a religious hurry? It has taken Christianity almost 2000 years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christtake time to come to earth." All that is said here grows out of a tragic misconception of time. It is the strangely irrational notionthat there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time is neutral. It can be used eitherdestructively or constructively. I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than thepeople of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people butfor the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. Itcomes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work timeitself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.YOU spoke of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see mynonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I started thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of two opposing forces inthe Negro community. One is a force of complacency made up of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, have beenso completely drained of self-respect and a sense of "somebodyness" that they have adjusted to segregation, and, on the otherhand, of a few Negroes in the middle class who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because at pointsthey profit by segregation, have unconsciously become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one ofbitterness and hatred and comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groupsthat are springing up over the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. This movement isnourished by the contemporary frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination. It is made up of people who havelost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incurabledevil. I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need not follow the do-nothingism of the complacent or thehatred and despair of the black nationalist. There is a more excellent way, of love and nonviolent protest. I'm grateful to God that,through the Negro church, the dimension of nonviolence entered our struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, I amconvinced that by now many streets of the South would be flowing with floods of blood. And I am further convinced that if ourwhite brothers dismiss as "rabble-rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who are working through the channels ofnonviolent direct action and refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes, out of frustration and despair, will seeksolace and security in black nationalist ideologies, a development that will lead inevitably to a frightening racial nightmare.Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come. This is what has happened to theAmerican Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom; something without has reminded him that hecan gain it. Consciously and unconsciously, he has been swept in by what the Germans call the Zeitgeist, and with his blackbrothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America, and the Caribbean, he is moving with a sense ofcosmic urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. Recognizing this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community,one should readily understand public demonstrations. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations. He has toget them out. So let him march sometime; let him have his prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; understand why he must have sitins and freedom rides. If his repressed emotions do not come out in these nonviolent ways, they will come out in ominousexpressions of violence. This is not a threat; it is a fact of history. So I have not said to my people, "Get rid of your discontent."But I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled through the creative outlet of nonviolent directaction. Now this approach is being dismissed as extremist. I must admit that I was initially disappointed in being so categorized.But as I continued to think about the matter, I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was notJesus an extremist in love? -- "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you." Was notAmos an extremist for justice? -- "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Was not Paul anextremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ? -- "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist?-- "Here I stand; I can do no other so help me God." Was not John Bunyan an extremist? -- "I will stay in jail to the end of mydays before I make a mockery of my conscience." Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist? -- "This nation cannot survive halfslave and half free." Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist? -- "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are createdequal." So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists forhate, or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice, or will we be extremists for thecause of justice?I had hoped that the white moderate would see this. Maybe I was too optimistic. Maybe I expected too much. I guess I shouldhave realized that few members of a race that has oppressed another race can understand or appreciate the deep groans andpassionate yearnings of those that have been oppressed, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out bystrong, persistent, and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers have grasped the meaning ofthis social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too small in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some,like Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, and James Dabbs, have written about our struggle in eloquent, prophetic, andunderstanding terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They sat in with us at lunch counters androde in with us on the freedom rides. They have languished in filthy roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality ofangry policemen who see them as "dirty nigger lovers." They, unlike many of their moderate brothers, have recognized theurgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.Letter From Birmingham Jail 5LET me rush on to mention my other disappointment. I have been disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Ofcourse, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands onthis issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand this past Sunday in welcoming Negroes to your BaptistChurch worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Springhill Collegeseveral years ago.But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say that asone of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say it as a minister of the gospel who lovesthe church, who was nurtured in its bosom, who has been sustained by its Spiritual blessings, and who will remain true to it aslong as the cord of life shall lengthen.I had the strange feeling when I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery several years agothat we would have the support of the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests, and rabbis of the South would be someof our strongest allies. Instead, some few have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement andmisrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind theanesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.In spite of my shattered dreams of the past, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of thiscommunity would see the justice of our cause and with deep moral concern serve as the channel through which our justgrievances could get to the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.I have heard numerous religious leaders of the South call upon their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision becauseit is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers say, follow this decree because integration is morally right and the Negro isyour brother. In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sidelines andmerely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial andeconomic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, "Those are social issues which the gospel has nothing to do with," and Ihave watched so many churches commit themselves to a completely otherworldly religion which made a strange distinctionbetween bodies and souls, the sacred and the secular.There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period that the early Christians rejoiced when they weredeemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideasand principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the early Christiansentered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being "disturbers of the peace" and"outside agitators." But they went on with the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven" and had to obey God rather thanman. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated."They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.Things are different now. The contemporary church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so oftenthe arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the averagecommunity is consoled by the church's often vocal sanction of things as they are.But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of theearly church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with nomeaning for the twentieth century. I meet young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outrightdisgust.I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid ofjustice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motivesare presently misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal ofAmerica is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. Before thePilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson scratched across the pages of history the majestic word ofthe Declaration of Independence, we were here. For more than two centuries our foreparents labored here without wages; theymade cotton king; and they built the homes of their masters in the midst of brutal injustice and shameful humiliation -- and yetout of a bottomless vitality our people continue to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us,the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternalwill of God are embodied in our echoing demands.I must close now. But before closing I am impelled to mention one other point in your statement that troubled me profoundly.You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping "order" and "preventing violence." I don't believe you wouldhave so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its angry violent dogs literally biting six unarmed, nonviolentNegroes. I don't believe you would so quickly commend the policemen if you would observe their ugly and inhuman treatment ofNegroes here in the city jail; if you would watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you would seethem slap and kick old Negro men and young boys, if you would observe them, as they did on two occasions, refusing to give usfood because we wanted to sing our grace together. I'm sorry that I can't join you in your praise for the police From Birmingham Jail 6It is true that they have been rather disciplined in their public handling of the demonstrators. In this sense they have been publicly"nonviolent." But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the last few years I have consistentlypreached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. So I have tried to make it clearthat it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more, to usemoral means to preserve immoral ends.I wish you had commended the Negro demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer, andtheir amazing discipline in the midst of the most inhuman provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. Theywill be the James Merediths, courageously and with a majestic sense of purpose facing jeering and hostile mobs and theagonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized ina seventy-two-year-old woman of Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not toride the segregated buses, and responded to one who inquired about her tiredness with ungrammatical profundity, "My feets istired, but my soul is rested." They will be young high school and college students, young ministers of the gospel and a host oftheir elders courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience's sake. One daythe South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up forthe best in the American dream and the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage.Never before have I written a letter this long -- or should I say a book? I'm afraid that it is much too long to take your precioustime. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else is thereto do when you are alone for days in the dull monotony of a narrow jail cell other than write long letters, think strange thoughts,and pray long prayers?If I have said anything in this letter that is an understatement of the truth and is indicative of an unreasonable impatience, I begyou to forgive me. If I have said anything in this letter that is an overstatement of the truth and is indicative of my having apatience that makes me patient with anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 1963 WMU Speech FoundMLK at WesternIntroduction This Web site highlights Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, December 18, 1963 speech at Western MichiganUniversity. The pages include historical background, details about the recovery of the tape recording,transcription of the speech and question and answer session, primary source documents, and a list oflibrary and Internet sources about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.The speech transcription is important for several reasons. It adds to the body of knowledge about thedevelopment of Dr. King's work and ideas. Dr. King spoke at WMU just four months after he made hisfamous "I Have a Dream" speech. King's WMU address contains elements of earlier speeches andsermons, including his address at the Freedom Rally in 1957 and a sermon about loving enemies that hehad given at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.The speech transcription is also an important document for studying the continuing dialogue aboutracial prejudice and race relations on Western's campus. The speech transcription and accompanyingdocuments provide additional information to better understand Dr. King's enduring influence onWestern's campus through the programs and curricula established in the late 1960s and the broadersocietal changes brought about by his nonviolent movement for civil rights and social justice for all.The Lost Tape The tape recording of the live broadcast of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s December 18, 1963 speech waslost for almost 30 years. The tape was rebroadcast at the time of Dr. King's assassination in 1968 but waslater lost until 1997 when Phill Novess contacted WMUK general manager, Garrard Macleod.A copy of King's address had been found on a reel‐to‐reel machine that Novess had acquired from hisgrandfather, Phillip Novess. The senior Novess owned a small grocery store on the east side ofKalamazoo and accepted the reel‐to‐reel tape recorder as collateral for groceries in the early 1970s.When he sold the grocery store and the tape player had not been reclaimed, Novess took it home andput it in his basement. He gave the tape to his grandson for restoration purposes. Novess' business,Eclipse Media Group, specializes in noise reduction and restoration of audio tapes. Novess restored thetape with the assistance of Kevin Brown, of Brown & Brown Recording & Music Productions in Portage.Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered for his achievementsin civil rights and for the methods he used to get there —namely, nonviolence. More than just a catchphrase, more thanjust the “absence of violence,” and more than just a tactic,nonviolence was a philosophy that King honed over thecourse of his adult life. It has had a profound, lasting influence on social justice movements at home and abroad.In September 1962, King convened a meeting of theSouthern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), themain organizational force behind his civil rights activism,in Birmingham, Alabama. King was giving a talk on theneed for nonviolent action in the face of violent whiteracism when a white man jumped on stage and, withouta word, punched him in the face repeatedly.King naturally put up his hands to deflect the blows.But after a few punches, he let his hands fall to his side.The man, who turned out to be an American Nazi Partymember, continued to flail.The integrated audience at first thought the wholething was staged, a mock demonstration of King’s nonviolent philosophy in action. But as King reeled, and realblood spurted from his face, they began to realize it wasno act. Finally, several SCLC members rushed the stageto stop the attack.But they stopped short when King shouted, “Don’ttouch him! Don’t touch him! We have to pray for him.”The SCLC men pulled the Nazi off King, who was beatenso badly he couldn’t continue the speech.Precisely because the attack wasn’t staged, it left animmense impression on the convention attendees, andanyone else who heard about it in the coming days. King© 2017, Constitutional Rights Foundation, Los Angeles. All Constitutional Rights Foundation materials and publications, including Bill of Rights in Action, are protected by copyright. However, we hereby grant to all recipients alicense to reproduce all material contained herein for distribution to students, other school site personnel, and district administrators. (ISSN: 1534-9799)SUMMER 2017 Volume 32 No4CHALLENGING IDEASThis edition of Bill of Rights in Action focuses on ideas that provoke change. The first article traces the development of MartinLuther King, Jr.’s nonviolent philosophy in the civil rights movement. The second article reviews political and economic changesin Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War. The third article analyzes conflicts over free speech on today’s college campuses.U.S. History: Martin Luther King and the Philosophy of Nonviolence by guest writer and New York Times deputy op-ed editorClay RisenWorld History: Vietnam Today by longtime contributor Carlton MartzU.S. Government/Current Issues: Free Speech on Campus: Trigger Warnings, Safe Spaces, and Controversial Speech at U.S.Colleges by guest writer Aimée Koeplin, CommonsBill of Rights in ActionMARTIN LUTHER KINGANDTHE PHILOSOPHY OF NONVIOLENCEMartin Luther King, Jr. addressing the crowd of about 250,000 people at the March on Washington in August 1963.BRIA 32:4 (Summer 2017) U.S. HISTORY 2hadn’t been just preaching nonviolence; confronted,without warning, by racist violence, he lived it, even atgreat risk to himself.King did not invent nonviolence as a doctrine forachieving social justice. But he adapted it for an American context, and showed how compelling yet flexible itcould be.Influences on King’s NonviolenceKing’s earliest exposure to the ideas that wouldcoalesce in his nonviolent philosophy occurred whenhe was an undergraduate at Morehouse College, in Atlanta. He read Henry David Thoreau’s “Essay on CivilDisobedience,” which outlined the idea of resisting anunjust government through nonviolent resistance, several times. And yet he had a hard time seeing howThoreau’s highly intellectual New England mentalitycould provide much of a model for the problem ofblacks in the American South, where lynching andplain murder were common fates for African Americans who challenged white supremacy.King continued his academic studies, and his personal research into nonviolence, at Pennsylvania’sCrozier Theological Seminary, where he began his graduate studies in 1948. There he read deeply the growingliterature around Christianity as a social movement,which placed the demands of political and economicjustice at the heart of a Christian’s religious calling.But it was not until he began to study the life andworks of Mahatma Gandhi that he began to see the possibility of applying nonviolence to the specific problemsof African Americans, especially in the South. As helater told it, in Philadelphia he listened to a sermon bythe president of Howard University, Mordecai Johnson,who spoke at length about the teachings and actions ofGandhi, and in particular his use of nonviolent massprotest to challenge British control over India. King leftthe sermon transfixed.Though Gandhi was Hindu, King saw immediatelythe similarity with the teachings of Jesus Christ, and thepossibility of applying Gandhian nonviolence in an American and Christian context. King had struggled to see howthe lessons of the New Testament could be useful in thestruggle for racial justice. “Prior to reading Gandhi, I hadabout concluded that the ethics of Jesus were only effective in individual relationship,” he wrote. “But after reading Gandhi, I saw how utterly mistaken I was.”Would Nonviolence Work?For King, the heart of Gandhi’s nonviolence waslove, in the spiritual, transcendent form of the word. Inthe face of coercive, racist British rule, Gandhi so lovedhis oppressors that he refused to take up arms againstthem. But Gandhi was not without his critics. Some observers said he was lucky that the British were the onesdoing the oppressing and questioned whether the Nazis– or racist American whites – would have allowed similar flouting of the law, however nonviolent. King waswilling to take a chance that, at least in America, theanswer was yes.King also had to deal with another criticism. Some,like the theologian Reinhold Neibuhr, said that nonviolence too often became a way of sealing off one’s moralsuperiority, of accepting suffering at the hands of one’soppressors as a form of soul-cleansing, while losingsight of the goal of social justice. “All too many had anunwarranted optimism concerning man and leaned unconsciously toward self-righteousness,” King wrote. Itwas a point he took to heart – and it was one reason, hesaid, “why I never joined a pacifist organization.”But nonviolence, he argued, was anything but passive. “Nonviolent resistance is not a method of cowardice,” he said. “It does resist. It is not a method ofstagnant passivity and deadening complacency. Thenonviolent resister is just as opposed to the evil that heis standing against as the violent resister but he resistswithout violence.”What did King mean by nonviolence? It was notmerely the refusal to hit back, an insistence on turning the other cheek. It was, in its own way, aggressive. It meant putting oneself in the face of violence,of actively confronting it and, responding with love tothe jabs and punches.It also meant organizing thousands across the Southin specific mass actions that would force face-to-face encounters with white, racist power. Doing so, Kingtaught, would demonstrate both the impotence of whiteviolence and show the country that the black community was not afraid to insist on its rights. For King, responding to violence in kind would show the weaknessof the black community, not its strength.Nonviolence would also strengthen the activistcommunity through shared suffering and struggle.Wikimedia CommonsMahatma Gandhi was a major leader of the movement for Indianindependence from Great Britain from 1915 until 1947, when Britaingranted independence. His nonviolent philosophy was a central influence on Martin Luther King.This experience would expand outward to encompassthe black community broadly and, King hoped, allAmericans in what he called “the beloved community.”Of course, King also understood the practical reasons for nonviolence. Given that blacks were a minority, and that Southern whites often had the power of thelocal and state police behind them, violence was a deadend. Even demonstrating the possibility of a violent response would elicit a massive backlash, potentially destroying the civil rights movement. And it would negatewhatever good will the movement was building in thenational community, and especially in Washington,where King and other leaders hoped to see federal civilrights legislation.Testing NonviolenceKing’s first foray into nonviolent protest was withthe Montgomery bus boycott, which began in 1955when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a whiteperson while riding home from work. She was arrested,leading to an organized effort by Montgomery blacks toavoid riding the bus system, relying instead on carpools.The boycott was a classic Gandhianmove: a demonstration of economic independence as a way of eliciting concessions from the white establishment.It was also classic King: intricately organized, well-publicized, and while noble in itself, also leading in alengthy negotiation with the local white political establishment to desegregate the bus service. And it worked.It would be several years before King’s next majoraction, but already others followed his model. The 1961Freedom Riders, who traveled across the Deep South ondesegregated interstate buses, demonstrated King’shighest ideal when they reached Montgomery, Alabama,where a mob of angry whites attacked and beat themsavagely. Not a single rider, black or white, hit back.Meanwhile, King was leading seminars and workshops on nonviolence. While King was trying to build amass movement, he also was preparing a vanguard of experts in nonviolence who could walk in the front ofmarches and absorb the brunt of any assault. They alsocould do their own training in seminars across the South.Perhaps the most noteworthy trainee to come out ofKing’s workshops was John Lewis. Lewis was a youngseminarian who became a leading activist in Nashville,participated in the Freedom Rides, spoke at the 1963March on Washington and, most famously, was beatenseverely in the so-called bloody Sunday incident inSelma, Alabama, in 1965.From Birmingham to D.C.As the ranks of the Southern civil rights movementgrew, King began to set his sights higher. Nonviolent proteston a large enough scale would overwhelm any possible response. Police could arrest several dozen marchers, but notseveral thousand. In late spring 1963, King decided to focuson organizing a boycott by black shoppers of the downtown retailers in Birmingham, Alabama, calling for integration of the city’s shops and restaurants.When talks between King’s SCLC, the city government, and local business leaders faltered, King organized hundreds of school children to march throughdowntown Birmingham, despite not having a permit.The city police and fire departments, under the command of Theophilus “Bull” Connor, met them with dogsand fire hoses. The water pressure was so high itstripped the clothes off the children’s backs. Those whodidn’t turn around were arrested.King and his associates had trained the students innonviolence, however, and not a single one struck out.Images from Birmingham appeared in newspapers andon evening news programs around the world. Not onlydid the protests force the city’s leaders to reach a compromise with King and the SCLC, but the fear of moreincidents such as the one in Birmingham spurred President Kennedy(and later President Lyndon Johnson) to push for the landmark 1964Civil Rights Act, ending segregationacross the South.King followed up on his success in Birmingham withthe August 1963 March on Washington. Despite widespread fears of violence, the march of a quarter of a million people who came to the city to hear King, Lewis, andother civil rights leaders speak was entirely peaceful, ademonstration that Birmingham was no fluke and thatnonviolence could indeed become a mass movement.From Selma to ChicagoPerhaps the most powerful moment in the civilrights movement came a little over a year later, in early1965, when King and Lewis joined local leaders JamesBevel and Amelia Boynton in organizing a march fromSelma, Alabama, to Montgomery. The march wouldprotest the lack of voting rights protections in the South.King was unable to join the protesters when theyfirst set off on Sunday, March 7, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, headed east out of town. As they reached thefar side, they were met by dozens of state troopers. Theypressed on and the officers set on them, raining downbilly clubs and boot kicks. Lewis had his head split open.Eventually the marchers fled back over the bridge. Thisincident became known as “bloody Sunday.”King arrived to lead a second march three days laterbut turned back at the last minute, fearing a trap. Finally,with federal protection, the peaceful march set off onMarch 21 and reached Montgomery three days later. ThatBRIA 32:4 (Summer 2017) U.S. HISTORY 3Nonviolence,Kingargued,was anythingbut passive.4 U.S. HISTORY BRIA 32:4 (Summer 2017)summer, with images of bloody Sunday still fresh in thenation’s mind, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act.As a philosophy, nonviolence was unassailable. Asa tactic, it worked well in the context of an embattledSouth, where national attention focused on the shrinking hard core of white racists who refused to giveground to the civil rights movement.But nonviolence proved less effective as King tried totake his movement national. In 1966, he launched theChicago campaign, a combination of marches and education intended to highlight the entrenched, but complex,racial disparities in the Windy City. The marchers againencountered white racists who shouted epithets at them,but many Northern whites saw racial disparities as merelythe unfortunate outcome of economic disparities. Markets,not men, were to blame, and they refused to see the moralappeal behind King’s nonviolent activism.At the same time, while King dominated the civilrights story in the media during the late 1950s and early1960s, other leaders and other factions of the movementwere often just as active in demanding change but significantly less committed to nonviolence. As the 1960sprogressed, these groups, especially the next generationemerging from college, began to gain prominence by taking a more aggressive, even violent stance, embracingarmed self-defense complete with automatic weapons.King disparaged these activists, like StokelyCarmichael and H. Rap Brown, as immature and unsophisticated. But he could see as well as anyone the diminishing appeal of nonviolence in a country whereviolence was spreading both at home and in the Vietnam War. Indeed, Brown memorably argued that “violence is necessary. It’s as American as cherry pie.”From Memphis to TodayKing’s last attempt at a nonviolent movement camein Memphis in 1968, where a garbage workers’ strikewas dragging on. In late March, King arrived in the cityto lead a protest march, but he couldn’t control it. Hoodlums on the edges of the march began shattering windows, and the police moved in. Dozens were injured,and one boy was killed.King returned to the city a few days later to tryagain, hoping that success in Memphis could illustratethe continued power of nonviolence. Instead, on theearly evening of April 4, 1968, he was shot and killed byJames Earl Ray, a white drifter, while standing on thebalcony of the Lorraine Motel.In the days that followed, riots broke out in morethan 100 cities across America; scores were killed andthousands injured; and active-duty military forcesoccupied Washington, Baltimore, and Chicago. Asskeptics noted, it was a very violent end to the life of aproponent of nonviolence.Despite his violent end, nonviolent protest did notdie with King. In fact, protest movements have adoptedit time and again in America and around the world –the gay rights movement, the Solidarity trade union inPoland, the Green Revolution in Iran, and recent demonstrations throughout the U.S. (such as Occupy WallStreet and the Women’s March on Washington). Not allof them have referenced King specifically. But that’s allthe more to his credit: Their reliance on the philosophyof nonviolence as the cornerstone of protest politics isthe greatest tribute that the world could give to MartinLuther King, Jr.WRITING & DISCUSSION1. What did the violent incident with the American Naziin 1962 reveal about Martin Luther King’s philosophy? What did it reveal about his character?2. Describe the influences on Martin Luther King’s philosophy of nonviolence. How did he interpret thoseinfluences in an American context?3. How was King’s philosophy of nonviolence morethan just an “absence of violence”? Use examplesfrom the article.4. What do you think was the greatest success of thecivil rights movement described in the article. Howdid King’s philosophy of nonviolence play a part inits success?The class is a group of civil rights protesters planningan action in a Southern town in 1962 calling for desegregation of a local lunch counter. Divide studentsinto groups of four. Each group will discuss and thenanswer the following questions:A. What is the best method to protest? (Choices include: sitting at the lunch counter without moving (a sit-in), marching down the center of thetown, boycotting the lunch counter, starting apetition to deliver to the owner of the lunchcounter, etc.)B. What sort of response do they expect from theowners and authorities?C. Who are some local allies they can engage with?D. What is the best way to publicize the action?E. What sort of training is necessary?After answering the questions, each group’sspokesperson will share:• The method of protest his or her group chose,and• Reasons for the choice (incorporating answersto the questions as part of the rationale).MARTIN LUTHER KING FJ ®PLAYBOY INTERVIEW:a candid conversation with the nobel prize-winning leader of the civil rights movementOn December 5, 1955, to the amusedannoyance of the white citizens of Montgornery, Alabama, an obscure youngBaptist minister named Martin LutherKing, ]1-., called a city-wide Negro boycolt of its segregated bus system. Tothei1· constemation, however, it was almost 100 pe1·cent successful; it lasted for381 days and nearly bankrupted thebus line. When King's home wasbombed dming the siege, thousands ofenraged Negroes wae ready to riot,but the soft-spoken clergyman prevailedon them to channel their anger intononviolent protest-and became world·1·enowned as a champion of Gandhi'sphilosophy of passive resistance. Withina year the Supreme Court had ruled jimCrow seating unlawful on JVI.on tgomery'sbuses, and King found himself, at 27, onthe front lines of a nonviolent Negrorevolution against mcial injustice.Moving to Atlanta, he formed theSouthern ChTistian Leadership Conference, an alliance of chuTCh-affiliated civilrights oTganizations which joined suchactivist gToups as CORE and SNCC in awidening campaign of sit-in demonstrations and freedom rides throughout theSouth. Dissatisfied with the slow pace ofthe protest movement, King decided tocreate a c1·isis in 1963 that would " dramatize the Negro plight and galvanizethe national conscience." He was abundantly successful, for his mass nonviolent demonstmtion in arch-segregationistBi1·mingham resulted in · the arrest ofmoTe than 3300 Negroes, including King"Measures must be taken at the· Federallevel to wrb the reign of terror in theSouth. It's getting so anybody can kill aNegro and get away with it, as long asthey go through the motions of a trial."himself; and millions were outraged byfront-page pictures of Negro demonstrators being brutalized by the billy sticks,police dogs and fire hoses of police chiefBull Connor.In the months that followed, mass sitins and demonstrations erupted in 800Southern cities; Presiden t Kennedy proposed a Civil Rights Bill aimed at theenforcement of voting rights, equal employment opportunities, and the desegregation of public facilities; and thenow-famous march on Washington, 200,-000 strong, was eloquently addressed byKing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. By the end of that "long hot summer," Ame1·ica's Negroes had won moretangible gains than in any year since1865-and Mm·tin Luther King had become their aclmowledged leader andmost respected spokesman.He earned it the hard way: In thecourse of his civil rights work he hasbeen jailed 14 times and stabbed once inthe chest; his home has been bombedthree times; and his daily mail brings asteady flow of death threats and obscenities. Undeterred, he works 20 hours aday, travels 325,000 miles anrl'makes 450speeches a year throughout the countryon behalf of the Negro cause. 1mmdatedby calls, callers and correspondence athis S.C. L. C. office in Atlanta, he alsofinds time somehow to preach, visit thesick and help th e poor among his congregation at the city's Ebeneza BaptistChurch, of which he and his father arethe pastors."I'm getting sicli and tired of people saying that this movement has been infiltrated by Communists. There are as manyCommunists in this freedom movementas there are Eskimos in Florida."Reprinted from the January 1965 issue of PLAYBOY@1 965 HM H Publishing Co., Inc.So heavy, in fact, were his commitments when we called him last summerfor an interview, that two monthselapsed before he was able to accept Ottrrequest for an appointment. We kept it-only to spend a week in Atlanta waiting vainly for him to find a moment formore than an apology and a hun·iedhandshal<e: A bit less pressed when we1·etumed for a second visit, King wasfinally able to sandwich in a series ofhour and half-hour conversations withus among the other demands of a grueling week. The resultant interview isthe longest he has ever granted to anypublication.Though he spoke with heartfelt andoften eloqu ent sincerity, his tone wasone of bwinesslike detachment. And hismood, except for one or two flickeringsmiles of irony, was gravely se1·ious-never more so than the moment, during arare evening with his family on our firstnight in town, when his four childrenchided him affectionately for "not beinghome enough." After dinner, we beganthe interview on this per-sonal note.PLAYBOY: Dr. King, are your childrenold enough to be aware of the issues atstake in the civil rights movement, andof your role in it?KING: Yes, they are-especially my oldest child, Yolanda. Two years ago, I remember, I returned home after servingone of my terms in the Albany, Georgia,jail, and she asked me, "Daddy, why do"The Nobel award Tecognizes the amazing discipline of the Negro. Though wehave had 1·iots, the bloodshed we wouldhave lin own without the discipline of nonviolence would have been frightening."you have to go to jail so much?" I toldher that I was involved in a struggle tomake conditions better for the coloredpeople, and thus for all people. I explained that because things are as theyare, someone has to take a stand, that itis necessary for someone to go to jail, because many Southern officials seek tomaintain the barriers that have historically been erected to exclude the coloredpeople. I tried to make her understandthat someone had to do this to make theworld better-for all children. She wasonly six at that time, but she was alreadyaware of segregation because of an experience that we had had.PLAYBOY: Would you mind telling usabout it?KING: Not at all. The family often usedto ride with me to the Atlanta airport,and on our way, we always passed Funtown, a sort of miniature Disneylandwith mechanical rides and that sort ofthing. Yolanda would inevitably say, "Iwant to go to Funtown," and I wouldalways evade a direct reply. I reallydidn't know how to explain to her whyshe couldn't go. Then one day at home,she ran downstairs exclaiming that a TVcommercial was urging people to cometo Funtown. Then my wife and I had tosit down with her between us and try toexplain it. I have won some applause asa speaker, but my tongue twisted a'nd myspeech stammered seeking to explain tomy six-year-old daughter why the publicinvitation on television didn't includeher, and others like her. Dne of the mostpainful experiences I have ever facedwas to see her tears when I told her thatFuntown was closed to colored children,for I realized that at that moment thefirst dark cloud of inferiority had floatedinto her little mental sky, that at thatmoment her personality had begun towarp with that-first unconscious bitterness toward white people. It was the firsttime that prejudice based upon skin color had been explained to her. But it wasof paramount importance to me that shenot grow up bitter. So I told her that although many white people were againsther going to Funtown, there were manyothers who did want colored children togo. It helped somewhat. Pleasantly, wordcame to me later that Funtown hadquietly desegregated, so I took Yolanda.A number of white persons there asked,"Aren't. you Dr. King, and isn't this yourdaughter?" I said we were, and she heardthem say how glad they were to see usthere.PLAYBOY: As one who grew up in theeconomically comfortable, socially insulated Environment of a middle-incomehome in Atlanta, can you recall when itwas that you yourself first became painfully and personally aware of racial prejudice?KING: Very clearly. When I was 14, Ihad traveled from Atlanta to Dublin,Georgia, with a dear teacher of mine,Mrs. Bradley; she's dead now. I had participated there in an oratorical contestsponsored by the Negro Elks. It turnedout to be a memorable day, for I hadsucceeded in winning the contest. Mysubject, I recall, ironically enough, was"The Negro and the Constitution." Anyway, that night, Mrs. Bradley and I wereon a bus returning to Atlanta, and at asmall town along the way, some whitepassengers boarded the bus, and thewhite driver ordered us to get up and.give the whites our seats. We didn'tmove quickly enough to suit him, so hebegan cursing us, calling us "black sonsof bitches." I intended to stay right inthat scat, but Mrs. Bradley finally urgedme up, saying we had to obey the law.And so we stood up in the aisle for the90 miles to Atlanta. That night will never leave my memory. It was the angriestI have ever been in my life.PLAYBOY: Wasn't it another such incident on a bus, years later, that thrustyou into your present role as a civilrights leader?KING: Yes, it was-in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. E. D. Nixon, a Pullmanporter long identified with the NAACP,telephoned me late one night to tell methat Mrs. Rosa Parks had been arrestedaround seven-thirty that evening when abus driver demanded that she give up herseat, and she refused-because her feethurt. Nixon had already bonded Mrs.Parks out of prison. He said, "It's timethis stops; we ought to boycott thebuses." I agreed and said, "Now." Thenext night we called a meeting of Negrocommunity leaders to discuss it, and onSaturday and Sunday we appealed to theNegro community, with leaflets andfrom the pulpits, to boycott the buseson Monday. We had in mind a one-dayboycott, and we were banking on 60-percent success. But the boycott saw instantaneous 99-percent success. We were sopleasantly surprised and impressed thatwe continued, and for the next 381 daysthe boycott of Montgomery's buses byNegroes was 991YJ 0 successful.PLAYBOY: Were you sure you'd win?KING: There was one dark momentwhen we doubted it. We had been struggling to make the boycott a successwhen the city of Montgomery successfully obtained an injunction from thecourt to stop our car pool. I didn'tknow what to say to our people. Theyhad backed us up, and we had let themdown. It was a desolate moment. I saw,all of us saw, that the court was leaningagainst us. I remember telling a group ofthose working closest with me to spreadin the Negro community the message,"We must have the faith that things willwork out somehow, that God will makea way for us when there seems no way."It was about noontime, I remember,when Rex Thomas of the AssociatedPress rushed over to where I was sittingand told me of the news flash that theU. S. Supreme Court had declared thatbus segregation in Montgomery was unconstitutional. It had literally been thedarkest hour before the dawn.PLAYBOY: You and your followers werecriticized, after your arrest for participating in the boycott, for accepting bailand leaving jail. Do you feel, in retrospect, that you did the right thing?KING: No; I think it was a mistake, atactical error for me to have left jail, byaccepting bail, after being indictedalong with 125 others, mainly drivers ofour car pool, under an old law of doubtful constitutionality, an "antiboycott"ordinance. I should have stayed in prison. It would have nationally dramatized and deepened our movementeven earlier, and it would have morequickly aroused and keened America'sconscience.PLAYBOY: Do you feel you've been guiltyof any comparable errors in judgmentsince then?KING: Yes, I do-in Albany, Georgia,in 1962. If I had that to do again, Iwould guide that community's Negroleadership differently than I did. Themistake I made there was to protestagainst segregation generally rather thanagainst a single and distinct facet of it.Our protest was so vague that we gotnothing, and the people were left verydepressed and in despair. It would havebeen much better to have concentratedupon integrating the buses or the lunchcounters. One victory of this kind wouldhave been symbolic, would have galvanized support and boosted morale. But Idon't mean that our work in Albanyended in failure. The Negro peoplethere straightened up their bent backs;you can't ride a man's back unless it'sbent. Also, thousands of Negroes registered to vote who never had votedbefore, and because of the expandedNegro vote in the next election lorgovernor of Georgia-which pitted amoderate candidate against a raoffer segregationist-Georgia elected its first governor who had pledged to respect andenforce the law impartially. And whatwe learned from our mistakes in Albanyhelped our later campaigns in othercities to be more effective. We havenever since scattered our efforts in a general attack on segregation, but have focused upon specific, symbolic objectives.PLAYBOY: Can you recall any othermistakes you've made in leading themovement?KING: Well, the most pervasive mistakeI have made was in believing that because our cause was just, we could besure that the white ministers of theSouth, once their Christian conscienceswere challenged, would rise to our aid. Ifelt that white ministers would take ourcause to the white power structures. Iended up, of course, chastened and disillusioned. As our movement unfolded,ami cl:rect appeals were made to whiteministers, most folded their hands--andsome even took stands against us.PLAYBOY: Their stated reason for refusing to help was that it was not theproper role of the church to "intervenein secular affairs." Do you disagree withthis view?KING: Most emphatically. The essenceof the Epistles of Paul is that Christians should rejoice at being deemedworthy to suffer for: what they believe.The projection of a soci al gospel, in myopinion, is the true witness of a Christian life. This is the meaning of the trueekklesia-the inner, spiritual church.The church once changed society. It wasthen a thermostat of society. But today Ifeel that too much of the church is merely a thermometer, which measures ratherthan molds popular opinion.PLAYBOY: Are you speaking of thechurch in general-or the white churchin particular?KING: The white church, I'm sorry tosay. Its leadership has greatly disappointed me. Let me h asten to say there aresome outstanding exceptions. As onewhose Christian roots go back throughthree generations of ministers-my father, grandfather and great-grandfather-I will remain true to the church aslong as I live. But the laxity of the whitechurch collectively has caused me toweep tears of love. There cannot bedeep disappointment without deep love.Time and again in my travels, as I haveseen the outward beauty of whitechurches, I have had to ask myself,"What kind of people worship there?Who is their God? Is their God the Godof Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and istheir Savior the Savior who hung on thecross a t Golgotha? Where were theirvoices when a black race took upon itselfthe cross of protest against man's injustice to man? Where were their voiceswhen defiance and hatred were calledfor by white men who sat in these verychurches?"As the Negro struggles against graveinjustice, most white churchmen offerpious irrelevancies and sanctimonioustrivialities. As you say, they claim thatthe gospel of Christ should have noconcern with social issues. Yet whitechurchgoers, who insist that they areChristians, practice segregation as rigidlyin the house of God as they do in moviehouses. Too much of the white church istimid and ineffectual, and some of it isshrill in its defense of bigotry and prejudice. In most communities, the spirit ofstatus quo is endorsed by the churches.i\ly personal disillusionment with thechurch began when I was thrust into theleadership of the bus protest in Montgomery. I was confident that the whiteministers, priests and rabbis of the Southwould prove strong allies in our justcause. But some became open adversaries, some cautiously shrank from the issue, and others hid behind silence. Myoptimism about help from the whitechurch was shattered; and on too manyoccasions since, my hopes for the whitechurch have been dashed. There aremany signs th at the judgment of God isupon the church as never before. Unlessthe early sacrificial spirit is recaptured, Iam very much afraid that today's Christian church will lose its authenticity, for·feit t-he loyalty of millions, and we willsee the Christian church dismissed as asocial club with no meaning or effectiveness for our time, as a form without substance, as salt without savor. The realtragedy, though, is not Martin LutherKing's disillusionment with the churchfor I am sustained by its spiritual blessings as a minister of the gospel with alifelong commitment; the tragedy is thatin my travels, I meet young people of allraces whose disenchantment with thechurch has soured into outright disgust.PLAYBOY: Do you feel that the Negrochurch has come any closer to "the projection of a social gospel" in its commitment to the cause?KING: I must say that when my Southern Christian Leadership Conferencebegan its work in Birmingham, we encountered numerous Negro church reactions that had to be overcome. Negroministers were among other Negroleaders who felt they were being pulledinto something that they had not helpedto organize. This is almost always aproblem. Negro community unity wasthe first requisite if our goals were to berealized. I talked with many groups, including one group of 200 ministers, mytheme to them being that a minister cannot preach the glories of heaven whileignoring social conditions in his owncommunity that cause men an earthlyhell. I stressed that the Negro ministerhad particular freedom and independence to provide strong, firm leadership,and I asked how the Negro would evergain freedom without his minister'sguidance, support and inspiration.These ministers finally decided to entrust our movement with their support,and as a result, the role of the Negrochurch today, by and large, is a gloriousexample in the history of Christendom. For never in Christian history,within a Christian country, have Christian churches been on the receiving endof such naked brutality and violence aswe are witnessing here in America today. Not since the days of the Christiansin the catacombs has God's house, as asymbol, weathered such attack as theNegro churches.I shall never forget the grief and bitterness I felt on that terrible Septembermorning when a bomb blew out thelives of those four little, innocent girlssitting in their Sunday-school class in the16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. I think of how a woman cried out,crunching through broken glass, "MyGod, we're not even safe in church!" Ithink of how that explosion blew theface of Jesus Christ from a stained-glasswindow. It was symbolic of how sin andevil had blotted out the life of Christ. Ican remember thinking that if men werethis bestial, was it all worth it? \Vasthere any hope? Was there any way out?PLAYBOY: Do you still feel this way?KING: No, time has healed the wounds-and buoyed me with the inspiration ofanother moment which I shall never forget: when I saw with my own eyes over3000 young Negro boys and girls, totally unarmed, leave Birmingham's 16thStreet Baptist Church to march to aprayer meeting-ready to pit nothingbut the power of their bodies andsouls against Bull Connor's police dogs,clubs and fire hoses. When they refused Connor's bellowed order to turnback, he whirled and shouted to his mento turn on the hoses. It was one of themost fantastic events of the Birminghamstory that these Negroes, many of themon their knees, stared, unafraid and unmoving, at Connor's men with the hosenozzles in their hands. Then, slowly theNegroes stood up and advanced, andConnor's lilen fell back as though hypnotized, as the Negroes marched on pastto hold their prayer meeting. I sawthere, I felt there, for the first time, thepride and the power of nonviolence.Another time I will never forget wasone Saturday night, late, when mybrother telephoned me in Atlanta fromBirmingham-that city which some call"Bombingham"-which I had just left.He told me that a bomb had wrecked hishome, and that another bomb, positioned to exert its maximum force · uponthe motel room in which I had beenstaying, had injured several people. l\fybrother described the terror in thestreets as Negroes, furious at the bombings, fought whites. Then, . behind hisvoice, I heard a rising chorus of beautiful singing: "We shall overcome." Tearscame into my eyes that at such a tragicmoment, my race still could sing .its hopeand faith .PLAYBOY: We Shall Overcome has become the unofficial song and slogan ofthe civil rights movement. Do you consider such inspirational anthems important to morale?KING: In a sense, songs are the soul ofa movement. Consider, in World WarTwo, Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition, and in World War One, OverThere and Tipperary, and during theCivil War, Battle Hymn of the Republic and john Brown's Body . A Negro song anthology would include sorrow songs, shouts for joy, battle hymns,anthems. Since slavery, the Negro hassung throughout his struggle in America.Steal Away and Go Down, 1\1.oses werethe songs of faith and inspirationwhich were sung on the plantations.For the same reasons the slaves sang,Negroes today sing freedom songs,for we, too, are in bondage. Wesing out our determination that "Weshall overcome, black and white together, we shalt overcome someday." I shouldalso mention a song parody that I enjoyed very much which the Negroes sangduring our campaign in Albany, Georgia. It goes: ''I'm comin', I'm comin'/And my head ain't bendin' low /I'mwalkin' tall, I'm talkin' strong/I'mAmerica's N ew Black Joe."PLAYBOY: Your detractors in the Negro community often refer to you snidely as "De Lawd" and "Booker T. King."What's your reaction to this sort of Uncle Tom label?KING: I hear some of those names, butmy reaction to them is never emotional.I don't think you can be in public lifewithout being called bad names. As Lincoln said, "If 1 answered all criticism, I'dhave time for nothing else." But withregard to both of the names you mentioned, I've always tried to be what I callmilitantly nonviolent. 1 don't believethat anyone could seriously accuse me ofnot being totally committed to thebreakdown of segregation.PLAYBOY: What do you mean by "militantly nonviolent"?KING: I mean to say that a strong manmust be militant as well as moderate. Hemust be a realist as well as an idealist. IfI am to merit the trust invested in me bysome of my race, I must be both of thesethings. This is why nonviolence is apowerful as well as a just weapon. If youconfront a man who has long been cruelly misusing yp u, and say, "Punish me, ifyou will; I do not deserve it, but I willaccept it, so that the world will know Iam right and you are wrong," then youwield a powerful and a just weapon.This man, your oppressor, is automatically morally defeated, and if he has anyconscience, he is ashamed. Wherever i:hisweapon is used in a manner that stirs acommunity's, or a nation's, anguishedconscience, then the pressure of publicopinion becomes an ally in your justcause.Another of the major strengths of thenonviolent weapon is its strange powerto transform and transmute the individuals who subordinate themselves to itsdisciplines, investing them with a causethat is larger than themselves. They become, for the first time, somebody, andthey have, for the first time, the courageto be free. When the Negro finds thecourage to be free, he faces dogs andguns and clubs and fire hoses totallyunafraid, and the white men with thosedogs, guns, clubs and fire hoses see thatthe Negro they have traditionally called"boy" has become a man.We should not forget that, althoughnonviolent direct action did not originate in America, it found a na turalhome where it has been a revered tradition to rebel against injustice. This greatweapon, which we first tried out inMontgomery during the bus boycott, hasbeen further developed throughout theSouth over the past decade, until by today it has become instrumental in thegreatest mass-action crusade for freedomthat has occurred in America since theRevolutionary War. The effectiveness ofthis weapon's ability to dramatize, in theworld's eyes, an oppressed peoples' struggle for justice is evident in the fact thatof 1963's top ten news stories after theassassination of President Kennedy andthe events immediately connected withit, nine stories dealt with one aspect oranother of the Negro struggle.PLAYBOY: Several of those stories dealtwith your own nonviolent campaignsagainst segregation in various Southerncities, where you and your followershave been branded "rabble-rousers" and"outside agitators." Do you feel you'veearned these labels?KING: Wherever the early Christiansappeared, spreading Christ's doctrine oflove, the resident power structure accused them of being "disturbers of thepeace" and "outside agitators." But thesmall Christian band continued to teachand exemplify love, convinced that theywere "a colony of heaven" on this earthwho were missioned to obey not manbut God. If those of us who employ nonviolent direct action today are dismissedby our white brothers as "rabble-rousers"and "outside agitators," if they refuse tosupport our nonviolent efforts and goals,we can be assured that the summer of1965 will be no less long and hot thanthe summer of 1964.Our white brothers must be made tounderstand that nonviolence is a weapon fabricated of love. It is a sword thatheals. Our nonviolent direct-action program has as its objective not the creationof tensions, but the surfacing of tensionsalready present. We set out to precipitate a crisis situation that must open thedoor to negotiation. I am not afraid ofthe words "crisis" and "tension." I deeply oppose violence, but constructive crisis and tension are necessary for growth.Innate in all life, and all growth, is tension. Only in death is there an absenceof tension. To cure injustices, you mustexpose them before the light of humanconscience and the bar of public opinion, regardless of whatever tensions thatexposure generates. Injustices to the Negro must be brought out into the openwhere they cannot be evaded.PLAYBOY: Is this the sole aim of yourSouthern Christian Leadership Conference?KING: We have five aims: first, to stimulate nonviolent, direct, mass action toexpose and remove the barriers of segregation and discrimina tion; second, todisseminate the creative philosophy andtechniques of nonviolence through localand area workshops; third, to secure theright and unhampered use of the ballotfor every citizen; fourth, to achieve fullcitizenship rights, and the total integration of the Negro into Americanlife; and fifth, to reduce the culturallag through our citizenship trainingprogram.PLAYBOY: How does S. C. L. C. select thecities where nonviolent campaigns anddemonstrations are to be staged?KING: The operational area of S. C. L. C.is the entire South, where we have affiliated organizations in some 85 cities. Ourmajor campaigns have been conductedonly in cities where a request for ourhelp comes from one of these affiliate organizations, and only when we feel thatintolerable conditions in that community might be ameliorated with our help. Iwill give you an example. In Birmingham, one of our affiliate organizations isthe Alabama Christian Movement forHuman Rights, which was organized bythe Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, amost energetic and indomitable man. Itwas he who set out to end Birmingham'sracism, challenging the terrorist reign ofBull Connor. S. C. L. C. watched admiringly as the small Shuttlesworth-led organization fought in the Birminghamcourts and with boycotts. Shuttlesworthwas jailed several times, his home andchurch were bombed, and still he did notback down. His defiance of Birmingham's racism inspired and encouragedNegroes throughout the South. Then,at a May 1962 board meeting of theS. C. L. C. in Chattanooga, the first discussions began that later led to ourjoining Shuttlesworth's organization ma massive direct-action campaign toattack Birmingham's segregation.PLAYBOY: One of the highlights of thatcampaign was your celebrated "Letterfrom a Birmingham Jail''-written during one of your jail terms for civil disobedience-an eloquent reply to eightProtestant, Catholic and Jewish clergymen who had criticized your activities inBirmingham. Do you feel that subsequent events have justified the sentiments expressed in your letter?KING: I would say yes. Two or threeimportant and constructive things havehappened which can be at least partiallyattnbuted to that letter. By now, nearlya million copies of the letter have beenwidely circulated in churches of most ofthe major denominations. It helped tofocus greater international attentionupon what was happening in Birmingham. And I am sure that without Birmingham, the march on Washingtonwouldn't have been called-which in mymind was one of the most creative stepsthe Negro struggle has taken. The marchon Washington spurred and galvanizedthe consciences of millions. It gave theAmerican Negro a new national and international stature. The press of theworld recorded the story as nearly aquarter of a million Americans, whiteand black, assembled in grandeur as atestimonial to the Negro's determinationto achieve freedom in this generation.It was also the image of Birminghamwhich, to a great extent, helped to bringthe Civil Rights Bill into being in 1963.Previously, President Kennedy had decided not to propose it that year, feelingthat it would so arouse the South thatit would meet a bottleneck. But Birmingham, and subsequent developments,caused him to reorder his legislativepriorities.One of these decisive developmentswas our last major campaign before theenactment of the Civil Rights Act-inSt .. Augustine, Florida. We received aplea for help from Dr. Robert Hayling,the leader of the St. Augustine movement. St. Augustine, America's oldestcity, and one of the most segregatedcities in America, was a stronghold ofthe Ku Klux Klan and the John BirchSociety. Such things had happened asKlansmen abducting four Negroes andbeating them unconscious with clubs,brass knuckles, ax handles and· pistolbutts. Dr. Hayling's home had been shotup with buckshot, three Negro homeshad been bombed and several Negronight clubs shotgunned. A Negro's carhad been destroyed by fire because hischild was one of the six Negro childrenpermitted to attend white schools. Andthe homes of two of the Negro childrenin the white schools had been burneddown. Many Negroes had been firedfrom jobs that some had worked on for28 years because they were somehowconnected with the demonstrations. Police had beaten and arrested Negroes forpicketing, marching and singing freedom songs. Many Negroes had served upto 90 days in jail for demonstratingagainst segregation, and four teenagershad spent six months in jail for picketing. Then, on 'February seventh of lastyear, Dr. Hay}ing's home was shotgunned a second time, with his pregnantwife and two children barely escapingdeath; the family dog was killed whilestanding behind the living-room door.So S. C. L. C. decided to join in lastyear's celebration of St. Augustine'sgala 400th birthday as America's oldestcity-by converting it into a nonviolentbattleground. This is just what we did.PLAYBOY: But isn't it true, Dr. King,that during this and other "nonviolent"demonstrations, violence has occurredsometimes resulting in hundreds of casualties on both sides?KING: Yes, in part that is true. But whatis always overlooked is how few people,in ratio to the numbers involved, havebeen casualties. An army on maneuvers,against no enemy, suffers casualties, evenfatalities. A minimum of whites havebeen casualties in demonstrations solelybecause our teaching of nonviolence disciplines our followers not to fight even ifattacked. A minimum of Negroes arecasualties for two reasons: Their whiteoppressors know tha t the world watchestheir actions, and for the first time theyare being faced by Negroes who displayno fear.PLAYBOY: It was shortly after your St.Augustine campaign last summer, as youmentioned, that the Civil Rights Billwas passed-outlawing many of the injustices against which you had beendemonstrating. Throughout the South,predictably, it was promptly anathematized as unconstitutional and excessiveh:~ its concessions to Negro demands.How do you feel about it?KING: I don't feel that the Civil RightsAct has gone far enough in some of itscoverage. In the first place, it needs astronger voting section. You will neverhave a true democracy until you caneliminate all restrictions. We need to doaway with restrictive literacy tests. I'veseen too much of native intelligence toaccept the validity of these tests as a ~riterion for voting qualifications. Our nation needs a universal method of voterregistration-one man, one vote, literally. Second, there is a pressing, urgentneed to give the attorney general theright to initi ate Federal suits in any areaof civil rights denial. Third, we need astrong and strongly enforced fair-housing section such as many states alreadyhave. President Kennedy initiated thepresent housing law, but it is not broadenough. Fourth, we need an extensionof FEPC to grapple more effectivelywith the problems of poverty. Not onlyare millions of Negroes caught in theclutches of poverty, but millions of poorwhites as well. And fifth, conclusive andeffective measures must be taken immediately at the Federal level to curbthe worsening reign of terror in theSouth-which is aided and abetted, aseveryone knows, by state and local lawenforcement agencies. It's getting so thatanybody can kill a Negro and get awaywith it in the South, as long as they gothrough the motions of a jury ".rial.There is very little chance of convictionfrom lily-white Southern jurors. It mustbe fixed so that in the case of interracialmurder, the Federal Government canprosecute.PLAYBOY: Your dissatisfaction with theCivil Rights Act reflects that of mostother Negro spokesmen. According to recent polls, however, many whites resentthis attitude, calling the Negro "ungrateful" and "unrealistic" to press his demands for more.KING: This is a litany to those of us inthis field. "What more will the Negrowant?" "What will it take to make thestdemonstrations end?" Well, I would likttu reply with another rhetorical question : Why do white people seem to findit so difficult to understand that the Negro is sick and tired of having reluctantly parceled out to him those rights andprivileges which all others receive uponbirth or entry in America? I never ceaseto wonder at the amazing presumptionof much of white society, assuming thatthey have the right to bargain with theNegro for his freedom. This continuedarrogant ladling out of pieces of therights of citizenship has begun to generate a fury in the Negro. Even so, he isnot pressing for revenge, or for conquest, or to gain spoils, or to ensla,·e, oreven to marry the sisters of those whohave injured him. What the Negrowants-and will not stop until he getsis absolute and unqualified freedom andequality here in this land of his birth,and not in Africa or in some imaginarystate. The Negro no longer will be tolerant of anything less than his due right;md heritage. He is pursuing only thatwhich he knows is honorably his. Heknows that he is right.But every Negro leader since the turnof the century has been saying this inone form or another. It is because wehaYe been so long and so conscientiouslyignored by the dominant white societythat the situation has now reached suchcrisis proportions. Few white people,even today, will face the clear fact thatthe very future and destiny of this country are tied up in what answer will begiven to the Negro. And that answermust be gi,·en soon.PLAYBOY: Relatively few dispute the justness of the struggle to eradicate racial injustice, but many whites feel that theNegro should be more patient, th;tt onlythe passage of time-perhaps generations-will bring about the sweepingchanges he demands in traditional attitudes and customs. Do you think this istrue?KING: No, I do not. I feel that the timeis always right to do what is right.Where progress for the Negro in America is concerned, there is a tragic misconception of time among whites. Theyseem to cherish a strange, irrational notion that something in the ,·ery How oftime will cure all ills. In truth, time itself is only neutral. Increasingly, 1 feelthat time has been used destructively bypeople of ill will much more than it hasbeen used constructively by those ofgood will.If I were to select a timetable for theequalization of human rights, it wouldbe the intent of the "all deliberatespeed" specified in the historic 1954 Supreme Court decision. But what hashappened? A Supreme Court decisionwas met, and balked, with utter defiance. Ten years later, in most areasof the South, less than one percent ofthe Negro children ha,·e been integrated in schools, and in · some of thedeepest South, not e\·en one tenth ofone percent. Approximately 25 percentof employable Negro youth, for anotherexample, are presently unemployed.Though many would prefer not to, wemust face the fact that progress for theNegro--to which white "moderates" liketo point in justifying gradualism-hasbeen relatively insignificant, particularlyin terms of the Negro masses. What littleprogress has been made-and that includes the Civil Rights Act-has appliedprimarily to the middle-class Negro.Among the masses, especially in theNorthern ghettos, the situation remainsabout the same, and for some it is worse.PLAYBOY: It would seem that muchcould be done at the local, state andFederal levels to remedy these inequities. In your own contact with them,have you found Government officials--inthe North, if not in the South-to begenerally sympathetic, understanding,and receptive to appeals for reform?KING: On the contrary, I have been dismayed at the degree to which abysmalignorance seems to prevail among manystate, city and even Federal officials onthe whole question of racial justice andinjustice. Particularly, I have found thatthese men seriously-and dangerouslyunderestimate the explosive mood of theNegro and the gravity of the crisis. Evenamong those whom I would consider tobe both sympathetic and sincerely intellectually committed, there is a lamentable lack of understanding. But this whitefailure to comprehend the depth and dimension of the · Negro problem is farfrom being peculiar to Governmentofficials. Apart from bigots and backlashers, it seems to be a malady even amongthose whites who like to regard themselves as "enlightened." I would especially refer to those who counsel, "Wait!"and to those who say that they sympathize with our goals but cannot condoneour methods of direct-action pursuit ofthose goals. I wonder at men who dareto feel that they have some paternalisticright to set the timetable for anotherman's liberation. Over the past severalyears, I must s<;ty. I have been gravely disappointed with such white "moderates."I am often inclined to think that theyare more of a stumbling block to the Negro's progress than the White Citizen'sCounc::iler or the Ku Klux Klanner.PLAYBOY: Haven't both of these segregationist societies been implicated inconnection with plots against your life?KING: It's difficult to trace the authorship of these death threats. I seldom gothrough a day without one. Some are telephoned anonymously to my office; others are sent-unsigned, of coursethrough the mails. Drew Pearson wrotenot long ago about one group of unknown affiliation that was committed toassassinate not only me but also ChiefJustice Warren and President Johnson.And not long ago, when I was about tovisit in Mississippi, I received some veryurgent calls from Negro leaders in Mobile, who had been told by a very reliable source that a sort of guerrilla groupled by a retired major in the area of Lucyville, Mississippi, was plotting to takemy life during the visit. I was stronglyurged to cancel the trip, but when Ithought about it, I decided that I had noalternative but to go on into Mississippi.PLAYBOY: Why?KING: Because I have a job to do. If Iwere constantly worried about death, Icouldn't function. After a while, if yourlife is more or less constantly in peril,you come to a point where you acceptthe possibility philosophically. I mustface the fact, as all others in positions ofleadership must do, that America todayis an extremely sick nation, and thatsomething could well happen to me atany time. I feel, though, that my cause isso right, so moral, that if I should losemy life, in some way it would aid thecause.PLAYBOY: That statement exemplifiesthe total dedication to the civil rightsmovement for which you are so widelyadmired-but also denounced as an "extremist" by such segregationist spokesmen as Alabama's Governor Wallace.Do you accept this identification?KING: It disturbed me when I first heardit. But when I began to consider thetrue meaning of the word, I decided thatperhaps I would like to think of myselfas an extremist-in the light of thespirit which made Jesus an extremistfor love. If it sounds as though I amcomparing myself to the Savior, letme remind you that all who honor themselves with the claim of being "Christians" should compare themselves toJesus. Thus I consider myself an extremist for that brotherhood of man whichPaul so nobly expressed: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neitherbond nor free, there is neither male norfemale: for ye are all one in ChristJesus." Love is the only force on earththat can be dispensed or received in anextreme manner, without any qualifications, without any harm to the giver orto the receiver.PLAYBOY: Perhaps. But the kind of extremism for which you've been criticizedhas to do not with love, but with youradvocacy of willful disobedience of whatyou consider to be "unjust laws." Do youfeel you have the right to pass judgmenton and defy the law-nonviolently orotherwise?KING: Yes-morally, if not legally. Forthere are two kinds of laws: man's andGod's. A man-made code that squareswith the moral law, or the law of God, isa just law. But a man-made code that isinharmonious with the moral law is anunjust law. And an unjust law, as St. Augustine said, is no law at all. Thus a lawthat is unjust is morally null and void,and must be defied until it is legally nulland void as well. Let us not forget, inthe memories of 6,000,000 who died, thateverything Adolf Hitler did in Germanywas "legal," and that everything theFreedom Fighters in Hungary did was"illegal." In spite of that, I am sure thatI would have aided and comforted myJewish brothers if I had Jived in Germanyduring Hitler's reign, as some Christianpriests and ministers did do, often at thecost of their lives. And if I lived now ina Communist country where principlesdear to the Christian's faith are suppressed, I know that I would openlyadvocate defiance of that country's antireligious laws--again, just as some Christian priests and ministers are doing todaybehind the .Iron Curtain. Right here inAmerica today there are white ministers,priests and rabbis who have shed bloodin the support of our struggle against aweb of human injustice, much of whichis supported by immoral man-made laws.PLAYBOY: Segregation laws?KING: Specifically, court mJunctions.Though the rights of the First Amendment guarantee that any citizen orgroup of citizens may engage in peaceable assembly, the South has seized uponthe device of invoking injunctions toblock our direct-action civil rights demonstrations. \Vhen you get set to stage anonviolent demonstration, the city simply secures an injunction to cease anddesist. Southern courts are well knownfor "sitting on" this type of case; conceivably a two- or three-year delay could beincurred. At first we found this to be ahighly effective subterfuge against us.\Ve first experienced it in Montgomerywhen, during the bus boycott, our carpool was outlawed by an injunction. Aninjunction also destroyed the protestmovement in Talladega, Alabama. Another injunction outlawed the oldest t:ivil rights organization, the NAACP, fromthe whole state of Alabama. Still anotherinjunction thwarted our organization'sefforts in Albany, Georgia. Then in Birmingham, we felt that we had to take astand and disobey a court injunctionagainst demonstrations, knowing theconsequences and being prepared tomeet them-or the unjust law wouldbreak our movement.We did not take this step hastily orrashly. We gave the matter intensethought and prayer before deciding thatthe right thing was being done. Andwhen we made our decision, I announced our plan to the press, making itclear that we were not anarchists advocating lawlessness, but that in good conscience we could not comply with amisuse of the judicial process in order toperpetuate injustice and segregation.When our plan was made known, itbewildered and immobilized our segregationist opponents. We felt that ourdecision had been morally as well astactically right-in keeping with God'slaw as well as with the spirit of ournonviolent direct-action program.PLAYBOY: If it's morally right for supporters of civil rights to violate segregation laws which they consider unjust,why is it wrong for segregationists to resist the enforcement of integration lawswhich they consider unjust?KING: Because segregation, as even thesegregationists know in their hearts, ismorally wrong and sinful. If it weren't,the white South would not be hauntedas it is by a deep sense of guilt for whatit has done to the Negro-guilt forpatronizing him, degrading him, brutalizing him, depersonalizing him, thingifying him; guilt for lying to itself. This isthe source of the schizophrenia that theSouth will suffer until it goes throughits crisis of conscience.PLAYBOY: Is this crisis imminent?KING: It may not come next week ornext year, but it is certainly more imminent in the South than in the North. Ifthe South is honest with itself, it maywell outdistance the North in the improvement of race relations.PLAYBOY: Why?KING: Well, the Northern white, having had little actual contact with the Negro, is devoted to an abstract principleof cordial interracial relations. TheNorth has long considered, in a theoretical way, that it supported brotherhoodand the equality of man, but the truth isthat deep prejudices and discriminationsexist in hidden and subtle and covertdisguises. The South's prejudice and discrimination, on the other hand, has beenapplied against the Negro in obvious,open, overt and glaring forms-whichmake the problem easier to get at. TheSouthern white man has the advantageof far more actual contact with Negroesthan the Northerner. A major problemis that this contact has been paternalistic and poisoned by the myth of racialsuperiority.PLAYBOY: Many Southern whites, supported by the "research" of severalSouthern anthropologists, vow thatwhite racial superiority-and Negro infe.riority-are a biological fact.KING: You may remember that duringthe rise of Nazi Germany, a rash ofbooks by respected, German scientists appeared, supporting the master-race theory. This utterly ignorant fallacy hasbeen so thoroughly refuted by the socialscientists, as well as by medical science,that any individual who goes on believing it is standing in an absolutelymisguided and diminishing circle. TheAmerican Anthropological Associationhas unanimously adopted a resolutionrepudiating statements that Negroes arebiologically, in innate mental ability orin any other way inferior to whites. Thecollective weight and authority of worldscientists are embodied in a Unescoreport on races which flatly refutes thetheory of innate superiority among anyethnic group. And as far as Negro"blood" is concerned, medical sciencefinds the same four blood types in allrace groups.When the Southern white finally accepts this simple fact-as he eventuallymust-beautiful results will follow, forwe will have come a long way towardtransforming his master-servant perspective into a person-to-person perspective.The Southern white man, discoveringthe "nonmyth" Negro, exhibits all thepassion of the new convert, seeing theblack man as a man among men forthe first time. The South, if it is to survive economically, must make dramaticchanges, and these must include the Negro. People of good will in the South,who are the vast majority, have the challenge to be open and honest, and toturn a deaf ear to the shrill cries of theirresponsible few on the lunatic fringe. Ithink and pray they will.PLAYBOY: Whom do you include among"the irresponsible few"?KING: I include those who preach racism and commit violence; and thosewho, in various cities where we havesought to peacefully demonstrate, havesought to goad Negroes into violence asan excuse for violent mass reprisal. InBirmingham, for example, on the day itwas flashed about the world that a"peace pact" had been signed betweenthe moderate whites and the Negroes,Birmingham's segregationist forces reacted with fury, swearing vengeance againstthe white businessmen who had "betrayed" them by negotiating with Negroes. On Saturday night, just outside ofBirmingham, a Ku Klux Klan meetingwas held, and that same night, as I mentioned earlier, a bomb ripped the homeof my brother, the Reverend A. D.King, and another bomb was plantedwhere it would have killed or seriouslywounded anyone in the· motel roomwhich I had been occupying. Bothbombings had been timed just as Birmingham's bars closed on Saturday midnight, as the streets filled with thousandsof Negroes who were not trained in nonviolence, and who had been drinking.Just as whoever planted the bombs hadwanted to happen, fighting began, policemen were stoned by Negroes, carswere overturned and fires started.PLAYBOY: Were none of your S, C. L. C.workers involved?KING: If they had been, there wouldhave been no riot, for we believe thatonly just means may be used in seekinga just end. We believe that lasting gainscan be made-and they have been made-only by practicing what we preach: apolicy of nonviolent, peaceful protest.The riots, North and South, have involved mobs-not the disciplined, nonviolent, direct-action demonstrators withwhom I identify. We do not condonelawlessness, looting and violence committed by the racist or the reckless ofany color.I must say, however, that riots such ashave occurred do achieve at least onepartially positive effect: They dramatically focus national attention upon theNegro's discontent. Unfortunately, theyalso give the white majority an excuse,a provocation, to look away from thecause of the riots-the poverty andthe deprivation and the degradation ofthe Negro, especially in the slums andghettos where the riots occur-and totalk instead of looting, and of the breakdown of law and order. It is never circulated that some of the looters have beenwhite people, similarly motivated bytheir own poverty. In one riot in aNorthern city, aside from the Negroesand Puerto Ricans who were arrested,there were also 158 white people-including mothers stealing food, children'sshoes and other necessity items. Thepoor, white and black, were rebellingtogether against the establishment.PLAYBOY: Whom do you mean by "theestablishment"?KING: I mean the white leadershipwhich I hold as responsible as anyone forthe riots, for not removing the conditionsthat cause them. The deep frustration, the seething desperation of the Negro today is a product of slum housing,chronic poverty, woefully inadequateeducation and substandard schools. TheNegro is trapped in a long and desolatecorridor with no exit sign, caught in avicious socioeconomic vise. And he is ostracized as is no other minority group inAmerica by the evil of oppressive andconstricting prejudice based solely uponhis color. A righteous man has no alternative but to resist such an evil system.If he does not have the courage to resistnonviolently, then he runs the risk of aviolent emotional explosion. As much asI deplore violence, there is one evil thatis worse than violence, and that's cowardice. It is still my basic article of faiththat social justice can be achieved anddemocracy advanced only to the degreethat there is firm adherence to nonviolentaction and resistance in the pursuit of social justice. But America will be facedwith the ever-present threat of violence,rioting and senseless crime as long asNegroes by the hundreds of thousandsare packed into malodorous, rat-plaguedghettos; as long as Negroes remainsmothered by poverty in the midst of anaffluent society; as long as Negroes aremade to feel like exiles in their own land;as long as Negroes continue to be dehumanized; as long as Negroes see theirfreedom endlessly delayed and diminished by the head winds of tokenism andsmall handouts from the white powerstructure. No nation can suffer anygreater tragedy than to cause millions ofits citizens to feel that they have no stakein their own society.Understand that I am trying only toexplain the reasons for violence and thethreat of violence. Let me say again. thatby no means and under no circumstancedo I condone outbreaks of looting andlawlessness. I feel that every responsibleNegro leader must point out, with allpossible vigor, that anyone who perpetrates and participates in a riot is immoral as well as impractical-that theuse of immoral means will not achievethe moral · end of racial justice.PLAYBOY: Whom do you consider themost responsible Negro leaders?KING: Well, I would say that Roy Wilkins of the NAACP has proved time andagain to be a very articulate spokesmanfor the rights of Negroes. He is a mostable administrator and a dedicated organization man wi1h personal resourcesthat have helped the whole struggle.Another outstanding man is WhitneyYoung Jr. of the National Urban League,an extremely able social scientist. He hasdeveloped a meaningful balance between militancy and moderation. JamesFarmer of CORE is another courageous,dedicated and thoughtful civil rightsspokesman. I have always been impressed by how he maintains a freshnessin his awareness of the meaning of thewhole quest for freedom. And JohnLewis of SNCC symbolizes the kind ofstrong militancy, courage and creativitythat our youth have brought to the civilrights struggle. But I feel that the greatest leader of these times that the Negrohas produced is A. Philip Randolph,president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, whose total integrity,depth of dedication and caliber of statesmanship set an example for us all.PLAYBOY: Many whites feel that lastsummer's riots occurred because leadership is no longer being offered by themen you named.KING: The riots we h ave h ad are minute compared to what would h avehappened without their effective andrestraining leadership. I am convincedthat unless the nonviolent philosophyhad emerged and taken hold among N egroes, North and South, by today thestreets of dozens of American communities would have flowed with blood.Hundreds of <;ities might now be mourning countless dead, of both races, were itnot for the nonviolent influence whichhas given political surg~ons the time andopportunity to boldly and safely excisesome aspects of the peril of violence thatfaced this nation in the summers of 1963and 1964. The whole world has seen whathappened in communities such as Harlem, Brooklyn, Rochester, Philadelphia,Newark, St. Petersburg and Birmingham,where this emergency operation waseither botched or not performed at all.PLAYBOY: Still, doesn 't the very factthat riots have occurred tend to indicatethat many .Negroes are no longer heeding the counsels of nonviolence?KING: Not the majority, by any means.But it is true that some Negroes subscribe to a deep feeling that the tactic ofnonviolence is not producing enoughconcrete victories. We have seen, in ourexperience, that nonviolence thrives bestin a climate of justice. Violence grows tothe degree that injustice prevails; themore injustice in a given community,the more violence, or potential violence,smolders in that community. I can giveyou a clear example. If you will notice,there have been fewer riots in the South.The :reason for this is that the Negro inthe South can see some visible, concretevictories in civil rights. Last year, the police would have been called if he satdown at a community lunch counter.This year, if he chooses to sit at thatcounter, he is served. More riots haveoccurred in the North because the fellowin Harlem, to name one Northern ghetto, can't see any victories. He remainsthrottled, as he has always been, byvague, intangible economic and socialdeprivations. Until the concerned powerstructures begin to grapple creativelywith these fundamental inequities, itwill be difficult for violence to be eliminated. The longer our people see noprogress, or halting progress, the easier itwill be for them to yield to the counselsof hatred and demagoguery.PLAYBOY: The literature of the JohnBirch Society, accusing you of just suchcounsels, has branded you "a consciousagent of the Communist conspiracy."KING: As you know, they have soughtto link many people with communism,including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and a former President ofthe United States. So I'm in good company, at least. The Birchers thrive onsneer and smear, on the dissemination ofhalf-truths and outright lies. It would becomfortable to dismiss them as the lunatic fringe-which, by and large, they are;but some priests and ministers have alsoshown themselves to be among them.They are a very dangerous group--andthey could become even more dangerousif the public doesn't reject the un-American travesty of patriotism that theyespouse.PLAYBOY: \.Vas there any basis in factfor the rumors, still circulating in somequarters, that last summer's riots werefomented and stage-directed by Communist agitators?KING: I'm getting sick and tired of people saying that this movement has beeninfiltrated by Communists. There are asmany Communists in this freedom movement as there are Eskimos in Florida.The FBI provided the best answer tothis absurd rumor in its report to thePresident after a special investigationwhich he had requested. It stated thatthe riots were not caused or directed byany such groups, although they did tryto capitalize upon and prolong the riots.All Negro leaders, including myself,were most happy with the publication ofthese findings, for the public whisperings had troubled us. We knew that itcould prove vitally harmful to the Negrostruggle if the riots had been catalyzedor manipulated by the Communists orsome other extremist group. It wouldh ave sown the seed of doubt in the public's mind that the Negro revolution is agenuine revolution, born from the samewomb that produces all massive socialupheavals-the womb of intolerable conditions and unendurable situations.PLAYBOY: Is it destined to be a violentrevolution?KING: God willing, no. But white Americans must be made to understand thebasic motives underlying Negro demonstrations. Many pent-up resentmentsand latent frustrations are boiling insidethe Negro, and he must release them. Itis not a threat but a fact of history thatif an oppressed people's pent-up emotions are not nonviolently released, theywill be violently released. So let the Negro march. Let him make pilgrimages tocity hall. Let him go on freedom rides.And above all, make an effort to understand why he must do this. For if hisfrustration and despair are allowed tocontinue piling up, millions of Negroeswill seek solace and security in blackna tionalist ideologies. And this, inevitably, would lead to a frightening racialnightmare.PLAYBOY: Among whites, the best-knownand most feared of these militantly racistNegro sects is the Black Muslims. Whatis your estimation of its power and influence among the Negro masses?KING: Except in a few metropolitanghettos, my experience has been that fewNegroes have any interest a t all in thisorganization, much less give any allegiance to its pessimistic doctrines. TheBlack Muslims are a quasi-religious, sociopolitical movement tha t has appealedto some Negroes who formerly wereChristians. For the first time, the Negrowas presented with a choice of a religionother than Christianity. What this appeal actually represented was an indictment of Christian failures to live up toChristianity's precepts; for there is nothing in Christianity, nor in the Bible,that justifies racial segregation. Butwhen the Negroes' genuine fighting spirit rose during 1963, the appeal of theMuslims began to diminish.PLAYBOY: One of the basic precepts ofblack nationalism has been the attemptto engender a sense of communion between the American Negro and hisAfrican "brother," a sense of identity between the emergence of black Africa andthe Negro's struggle for freedom inAmerica. Do you feel that this is a constructive effort?KING: Yes, I do, in many ways. There isa distinct, significant and inevitablecorrelation. The Negro across America,looking at his television set, sees blackstatesmen voting in the United Nationson vital world issues, knowing that inmany of America's cities, he himself isnot yet permitted to place his ballot.The Negro hears of black kings and · potentates ruling in palaces, while he remains ghettoized in urban slums. It isonly natural that Negroes would react tothis extreme irony. Consciously or unconsciously, the American Negro hasbeen caught up by the black Zeitgeist.He feels a deepening sense of iden-tification with his black African brothers, and with his brown and yellowbrothers of Asia, South America and theCaribbean. With them he is moving witha sense of increasing urgency toward thepromised land of racial justice.PLAYBOY: Do you feel that the Africannations, in turn, should involve themselves more actively in American Negroaffairs?KING: I do indeed. The world is now sosmall in terms of geographic proximityand mutual problems that no nationshould stand idly by and watch another's plight. I think that in everypossible instance Africans should use theinfluence of their governments to makeit clear that the struggle of their brothers in the U.S. is part of a world-widestruggle. In short, injustice anywhere is athreat to justice everywhere, for we aretied together in a garment of mutuality.What happens in Johannesburg affectsBirmingham, however indirectly. We aredescendants of the Africans. Our heritage is Africa. We should never seek tobreak the ties, nor should the Africans.PLAYBOY: One of the most articulatechampions of black Afro-Americanbrotherhood has been Malcolm X, theformer Black Muslim leader who recently renounced his racist past and converted to orthodox Mohammedanism. Whatis your opinion of him and his career?KING: I met Malcolm X once in Washington, but circumstances didn't enableme to talk with him for more than aminute. He is very articulate, as you say,but I totally disagree with many of hispolitical and philosophical views-atleast insofar as I understand where henow stands. I don't want to seem tosound self-righteous, or absolutist, orthat I think I have the only truth, theonly way. Maybe he does have some ofthe answer. I don't know how he feelsnow, but I know that I have oftenwished tha t he would talk less of violence, because violence is not going tosolve our problem. And in his litany ofarticulating the despair of the Negrowithout offering any positive, creativealternative, I feel that Malcolm has donehimself and our people a great disservice. Fiery, demagogic oratory in theblack ghettos, urging Negroes to armthemselves and prepare to engage in violence, as he has done, can reap nothingbut grief.PLAYBOY: For them or for whites?KING: For everyone, but mostly for them.Even the extremist leaders who preachrevolution are invariably unwilling tolead what they know would certainlyend in bloody, chaotic and total defeat;for in the event of a violent revolution, we would be sorely outnumbered. And when it was all over, theNegro would face the same unchangedconditions, the same squalor and deprivation-the only difference being thathis bitterness would be even more intense, his disenchantment even moreabject. Thus, in purely practical as wellas moral terms, the American Negro hasno rational alternative to nonviolence.PLAYBOY: You categorically reject violence as a tactical technique for socialchange. Can it not be argued, however,that violence, historically, has effectedmassive and sometimes constructive social change in some countries?KING: I'd be the first to say that somehistorical victories have been won by violence; the U. S. Revolution is certainlyone of the foremost. But the Negrorev:olution is seeking integration, not independence. Those fighting for independence have the purpose to drive outthe oppressors. But here in America,we've got to live toget!ter. We've got tofind a way to reconcile ourselves to living in community, one group with theother. The struggle of the Negro inAmerica, to be successful, must be wagedwith resolute efforts, but efforts that arekept strictly within the framework of ourdemocratic society. This means reaching,educating and moving large enoughgroups of people of both races to stir theconscience of the nation.PLAYBOY: How do you propose to goabout it?KING: Before we can make any progress, we must avoid retrogression-bydoing everything in our power to avertfurther racial violence. To this end,there are three immediate steps that Iwould recommend. Firstly, it is mandatory that people of good will acrossAmerica, particularly those who are inpositions to wield influence and power,conduct honest, soul-searching analysesand evaluations of the Environmentalcauses that spawn riots. All major industrial and ghetto areas should establishserious biracial discussions of communityproblems, and of ways to begin solvingthem. Instead of ambulance service,municipal leaders need to provide preventive medicine. Secondly, these communities should make serious efforts toprovide work and training for unemployed youth, through job-and-trainingprograms such as the HARYOU-ACTprogram in New York City. Thirdly, allcities concerned should make first-priority efforts to provide immediate qualityeducation for Negro youth-instead ofconducting studies for the next fiveyears. Young boys and girls now in theghettos must be enabled to feel thatthey count, that somebody cares aboutthem; they must be able to feel hope.And on a longer-range basis, the physicalghetto itself must be eliminated, becausethese are the Environmental conditionsthat germinate riots. It is both sociallyand morally suicidal to continue a pattern of deploring effects while failing tocome to grips with the causes. Ultimately, law and order will be maintainedonly when justice and dignity are accorded impartially to all.PLAYBOY: Along with the other civilrights leaders, you have often proposeda massive program of economic aid,financed by the Federal Government, toimprove the lot of the nation's 20,000,-000 Negroes. Just one of the projectsyou've mentioned, however-the HARYOU-ACT program to provide jobs forNegro youths-is expected to cost $141,-000,000 over the next ten years, and thatincludes only Harlem. A nationwide program such as you propose would undoubtedly run into the billions.KING: About 50 billion, actually-whichis less than one year of our presentdefense spending. It is my belief thatwith the expenditure of this amount,over a ten-year period, a genuine anddramatic transformation could beachieved in the conditions of Negro lifein America. I am positive, moreover,that the money spent would be morethan amply justified by the benefits thatwould accrue to the nation through aspectacular decline in school dropouts,family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting andother social evils.PLAYBOY: Do you think it's realistic tohope that the Government would consider an appropriation of such magnitude other than for national defense?KING: I certainly do. This country hasthe resources to solve any problem oncethat problem is accepted as national policy. An example is aid to Appalachia,which has been made a policy of theFederal Government's mud1-touted waron poverty; one billion was proposed forits relief-without making the slightestdent in the defense budget. Another example is the fact that after World WarTwo, during the years when it becamepolicy to build and maintain the largestmilitary machine the world has everknown, America also took upon itself,through the Marshall Plan and othermeasures, the financial relief and rehabilitation of millions of European people. If America can afford to underwriteits allies and ex-enemies, it can certainlyafford-and has a much greater obligation, as I see it-to do at least as well byits own no-less-needy countrymen.PLAYBOY: Do you feel it's fair to request a multibillion-dollar program ofpreferential treatment for the Negro, orfor any other minority group?KING: I do indeed. Can any fair-minded citizen deny that the Negro has beendeprived? Few people reflect that fortwo centuries the Negro was enslaved,and robbed of any wages-potential accrued wealth which would have been thelegacy of his descendants. All of America's wealth today could not adequatelycompensate its Negroes for his centuriesof exploitation and humiliation. It is aneconomic fact that a program such as Ipropose would certainly cost far lessthan any computation of two centuriesof unpaid wages plus accumulated inter-est. In any case, I do not intend that thisprogram of economic aid should applyonly to the Negro; it should benefit thedisadvantaged of all races.Within common law, we have ampleprecedents for special compensatory programs, which are regarded as settlements. American Indians are still beingpaid for land in a settlement manner. Isnot two centuries of labor, which helpedto build this country, as real a commodity? Many other easily appl icable precedents are readily at hand: our childlabor laws, social security, unemployment compensation, man-power retraining programs. And you will rememberthat America adopted a policy of specialtreatment for her millions of Yeteransafter the War-a program which cost farmore than a policy of preferential treatment to rehabilitate the traditionallydisadvantaged Negro would cost today.The closest analogy is the GI Bill ofRights. Negro rehabilitation in Americawould require approximately the samebreadth of program-which would notplace an undue burden on our economy.Just as was the case with the returningsoldier, such a bill for the disadvantagedand impoYerished could enable them tobuy homes without cash, at lower andeasier repayment terms. They could negotiate loans from banks to launch businesses. They could receive, as did ex-Gis,special points to place them ahead incompetition for civil service jobs. Undercertain circumstances of physical disability, medical care and long-term financialgrants could be made available. And together with these rights, a favorablesocial climate could be created to encourage the preferential employment ofthe disadvantaged, as was the case for somany years with veterans. During thoseyears, it might- be noted, there was noappreciable resentment of the preferential treatment being giYen to the specialgroup. America was only -compensatingher veterans for their time lost fromschool or from business.PLAYBOY: If a nationwide program ofpreferential employment for Negroeswere to be adopted, how wou:d you propose to assuage the resentment of whiteswho already feel that their jobs arebeing jeopardized by the influx of Negroes resulting from desegregation?KING: 'Ve must develop a Federal program of puhlic works, retraining andjobs for all-so that none, white or black,will have cause to feel threatened. At thepresent time, thousands of jobs a weekare disappearing in the wake of automation and other production efficiencytechniques. Black and white, we will allbe harmed unless something grand andimaginative is done. The unemployed,poverty-stricken white man must bemade to realize that he is in the verysame boat with the Negro. Together,they could exert massive pressure on theGovernment to get jobs for all. Together,they could form a grand alliance. Together, they could merge all people forthe good of all.PLAYBOY: If Negroes are also grantedpreferential treatment in housing, asyou propose, how would you allay thealarm with which many white homeowners, fearing property devaluation, greetthe arrival of Negroes in hitherto allwhite neighborhoods?KING: We must expunge from our society the myths and half-truths that engender such groundless fears as these. Inthe first place, there is no truth to themyth that Negroes depreciate property.The fact is that most Negroes are keptout of residential neighborhoods so longthat when one of us is finally sold ahome, it's already depreciated. In the second place, we must dispel the negativeand harmful atmosphere that has beencreated by avaricious and unprincipledrealtors who engage in ".blockbusting."If we had in America really seriousefforts to break down discrimination inhousing, and at the same time a concerted program of Government aid toimprove housing for Negroes, I thinkthat many white people would be surprised at how many Negroes wouldchoose to live among themselves, exactlyas Poles and Jews and other ethnicgroups do.PLAYBOY: The B'nai B'rith, a prominentsocial-action organization which undertakes on behalf of the Jewish people many of the activities that you askthe Government to perform for Negroes,is generously financed by Jewish charities and private donations. All of theNegro civil rights groups, on the otherhand-including your own-are perennially in financial straits and must relyheavily on white philanthropy in orderto remain solvent. Why do they receiveso little support from Negroes?KING: We have to face and live withthe fact that the Negro has not developed a sense of stewardship. Slaverywas so divisive and brutal, so moldedto break up unity, that we neverdeveloped a sense oL oneness, as in Judaism. Starting with the individual family unit, the Jewish people are closelyknit into what is, in effect, one big family. But with the Negro, slavery separatedfamilies from families, and the patternof disunity that we see among Negroestoday derives directly from this cruelfact of history. It is also a cruel fact thatthe Negro, generally speaking, has notdeveloped a responsible sense of financial values. The best economists say thatyour automobile shouldn't cost morethan half of your annual income, but wesee many Negroes earning $7000 a yearpaying $5000 for a car. The home, it issaid, should not cost more than twice theannual income, but we see many Negroes earning, say, $8000 a year living ina $30,000 home. Negroes, who amountto about II percent of the Americapopulation, are reported to consumeover 40 percent of the Scotch whisky imported into the U.S., and to spend over$72,000,000 a year in jewelry stores. Sowhen we come asking for civil rights donations, or help for the United NegroCollege Fund, most Negroes are tryingto make ends meet.PLAYBOY: The widespread looting thattook place during last summer's riotswould seem to prove your point. Do youagree with those who feel that this looting-much of which was directed againstJewish-owned stores-was anti-Semitic inmotivation?KING: No, I do not believe that theriots could in any way be consideredexpressions of anti-Semitism. It's true, asI was particularly pained to learn, that alarge percentage of the looted storeswere owned by our Jewish friends, but Ido not feel that anti-Semitism was involved. A high percentage of the merchants serving most Negro communitiessimply happen to be Jewish. How couldthere be anti-Semitism among Negroeswhen our Jewish friends have demonstrated their commitment to the principle of tolerance and brotherhood notonly in the form of sizable contributions, but in many other tangible ways,and often at great personal sacrifice?Can we ever express our appreciation tothe rabbis who chose to give moral witness with us in St. Augustine during ourrecent protest against segregation in tha tunhappy city? Need I remind anyone ofthe awful beating suffered by Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld of Cleveland when hejoined the civil rights workers there inHattiesburg, Mississippi? And who canever forget the sacrifice of two Jewishlives, Andrew Goodman and MichaelSchwerner, in the swamps of Mississippi?It would be impossible to record thecontribution that the Jewish peoplehave made toward the Negro's strugglefor freedom-it has been so great.PLAYBOY: In conspicuous contrast, according to a recent poll conducted byEbony, only one Negro in ten has everparticipated physically in any form ofsocial protest. vVhy?KING: It is not always sheer numbersthat are the measure of public support.As I see it, every Negro who does participate represents the sympathy and themoral backing of thousands of others.Let us never forget how one photograph, of those Birmingham policemenwith th eir knees on that Negro womanon the ground, touched something emotionally deep in most Negroes in America, no matter who they were. In city aftercity, where S.C. L. C. has helped toachieve sweeping social changes, it hasbeen not only because of the quality ofits members' dedication and discipline,but because of the moral support ofmany Negroes who never took an activepart. It's significant, I think, that duringeach of our city struggles, the usual aver-age of crimes committed by Negroes hasdropped to almost nothing.But it is true, undeniably, that thereare many Negroes who will never fightfor freedom-yet who will be eagerenough to accept it when it comes. Andthere are millions of Negroes who havenever known anything but oppression,who are so devoid of pride and selfrespect that they have resigned themselves to segregation. Other Negroes,comfortable and complacent, considerthat they are above the struggle of themasses. And still others seek personalprofit from segregation.PLAYBOY: Many Southern whites haveaccused you of being among those whoexploit the race problem for privategain. You are widely believed throughout the South, in fact, to have amassed avast personal fortune in the course ofyour civil rights activities.KING: Me wealthy? This is so utterlyfallacious and erroneous that I oftenwonder where it got started. For thesixth straight year since I have beenS.C. L. C.'s president, I have rejected ourboard's insistent recommendation that Iaccept some salary beyond the one dollara year which I receive, which entitles meto participate in our employees' groupinsurance plan. I have rejected also ourboard's offer of financial gifts as a measure and expression of appreciation. Myonly salary is from my church, $4000 ayear, plus $2000 more a year for what isknown as "pastoral care." To earn agrand total of about $.10,000 a year, Ikeep about $4000 to $5000 a year for myself from the honorariums that I receivefrom various speaking engagements.About 90 percent of my speaking is forS.C. L. C., and it brings into our treasurysomething around $200,000 a year. Additionally, I get a fairly sizable but fluctuating income in the form of royaltiesfrom my writings. But all of this, too, Igive to my church, or to my alma mater,Morehouse College, here in Atlanta.I believe as sincerely as I believe anything that the struggle for freedom inwhich S. C. L. C. is engaged is not onethat should reward any participant withindividual wealth and gain. I think I'drise up in my grave if I died leaving twoor three hundred thousand dollars. Butpeople just don't seem to believe thatthis is the way I feel about it. If I haveany weaknesses, they are not in the areaof coveting wealth. My wife knows thiswell; in fact, she feels that I overdo it.But the Internal Revenue people, theystay on me; they feel sure that one daythey are going to find a fortune stashedin a mattress. To give you some idea ofmy reputed affluence, just last week Icame in from a trip and learned that atelevision program had announced I wasgoing to purchase an expensive home inan all-white neighborhood here in Atlanta. It was news to me!PLAYBOY: Your schedule of speaking engagements and civil rights commitmentsthroughout the country is a punishingone-often 20 hours a day, seven daysa week, according to reports. How muchtime do you get to spend at home?KING: Very little, indeed. I've averagednot more than two days a week at homehere in Atlanta over the past year-orsince Birmingham, actually. I'm awaytwo and three weeks at a time, mostlyworking in commumues across theSouth. WhereYer I am, I try to be in apulpit as many Sundays as possible. ButeYery day when I'm at home, I breakfrom the office for dinner and try tospend a few hours with the children before I return to the office for some nightwork. And on Tuesdays when I'm notout of town, I don't go to the office. Ikeep this for my quiet day of readingand silence and meditation, and an entire evening with Mrs. King and thechildren.PLAYBOY: If you could have a week'suninterrupted rest. with no commitments whatever, how would you spendit?KING: It's difficult to imagine such athing, but if I had the luxury of an entire week, I would spend it meditatingand reading, refreshing myself spiritually and intellectually. I have a deep nostalgia for the periods in the past that Iwas able to devote in this manner.Amidst the struggle, amidst the frustrations, amidst the endless work, I oftenreflect that I am forever giving-neverpausing to take in. I feel urgently theneed for even an hour of time to getaway, to withdraw, to refuel. I needmore time to think through what isbeing done, to take time out from themechanics of the movement, to reflecton the meaning of the movement.PLAYBOY: If you were marooned onthe proverbial desert island, and couldhave with you only one book-apartfrom the Bible-what would it be?KING: That's tough. Let me think aboutit-one book, not the Bible. Well,I think I would have to pick Plato'sRepublic. I feel that it brings togethermore of the insights of history than anyother book. There is not a creative ideaextant that is not discussed, in some way,in this work. Whatever realm of theology or philosophy is one's interest-and Iam deeply interested in both-somewhere along the way, in this book, youwill find the matter explored.PLAYBOY: If you could send someoneanyone-to that desert island in yourstead, who would it be?KING: That's another tough one. Letme see, I guess I wouldn't mind seeingMr. Goldwater dispatched to a desert island. I hope they'd feed him and everything, of course. I am nonviolent, youknow. Politically, though, he's alreadyon a desert island, so it may be unnecessary to send him there.PLAYBOY: We take it you weren't overly distressed by his defeat in the Presidential race.KING: Until that defeat, Goldwater wasthe most dangerous man in America. Hetalked soft and nice, but he gave aid andcomfort to the most vicious racistsand the most extreme rightists in America. He gave respectability to views totally alien to the democratic process. Hadhe won, he would have led us down afantastic path that would have totallydestroyed America as we know it.PLAYBOY: Until his withdrawal fromthe race following Goldwater's nomination, Alabama's Governor Wallace wasanother candidate for the Presidency.What's your opinion of his qualificationsfor that office?KING: Governor \Vallace is a demagogwith a capital D. He symbolizes in thiscountry many of the evils that were alivein Hitler's Germany. He is a merchantof racism, peddling hate under the guiseof States' rights. He wants to turn bao:;kthe clock, for his own personal aggrandizement, and he will do literally anything to accomplish this. He representsthe misuse, the corruption, the destruc-' tion of leadership. I am not sure that hebeli eves all the poison that he preaches,but he is artful enough to o:;onvince othersthat he does. Instead of guiding peopleto new peaks of reasonableness, he intensifies misunderstanding, deepens suspicion and prejudice. He is perhaps themost dangerous racist in America today.PLAYBOY: One of the most controversial issues of the past year, apart fromcivil rights, was the question of schoolprayer, which has been ruled unlawfulby the Supreme Court. Governor Wallace, among others, has denounced thedecision. How do you feel about it?KING: I endorse it. I think it was correct. Contrary to what many have said, itsought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in God. In a pluralistic society suchas ours, who is to determine what prayershall be spoken, and by whom? Legally,constitutionally or otherwise, the statecertainly has no such right. I am stronglyopposed to the efforts that have beenmade to nullify the decision. They havebeen motivated, I think, by little morethan the wish to embarrass the SupremeCourt. When I saw Brother Wallacegoing up to Washington to testifyagainst the decision at the Congressionalhearings, it only strengthened my conviction that the decision was right.PLAYBOY: Governor Wallace has intimated tha t President Johnson, in championing the cause of civil rights onlysince he became Vice-President, may beguilty of "insincerity."KING: How President Johnson may ormay not have felt about or voted on civil rights during his years in Congress isless relevant, at this point, than what hehas said and done about it during histenure· as President of the United States.In my opinion, he has done a good jobup to now. He is an extremely keen political man, and he has demonstrated hiswisdom and his commitment in forthrightly coming to grips. with the problem. He does not tire of reminding thenation of the moral issues involved. Myimpression is that he will remain astrong President for civil rights.PLAYBOY: Late in 1963, you wrote, "AsI look toward 1964, one fact is unmistakably clear: The thrust of the Negro toward full emancipation will increaserather than decrease." As last summer'sriots testified, these words were unhappily prophetic. Do you foresee more violence in the year ahead?KING: To the degree that the Negro isnot thwarted in his thrust forward, I believe that one can predict less violence. Iam not saying that there will be no demonstrations. There assuredly will, for theNegro in America has not made one civil rights gain without tense legal. and extralegal pressure. If the Constitutionwere today applied equally and impartially to all of America's citizens, in every section of the country, in every courtand code of law, there would be no needfor any group of citizens to seek extralegal redress.Our task has been a difficult one, andwill continue to be, for privilegedgroups, historically, have not volunteered to give up their privileges. AsReinhold Niebuhr has written, individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily abandon their unjust posture, butgroups tend to be more immoral, andmore intransigent, than individuals. Ournonviolent direct-action program, therefore-which has proved its strength andeffectiveness in more than a thousandAmerican cities where some baptism offire has taken place-will continue todramatize and demonstrate against localinjustices to the Negro until the last ofthose who impose those injustices areforced to negotiate; until, finally, theNegro ·wins the protections of the Constitution that have been denied to him;until society, at long last, is strickengloriously and incurably color-blind.PLAYBOY: In well-earned recognition ofyour dedication to and leadership ofthe struggle to achieve these goals, youbecame, in October of last year, theyoungest man ever to receive the NobelPeace Prize. What was your reaction tothe news?KING: It made me feel very humble indeed. But I would like to think that theaward is not a personal tribute, but atribute to the entire freedom movement,and to the gallant people of both raceswho surround me in the drive for civilrights which will make the Americandream a reality. I think that this internationally known award will call evenmore attention to our struggle, gaineven greater sympathy and understanding for our cause, from people all overthe world. I like to think that the awardrecognizes symbolically the gallantry, thecourage and the amazing discipline ofthe Negro in America, for these thingsare to his eternal credit. Though wehave had riots, the bloodshed that wewould have known without the discipline of nonviolence would have beentruly frightening. I know that manywhites feel the civil rights movement isgetting out of hand; this may reassurethem. It may let them see that basicallythis is a disciplined struggle, let them appreciate the meaning of our struggle, letthem see that a great struggle for humanfreedom can occur within the frameworkof a democratic society.PLAYBOY: Do you feel that this goalwill be achieved within your lifetime?KING: I confess that I do not believethis day is around the corner. The concept of supremacy is so imbedded in thewhite society that it will take many yearsfor color to cease to be a judgmental factor. But it is certainly my hope anddream. Indeed, it is the keystone of myfaith in the future that we will somedayachieve a thoroughly integrated society.I believe that before the turn of the century, if trends continue to move and develop as presently, we will have moved along, long way toward such a society.PLAYBOY: Do you intend to dedicatethe rest of your life, then, to the Negrocause?KING: If need be, yes. But I dream ofthe day when the demands presently castupon me will be greatly diminished. Iwould say that in the next five years,though, I can't hape for much letup-either in the South or in the North. Afterthat time, it is my hope that things willtaper off a bit.PLAYBOY: If they do, what are yourplans?KING: Well, at one time I dreamed ofpastoring for a few years, and then ofgoing to a university to teach theology.But I gave that up when I became deeply involved in the civil rights struggle.Perhaps, in five years or so, if the demands on me have lightened, I will havethe chance to make that dream cometrue.PLAYBOY: In the meanwhile, you arenow the universally acknowledged leader of the American civil rights movement, and chief spokesman for thenation's 20,000,000 Negroes. Are thereever moments when you feel awed bythis burden of responsibility, or inadequate to its demands?KING: One cannot be in my position,looked to by some for guidance, withoutbeing constantly reminded of the awesomeness of its responsibility. I live withone deep concern: Am I making theright decisions? Sometimes I am uncertain, and I must look to God for guidance. There was one morning I recall,when I was in the Birmingham jail, insolitary, with not even my lawyers permitted to visit, and I was in a nightmareof despair. The very future of our movement hung in the balance, dependingupon capricious turns of events overwhich I could have no control there, incommunicado, in an utterly dark dungeon. This was about ten days after ourBirmingham demonstrations began.Over 400 of our followers had gone tojail; some had been bailed out, but wehad ·used up all of our money for bail,and about 300 remained in jail, and Ifelt personally responsible. It was thenthat President Kennedy telephoned mywife, Coretta. After that, my jail conditions were relaxed, and the followingSunday afternoon-it was Easter Sunday-two S.C.L.C. attorneys were permittedto visit me. The next day, word came tome from New York that Harry Belafontehad raised $50,000 that was available immediately for bail bonds, and if morewas needed, he would raise that. I cannot express what I felt, but I knew atthat moment that God's presence hadnever left me, that He had been with methere in solitary.I subject myself to self-purificationand to endless self-analysis; I questionand soul-search constantly into myself tobe as certain as I can that -I am fulfillingthe true meaning of my work, that I ammaintaining my sense of purpose, that Iam holding fast to my ideals, that I amguiding my people in the right direction. But whatever my doubts, howeverheavy the burden, I feel that I must accept the task of helping to make this nation and this world a better place to livein-for all men, black and white alike.I never will forget a moment in Birmingham when a white policeman accosted a little Negro girl, seven or eightyears old, who was walking in a demonstration with her mother. "What do youwant?" the ·policeman asked her gruffly,and the little girl looked him straightin the eye and answered, "Fee-dom."She couldn't even pronounce it, but sheknew.lt was beautiful! Many times whenI have been in sorely trying situations,the memory of that little one has comeinto my mind, and has buoyed me..Similarly, not long ago, I toured ineight communities of the state of Mississippi. And I have carried with me eversince a visual image of the penniless andthe unlettered, and of the expressions ontheir faces--of deep and courageous determination to cast off the imprint of thepast and become free people. I welcomethe opportunity to be a part of this greatdrama, for it is a drama that will determine America's destiny. If the problemis not solved, America will be on theroad to its self-destruction. But if it issolved, America will just as surely be onthe high road to the fulfillment of thefounding fathers' dream, when theywrote: "We hold these truths to be selfevident ..• "Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal of a citizen to obey certain laws, demands, orders or commands of a government (or any other authority). By some definitions, civil disobedience has to be nonviolent to be called "civil". Hence, civil disobedience is sometimes equated with peaceful protests or nonviolent resistance.
Henry David Thoreau's essay Resistance to Civil Government, published posthumously as Civil Disobedience, popularized the term in the US, although the concept itself has been practiced longer before. It has inspired leaders such as Susan B. Anthony of the U.S. women's suffrage movement in the late 1800s, Saad Zaghloul in the 1910s culminating in Egyptian Revolution of 1919 against British Occupation, and Mahatma Gandhi in 1920s India in their protests for Indian independence against the British Empire. Martin Luther King Jr.'s and James Bevel's peaceful protests during the civil rights movement in the 1960s United States contained important aspects of civil disobedience. Although civil disobedience is rarely justifiable in court, King regarded civil disobedience to be a display and practice of reverence for law: "Any man who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community on the injustice of the law is at that moment expressing the very highest respect for the law."
HistoryAn early depiction of civil disobedience is in Sophocles' play Antigone, in which Antigone, one of the daughters of former King of Thebes, Oedipus, defies Creon, the current King of Thebes, who is trying to stop her from giving her brother Polynices a proper burial. She gives a stirring speech in which she tells him that she must obey her conscience rather than human law. She is not at all afraid of the death he threatens her with (and eventually carries out), but she is afraid of how her conscience will smite her if she does not do this.
Conrad Grebel and Anabaptists advocated civil disobedience to oppression. Étienne de La Boétie's thought developed in his work Discours de la servitude volontaire ou le Contr'un (1552) was also taken up by many movements of civil disobedience, which drew from the concept of rebellion to voluntary servitude the foundation of its instrument of struggle. Étienne de La Boétie was one of the first to theorize and propose the strategy of non-cooperation, and thus a form of nonviolent disobedience, as a really effective weapon.
In the lead-up to the Glorious Revolution in Britain—when the 1689 Bill of Rights was documented, the last Catholic monarch was deposed, and male and female joint-co-monarchs elevated—the English Midland Enlightenment developed a manner of voicing objection to a law viewed as illegitimate and then taking the consequences of the law. This was focused on the illegitimacy of laws claimed to be "divine" in origin, both the "divine rights of kings" and "divine rights of man", and the legitimacy of laws acknowledged to be made by human the Peterloo massacre of 1819, the poet Percy Shelley wrote the political poem The Mask of Anarchy later that year, that begins with the images of what he thought to be the unjust forms of authority of his time—and then imagines the stirrings of a new form of social action. According to Ashton Nichols, it is perhaps the first modern statement of the principle of nonviolent protest. A version was taken up by the author Henry David Thoreau in his essay Civil Disobedience, and later by Gandhi in his doctrine of Satyagraha. Gandhi's Satyagraha was partially influenced and inspired by Shelley's nonviolence in protest and political action. In particular, it is known that Gandhi often quoted Shelley's Masque of Anarchy to vast audiences during the campaign for a free India.
Thoreau's 1849 essay Civil Disobedience, originally titled "Resistance to Civil Government", has had a wide influence on many later practitioners of civil disobedience. The driving idea behind the essay is that citizens are morally responsible for their support of aggressors, even when such support is required by law. In the essay, Thoreau explained his reasons for having refused to pay taxes as an act of protest against slavery and against the Mexican–American War. He writes,
If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man's shoulders. I must get off him first, that he may pursue his contemplations too. See what gross inconsistency is tolerated. I have heard some of my townsmen say, "I should like to have them order me out to help put down an insurrection of the slaves, or to march to Mexico;—see if I would go;" and yet these very men have each, directly by their allegiance, and so indirectly, at least, by their money, furnished a substitute.
By the 1850s, a range of minority groups in the United States: African Americans, Jews, Seventh Day Baptists, Catholics, anti-prohibitionists, racial egalitarians, and others—employed civil disobedience to combat a range of legal measures and public practices that to them promoted ethnic, religious, and racial discrimination. Pro Public and typically peaceful resistance to political power remained an integral tactic in modern American minority rights politics.
In Ireland starting from 1879 the Irish "Land War" intensified when Irish nationalist leader Charles Stewart Parnell, in a speech in Ennis proposed that when dealing with tenants who take farms where another tenant was evicted, rather than resorting to violence, everyone in the locality should shun them. Following this Captain Charles Boycott, the land agent of an absentee landlord in County Mayo, Ireland, was subject to social ostracism organized by the Irish Land League in 1880. Boycott attempted to evict eleven tenants from his land. While Parnell's speech did not refer to land agents or landlords, the tactic was applied to Boycott when the alarm was raised about the evictions. Despite the short-term economic hardship to those undertaking this action, Boycott soon found himself isolated – his workers stopped work in the fields and stables, as well as in his house. Local businessmen stopped trading with him, and the local postman refused to deliver mail. The movement spread throughout Ireland and gave rise to the term to Boycott, and eventually led to legal reform and support for Irish independence.
Egypt saw a massive implementation on a nation-wide movement starting 1914 and peaking in 1919 as the Egyptian Revolution of 1919. This was then adopted by other native peoples who objected to British occupation from 1920 and on. This was not used with native laws that were more oppressive than the British occupation[specify], leading to problems for these countries today. Zaghloul Pasha, considered the mastermind behind this massive civil disobedience, was a native middle-class, Azhar graduate, political activist, judge, parliamentary and ex-cabinet minister whose leadership brought Christian and Muslim communities together as well as women into the massive protests. Along with his companions of Wafd Party, who have achieved an independence of Egypt and a first constitution in 1923. Civil disobedience is one of the many ways people have revolted against what they deem to be unfair laws. It has been used in many nonviolent resistance movements in India (Mahatma Gandhi's campaigns for independence from the British Empire), in Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution, in early stages of the Bangladeshi independence movement against Pakistani colonialism and in East Germany to oust their Stalinist government. In South Africa during the leftist campaign against the far-right Apartheid regime, in the American civil rights movement against Jim Crow laws, in the Singing Revolution to bring independence to the Baltic countries from the Soviet Union, and more recently with the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia, the 2004 Orange Revolution and the 2013–2014 Euromaidan revolution in Ukraine, the 2016–2017 Candlelight Revolution in South Korea, and the 2020–2021 Belarusian protests, among many other various movements worldwide.
Henry David Thoreau's classic essay Civil Disobedience inspired Martin Luther King Jr. and many other activists.Henry David Thoreau's 1849 essay "Resistance to Civil Government" was eventually renamed "Essay on Civil Disobedience". After his landmark lectures were published in 1866, the term began to appear in numerous sermons and lectures relating to slavery and the war in Mexico. Thus, by the time Thoreau's lectures were first published under the title "Civil Disobedience", in 1866, four years after his death, the term had achieved fairly widespread usage.
It has been argued that the term "civil disobedience" has always suffered from ambiguity and in modern times, become utterly debased. Marshall Cohen notes, "It has been used to describe everything from bringing a test-case in the federal courts to taking aim at a federal official. Indeed, for Vice President Spiro Agnew it has become a code-word describing the activities of muggers, arsonists, draft evaders, campaign hecklers, campus militants, anti-war demonstrators, juvenile delinquents and political assassins."
LeGrande writes that
the formulation of a single all-encompassing definition of the term is extremely difficult, if not impossible. In reviewing the voluminous literature on the subject, the student of civil disobedience rapidly finds himself surrounded by a maze of semantical problems and grammatical niceties. Like Alice in Wonderland, he often finds that specific terminology has no more (or no less) meaning than the individual orator intends it to have.
He encourages a distinction between lawful protest demonstration, nonviolent civil disobedience, and violent civil disobedience.
In a letter to P. K. Rao, dated 10 September 1935, Gandhi disputes that his idea of civil disobedience was derived from the writings of Thoreau:
The statement that I had derived my idea of Civil Disobedience from the writings of Thoreau is wrong. The resistance to authority in South Africa was well advanced before I got the essay ... When I saw the title of Thoreau's great essay, I began to use his phrase to explain our struggle to the English readers. But I found that even "Civil Disobedience" failed to convey the full meaning of the struggle. I therefore adopted the phrase "Civil Resistance."
TheoriesIn seeking an active form of civil disobedience, one may choose to deliberately break certain laws, such as by forming a peaceful blockade or occupying a facility illegally, though sometimes violence has been known to occur. Often there is an expectation to be attacked or even beaten by the authorities. Protesters often undergo training in advance on how to react to arrest or to attack.
Civil disobedience is usually defined as pertaining to a citizen's relation to the state and its laws, as distinguished from a constitutional impasse, in which two public agencies, especially two equally sovereign branches of government, conflict. For instance, if the head of government of a country were to refuse to enforce a decision of that country's highest court, it would not be civil disobedience, since the head of government would act in his or her capacity as public official rather than private citizen.
This definition is disputed by Thoreau's political philosophy on the conscience vs. the collective. The person is the final judge of right and wrong. More than this, since only people act, only a person can act unjustly. When the government knocks on the door, it is a person in the form of a postman or tax collector whose hand hits the wood. Before Thoreau's imprisonment, when a confused taxman had wondered aloud about how to handle his refusal to pay, Thoreau had advised, "Resign". If a man chose to be an agent of injustice, then Thoreau insisted on confronting him with the fact that he was making a choice. He admits that government may express the will of the majority but it may also express nothing more than the will of elite politicians. Even a good form of government is "liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it". If a government did express the voice of most people, this would not compel the obedience of those who disagree with what is said. The majority may be powerful but it is not necessarily right.
In his 1971 book, A Theory of Justice, John Rawls described civil disobedience as "a public, non-violent, conscientious yet political act contrary to law usually done with the aim of bringing about change in the law or policies of the government".
Ronald Dworkin held that there are three types of civil disobedience:
"Integrity-based" civil disobedience occurs when a citizen disobeys a law they feel is immoral, as in the case of abolitionists disobeying the fugitive slave laws by refusing to turn over escaped slaves to authorities."Justice-based" civil disobedience occurs when a citizen disobeys laws to lay claim to some right denied to them, as when Black people illegally protested during the civil rights movement."Policy-based" civil disobedience occurs when a person breaks the law to change a policy they believe is dangerously wrong.Some theories of civil disobedience hold that civil disobedience is only justified against governmental entities. Brownlee argues that disobedience in opposition to the decisions of non-governmental agencies such as trade unions, banks, and private universities can be justified if it reflects "a larger challenge to the legal system that permits those decisions to be taken". The same principle, she argues, applies to breaches of law in protest against international organizations and foreign governments.
It is usually recognized that lawbreaking, if it is not done publicly, at least must be publicly announced to constitute civil disobedience. But Stephen Eilmann argues that if it is necessary to disobey rules that conflict with morality, we might ask why disobedience should take the form of public civil disobedience rather than simply covert lawbreaking. If a lawyer wishes to help a client overcome legal obstacles to securing their natural rights, he might, for instance, find that assisting in fabricating evidence or committing perjury is more effective than open disobedience. This assumes that common morality does not have a prohibition on deceit in such situations. The Fully Informed Jury Association's publication "A Primer for Prospective Jurors" notes, "Think of the dilemma faced by German citizens when Hitler's secret police demanded to know if they were hiding a Jew in their house." By this definition, civil disobedience could be traced back to the Book of Exodus, where Shiphrah and Puah refused a direct order of Pharaoh but misrepresented how they did it. (Exodus 1: 15–19)
Violent vs. nonviolentThere have been debates as to whether civil disobedience must necessarily be non-violent. Black's Law Dictionary includes nonviolence in its definition of civil disobedience. Christian Bay's encyclopedia article states that civil disobedience requires "carefully chosen and legitimate means", but holds that they do not have to be non-violent. It has been argued that, while both civil disobedience and civil rebellion are justified by appeal to constitutional defects, rebellion is much more destructive; therefore, the defects justifying rebellion must be much more serious than those justifying disobedience, and if one cannot justify civil rebellion, then one cannot justify a civil disobedient's use of force and violence and refusal to submit to arrest. Civil disobedients' refraining from violence is also said to help preserve society's tolerance of civil disobedience.
The philosopher H. J. McCloskey argues that "if violent, intimidatory, coercive disobedience is more effective, it is, other things being equal, more justified than less effective, nonviolent disobedience." In his best-selling Disobedience and Democracy: Nine Fallacies on Law and Order, Howard Zinn takes a similar position; Zinn states that while the goals of civil disobedience are generally nonviolent,
in the inevitable tension accompanying the transition from a violent world to a non-violent one, the choice of means will almost never be pure, and will involve such complexities that the simple distinction between violence and non-violence does not suffice as a guide ... the very acts with which we seek to do good cannot escape the imperfections of the world we are trying to change.
Zinn rejects any "easy and righteous dismissal of violence", noting that Thoreau, the popularizer of the term civil disobedience, approved of the armed insurrection of John Brown. He also notes that some major civil disobedience campaigns which have been classified as non-violent, such as the Birmingham campaign, have actually included elements of violence.
Revolutionary vs. non-revolutionaryNon-revolutionary civil disobedience is a simple disobedience of laws on the grounds that they are judged "wrong" by a person's conscience, or as part of an effort to render certain laws ineffective, to cause their repeal, or to exert pressure to get one's political wishes on some other issue. Revolutionary civil disobedience is more of an active attempt to overthrow a government (or to change cultural traditions, social customs or religious beliefs). Revolution does not have to be political, i.e. "cultural revolution", it simply implies sweeping and widespread change to a section of the social fabric. Gandhi's acts have been described as revolutionary civil disobedience. It has been claimed that the Hungarians under Ferenc Deák directed revolutionary civil disobedience against the Austrian government. Thoreau also wrote of civil disobedience accomplishing "peaceable revolution". Howard Zinn, Harvey Wheeler, and others have identified the right espoused in the US Declaration of Independence to "alter or abolish" an unjust government to be a principle of civil disobedience.
Collective vs. solitaryThe earliest recorded incidents of collective civil disobedience took place during the Roman Empire. Unarmed Jews gathered in the streets to prevent the installation of pagan images in the Temple in Jerusalem.[original research?] In modern times, some activists who commit civil disobedience as a group collectively refuse to sign bail until certain demands are met, such as favourable bail conditions, or the release of all the activists. This is a form of jail solidarity.[page needed] There have also been many instances of solitary civil disobedience, such as that committed by Thoreau, but these sometimes go unnoticed. Thoreau, at the time of his arrest, was not yet a well-known author, and his arrest was not covered in any newspapers in the days, weeks and months after it happened. The tax collector who arrested him rose to higher political office, and Thoreau's essay was not published until after the end of the Mexican War.
ChoicesFurther information: Examples of civil disobedienceActionCivil disobedients have chosen a variety of different illegal acts. Hugo A. Bedau writes,
There is a whole class of acts, undertaken in the name of civil disobedience, which, even if they were widely practiced, would in themselves constitute hardly more than a nuisance (e.g. trespassing at a nuclear-missile installation) ... Such acts are often just a harassment and, at least to the bystander, somewhat inane ... The remoteness of the connection between the disobedient act and the objectionable law lays such acts open to the charge of ineffectiveness and absurdity.
Bedau also notes, though, that the very harmlessness of such entirely symbolic illegal protests toward public policy goals may serve a propaganda purpose. Some civil disobedients, such as the proprietors of illegal medical cannabis dispensaries and Voice in the Wilderness, which brought medicine to Iraq without the permission of the US government, directly achieve a desired social goal (such as the provision of medication to the sick) while openly breaking the law. Julia Butterfly Hill lived in Luna, a 180-foot (55 m)-tall, 600-year-old California Redwood tree for 738 days, preventing its felling.
In cases where the criminalized behaviour is pure speech, civil disobedience can consist simply of engaging in the forofferden speech. An example is WBAI's broadcasting of the bit "Filthy Words" from a George Carlin comedy album, which eventually led to the 1978 Supreme Court case of FCC v. Pacifica Foundation. Threatening government officials is another classic way of expressing defiance toward the government and unwillingness to stand for its policies. For example, Joseph Haas was arrested for allegedly sending an email to the Lebanon, New Hampshire, city councillors stating, "Wise up or die."
More generally, protesters of particular victimless crimes often see fit to openly commit that crime. Laws against public nudity, for instance, have been protested by going naked in public, and laws against cannabis consumption have been protested by openly possessing it and using it at cannabis rallies.
Some forms of civil disobedience, such as illegal boycotts, refusals to pay taxes, draft dodging, distributed denial-of-service attacks, and sit-ins, make it more difficult for a system to function. In this way, they might be considered coercive; coercive disobedience has the effect of exposing the enforcement of laws and policies, and it has even operated as an aesthetic strategy in contemporary art practice. Brownlee notes that "although civil disobedients are constrained in their use of coercion by their conscientious aim to engage in moral dialogue, nevertheless they may find it necessary to employ limited coercion to get their issue onto the table". The Plowshares organization temporarily closed GCSB Waihopai by padlocking the gates and using sickles to deflate one of the large domes covering two satellite dishes.
Electronic civil disobedience can include web site defacements, redirects, denial-of-service attacks, information theft and data leaks, illegal web site parodies, virtual sit-ins, and virtual sabotage. It is distinct from other kinds of hacktivism in that the perpetrator openly reveals his identity. Virtual actions rarely succeed in completely shutting down their targets, but they often generate significant media attention.
Dilemma actions are designed to create a "response dilemma" for public authorities "by forcing them to either concede some public space to protesters or make themselves look absurd or heavy-handed by acting against the protest."
A police officer speaks with a demonstrator at a union picket, explaining that she will be arrested if she does not leave the street. The demonstrator was arrested moments later.Some disciplines of civil disobedience hold that the protester must submit to arrest and cooperate with the authorities. Others advocate falling limp or resisting arrest, especially when it will hinder the police from effectively responding to a mass protest.
Many of the same decisions and principles that apply in other criminal investigations and arrests arise also in civil disobedience cases. For example, the suspect may need to decide whether to grant a consent search of his property, and whether to talk to police officers. It is generally agreed within the legal community, and is often believed within the activist community, that a suspect's talking to criminal investigators can serve no useful purpose, and may be harmful. Some civil disobedients are compelled to respond to investigators' questions, sometimes by a misunderstanding of the legal ramifications or a fear of seeming rude. Also, some civil disobedients seek to use the arrest as an opportunity to make an impression on the officers. Thoreau wrote,
My civil neighbor, the tax-gatherer, is the very man I have to deal with—for it is, after all, with men and not with parchment that I quarrel—and he has voluntarily chosen to be an agent of the government. How shall he ever know well that he is and does as an officer of the government, or as a man, until he is obliged to consider whether he will treat me, his neighbor, for whom he has respect, as a neighbor and well-disposed man, or as a maniac and disturber of the peace, and see if he can get over this obstruction to his neighborliness without a ruder and more impetuous thought or speech corresponding with his action.
Some civil disobedients feel it is incumbent upon them to accept punishment because of their belief in the validity of the social contract, which is held to bind all to obey the laws that a government meeting certain standards of legitimacy has established, or else suffer the penalties set out in the law. Other civil disobedients who favour the existence of government still do not believe in the legitimacy of their particular government or do not believe in the legitimacy of a particular law it has enacted. Anarchistic civil disobedients do not believe in the legitimacy of any government, so see no need to accept punishment for a violation of criminal law.
PleaAn important decision for civil disobedients is whether to plead guilty. There is much debate on this point, as some believe that it is a civil disobedient's duty to submit to the punishment prescribed by law, while others believe that defending oneself in court will increase the possibility of changing the unjust law. It has also been argued that either choice is compatible with the spirit of civil disobedience. ACT UP's Civil Disobedience Training handbook states that a civil disobedient who pleads guilty is essentially stating, "Yes, I committed the act of which you accuse me. I don't deny it; in fact, I am proud of it. I feel I did the right thing by violating this particular law; I am guilty as charged", but that pleading not guilty sends a message of, "Guilt implies wrong-doing. I feel I have done no wrong. I may have violated some specific laws, but I am guilty of doing no wrong. I, therefore, plead not guilty." A plea of no contest is sometimes regarded as a compromise between the two. One defendant accused of illegally protesting nuclear power, when asked to enter his plea, stated, "I plead for the beauty that surrounds us"; this is known as a "creative plea", and will usually be interpreted as a plea of not guilty.
When the Committee for Non-Violent Action sponsored a protest in August 1957, at the Camp Mercury nuclear test site near Las Vegas, Nevada, 13 of the protesters attempted to enter the test site knowing that they faced arrest. At an announced time, one by one they crossed a line and were immediately arrested. They were put on a bus and taken to the Nye County seat of Tonopah, Nevada, and arraigned for trial before the local Justice of the Peace, that afternoon. A civil rights attorney, Francis Heisler, had volunteered to defend the accused, advising them to plead nolo contendere rather than guilty or not guilty. They were found guilty and given suspended sentences, conditional on not reentering the test site.
Howard Zinn writes,
There may be many times when protesters choose to go to jail, as a way of continuing their protest, as a way of reminding their countrymen of injustice. But that is different than the notion that they must go to jail as part of a rule connected with civil disobedience. The key point is that the spirit of protest should be maintained all the way, whether it is done by remaining in jail, or by evading it. To accept jail penitently as an accession to "the rules" is to switch suddenly to a spirit of subservience, to demean the seriousness of the protest ... In particular, the neo-conservative insistence on a guilty plea should be eliminated.
Sometimes the prosecution proposes a plea bargain to civil disobedients, as in the case of the Camden 28, in which the defendants were offered an opportunity to plead guilty to one misdemeanour count and receive no jail time. In some mass arrest situations, the activists decide to use solidarity tactics to secure the same plea bargain for everyone. But some activists have opted to enter a blind plea, pleading guilty without any plea agreement in place. Mahatma Gandhi pleaded guilty and told the court, "I am here to ... submit cheerfully to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is a deliberate crime and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen."
AllocutionSome civil disobedience defendants choose to make a defiant speech, or a speech explaining their actions, in allocution. In U.S. v. Burgos-Andujar, a defendant who was involved in a movement to stop military exercises by trespassing on US Navy property argued to the court in allocution that "the ones who are violating the greater law are the members of the Navy". As a result, the judge increased her sentence from 40 to 60 days. This action was upheld because, according to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, her statement suggested a lack of remorse, an attempt to avoid responsibility for her actions, and even a likelihood of repeating her illegal actions. Some of the other allocution speeches given by the protesters complained about mistreatment from government officials.
Tim DeChristopher gave an allocution statement to the court describing the US as "a place where the rule of law was created through acts of civil disobedience" and arguing, "Since those bedrock acts of civil disobedience by our founding fathers, the rule of law in this country has continued to grow closer to our shared higher moral code through the civil disobedience that drew attention to legalized injustice."
Legal implicationsSteven Barkan writes that if defendants plead not guilty, "they must decide whether their primary goal will be to win an acquittal and avoid imprisonment or a fine, or to use the proceedings as a forum to inform the jury and the public of the political circumstances surrounding the case and their reasons for breaking the law via civil disobedience." A technical defence may enhance the chances for acquittal but increase the possibility of additional proceedings and of reduced press coverage. During the Vietnam War era, the Chicago Eight used a political defence, but Benjamin Spock used a technical defence. In countries such as the United States, whose laws guarantee the right to a jury trial but do not excuse lawbreaking for political purposes, some civil disobedients seek jury nullification. Over the years, this has been made more difficult by court decisions such as Sparf v. United States, which held that the judge need not inform jurors of their nullification prerogative, and United States v. Dougherty, which held that the judge need not allow defendants to openly seek jury nullification.
Governments have generally not recognized the legitimacy of civil disobedience or viewed political objectives as an excuse for breaking the law. Specifically, the law usually distinguishes between criminal motive and criminal intent; the offender's motives or purposes may be admirable and praiseworthy, but his intent may still be criminal. Hence the saying that "if there is any possible justification of civil disobedience it must come from outside the legal system."
One theory is that, while disobedience may be helpful, any great amount of it undermines the law by encouraging general disobedience which is neither conscientious nor of social benefit. Therefore, conscientious lawbreakers must be punished. Michael Bayles argues that if a person violates a law to create a test case as to the constitutionality of a law, and then wins his case, then that act did not constitute civil disobedience. It has also been argued that breaking the law for self-gratification, as in the case of a cannabis user who does not direct his act at securing the repeal of amendment of the law, is not civil disobedience. Likewise, a protester who attempts to escape punishment by committing the crime covertly and avoiding attribution, or by denying having committed the crime, or by fleeing the jurisdiction, is generally not called a civil disobedient.
Courts have distinguished between two types of civil disobedience: "Indirect civil disobedience involves violating a law which is not, itself, the object of protest, whereas direct civil disobedience involves protesting the existence of a particular law by breaking that law." During the Vietnam War, courts typically refused to excuse the perpetrators of illegal protests from punishment on the basis of their challenging the legality of the Vietnam War; the courts ruled it was a political question. The necessity defence has sometimes been used as a shadow defence by civil disobedients to deny guilt without denouncing their politically motivated acts, and to present their political beliefs in the courtroom. Court cases such as United States v. Schoon have greatly curtailed the availability of the political necessity defence. Likewise, when Carter Wentworth was charged for his role in the Clamshell Alliance's 1977 illegal occupation of the Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant, the judge instructed the jury to disregard his competing harms defence, and he was found guilty. Fully Informed Jury Association activists have sometimes handed out educational leaflets inside courthouses despite admonitions not to; according to the association, many of them have escaped prosecution because "prosecutors have reasoned (correctly) that if they arrest fully informed jury leafleters, the leaflets will have to be given to the leafleter's own jury as evidence."
Along with giving the offender his just deserts, achieving crime control via incapacitation and deterrence is a major goal of criminal punishment. Brownlee argues, "Bringing in deterrence at the level of justification detracts from the law's engagement in a moral dialogue with the offender as a rational person because it focuses attention on the threat of punishment and not the moral reasons to follow this law." British judge Lord Hoffman writes, "In deciding whether or not to impose punishment, the most important consideration would be whether it would do more harm than good. This means that the objector has no right not to be punished. It is a matter for the state (including the judges) to decide on utilitarian grounds whether to do so or not." Hoffman also asserted that while the "rules of the game" for protesters were to remain non-violent while breaking the law, the authorities must recognize that demonstrators are acting out of their conscience in pursuit of democracy. "When it comes to punishment, the court should take into account their personal convictions", he said.
See alsoAnti-establishment – Opposition to the conventional social, political, and economic principles of a societyAgorism – Social philosophy advocating a voluntary societyAstroturfing – Public relations tactic using fake grassroots movementsBillboard hacking – Illegal alteration of a billboardCivil resistance – Political action that relies on the use of non-violent methods by civil groupsCivilian-based defenseClimate disobedience – What people can do personally to help stop global warmingColour revolution – Political term associated with post-Soviet revolutionsConscientious objector – Person refusing military service on moral groundsCounterculture – Subculture whose values and norms of behavior deviate from those of mainstream societyCounter-economics – Economic theory and methodCulture jamming – Form of protest to subvert media cultureDemonstration – Collective action by people in favor of a causeDissent – Non-agreement or opposition to authorityDirect action – Method of activismDiversity of tactics – Social phenomenonEcoterrorism – Act of violence committed in support of Environmental causesExtinction Rebellion – Environmental pressure groupGene Sharp – American political scientist (1928–2018)Grassroots – Movement based on local communitiesGrey market – Commodity trade outside of original producer's distribution channelHunt sabotage – Interference with hunting by animal rights activistsIndian independence movement – 1857–1947 movement to end British rule over IndiaInsubordination – Act of willfully disobeying one's superiorInternet activism – Form of activism on the internetMalicious compliance – Behaviour of intentionally inflicting harm by strictly following the orders of a superiorMass incidents in China – Large-scale incidents of civil disobedienceMinority influence – Form of social influenceNonconformism to the established Church of EnglandNon-conformists of the 1930s – Avantgarde movement during the inter-war period in FranceNonviolent resistance – Act of protest through nonviolent meansNonviolent revolution – Civil resistance to bring about the departure of governmentsOff-the-grid – Not being connected to public utilitiesProtest art – creative works that concern or are produced by activists and social movementsSatyagraha – Form of nonviolent resistance practised during British colonial rule in IndiaTree sitting – Occupying trees as a political protestUnderground culture – various alternative culturesUser revolt – Type of website-based social conflictThe Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of federal legislation in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson during the height of the civil rights movement on August 6, 1965, and Congress later amended the Act five times to expand its protections. Designed to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Act sought to secure the right to vote for racial minorities throughout the country, especially in the South. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Act is considered to be the most effective piece of federal civil rights legislation ever enacted in the country. It is also "one of the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history."
The act contains numerous provisions that regulate elections. The act's "general provisions" provide nationwide protections for voting rights. Section 2 is a general provision that prohibits state and local government from imposing any voting rule that "results in the denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race or color" or membership in a language minority group. Other general provisions specifically outlaw literacy tests and similar devices that were historically used to disenfranchise racial minorities. The act also contains "special provisions" that apply to only certain jurisdictions. A core special provision is the Section 5 preclearance requirement, which prohibited certain jurisdictions from implementing any change affecting voting without first receiving confirmation from the U.S. attorney general or the U.S. District Court for D.C. that the change does not discriminate against protected minorities. Another special provision requires jurisdictions containing significant language minority populations to provide bilingual ballots and other election materials.
Section 5 and most other special provisions applied to jurisdictions encompassed by the "coverage formula" prescribed in Section 4(b). The coverage formula was originally designed to encompass jurisdictions that engaged in egregious voting discrimination in 1965, and Congress updated the formula in 1970 and 1975. In Shelby County v. Holder (2013), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula as unconstitutional, reasoning that it was obsolete. The court did not strike down Section 5, but without a coverage formula, Section 5 is unenforceable. The jurisdictions which had previously been covered by the coverage formula massively increased the rate of voter registration purges after the Shelby decision.
In 2021, the Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee Supreme Court ruling reinterpreted Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, substantially weakening it. The ruling interpreted the "totality of circumstances" language of Section 2 to mean that it does not generally prohibit voting rules that have disparate impact on the groups that it sought to protect, including a rule blocked under Section 5 before the Court inactivated that section in Shelby County v. Holder. In particular, the ruling held that fears of election fraud could justify such rules, even without evidence that any such fraud had occurred in the past or that the new rule would make elections safer.
Research shows that the Act had successfully and massively increased voter turnout and voter registrations, in particular among black people. The Act has also been linked to concrete outcomes, such as greater public goods provision (such as public education) for areas with higher black population shares, more members of Congress who vote for civil rights-related legislation, and greater Black representation in local information: Disenfranchisement after the Reconstruction eraAs initially ratified, the United States Constitution granted each state complete discretion to determine voter qualifications for its residents.: 50 After the Civil War, the three Reconstruction Amendments were ratified and limited this discretion. The Thirteenth Amendment (1865) prohibits slavery "except as a punishment for crime"; the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) grants citizenship to anyone "born or naturalized in the United States" and guarantees every person due process and equal protection rights; and the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) provides that "[t]he right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." These Amendments also empower Congress to enforce their provisions through "appropriate legislation".
To enforce the Reconstruction Amendments, Congress passed the Enforcement Acts in the 1870s. The acts criminalized the obstruction of a citizen's voting rights and provided for federal supervision of the electoral process, including voter registration.: 310 However, in 1875 the Supreme Court struck down parts of the legislation as unconstitutional in United States v. Cruikshank and United States v. Reese.: 97 After the Reconstruction Era ended in 1877, enforcement of these laws became erratic, and in 1894, Congress repealed most of their provisions.: 310
Southern states generally sought to disenfranchise racial minorities during and after Reconstruction. From 1868 to 1888, electoral fraud and violence throughout the South suppressed the African-American vote. From 1888 to 1908, Southern states legalized disenfranchisement by enacting Jim Crow laws; they amended their constitutions and passed legislation to impose various voting restrictions, including literacy tests, poll taxes, property-ownership requirements, moral character tests, requirements that voter registration applicants interpret particular documents, and grandfather clauses that allowed otherwise-ineligible persons to vote if their grandfathers voted (which excluded many African Americans whose grandfathers had been slaves or otherwise ineligible). During this period, the Supreme Court generally upheld efforts to discriminate against racial minorities. In Giles v. Harris (1903), the court held that regardless of the Fifteenth Amendment, the judiciary did not have the remedial power to force states to register racial minorities to vote.: 100
refer to captionAlabama police in 1965 attack voting rights marchers on "bloody Sunday", the first of the Selma to Montgomery marchesPrior to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 there were several efforts to stop the disenfranchisement of black voters by Southern states,. Besides the above-mentioned literacy tests and poll taxes other bureaucratic restrictions were used to deny them the right to vote. African Americans also "risked harassment, intimidation, economic reprisals, and physical violence when they tried to register or vote. As a result, very few African Americans were registered voters, and they had very little, if any, political power, either locally or nationally." In the 1950s the Civil Rights Movement increased pressure on the federal government to protect the voting rights of racial minorities. In 1957, Congress passed the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction: the Civil Rights Act of 1957. This legislation authorized the attorney general to sue for injunctive relief on behalf of persons whose Fifteenth Amendment rights were denied, created the Civil Rights Division within the Department of Justice to enforce civil rights through litigation, and created the Commission on Civil Rights to investigate voting rights deprivations. Further protections were enacted in the Civil Rights Act of 1960, which allowed federal courts to appoint referees to conduct voter registration in jurisdictions that engaged in voting discrimination against racial minorities.
Although these acts helped empower courts to remedy violations of federal voting rights, strict legal standards made it difficult for the Department of Justice to successfully pursue litigation. For example, to win a discrimination lawsuit against a state that maintained a literacy test, the department needed to prove that the rejected voter-registration applications of racial minorities were comparable to the accepted applications of whites. This involved comparing thousands of applications in each of the state's counties in a process that could last months. The department's efforts were further hampered by resistance from local election officials, who would claim to have misplaced the voter registration records of racial minorities, remove registered racial minorities from the electoral rolls, and resign so that voter registration ceased. Moreover, the department often needed to appeal lawsuits several times before the judiciary provided relief because many federal district court judges opposed racial minority suffrage. Thus, between 1957 and 1964, the African-American voter registration rate in the South increased only marginally even though the department litigated 71 voting rights lawsuits.: 514 Efforts to stop the disfranchisement by the Southern states had achieved only modest success overall and in some areas had proved almost entirely ineffectual, because the "Department of Justice's efforts to eliminate discriminatory election practices by litigation on a case-by-case basis had been unsuccessful in opening up the registration process; as soon as one discriminatory practice or procedure was proven to be unconstitutional and enjoined, a new one would be substituted in its place and litigation would have to commence anew."
Congress responded to rampant discrimination against racial minorities in public accommodations and government services by passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act included some voting rights protections; it required registrars to equally administer literacy tests in writing to each voter and to accept applications that contained minor errors, and it created a rebuttable presumption that persons with a sixth-grade education were sufficiently literate to vote.: 97  However, despite lobbying from civil rights leaders, the Act did not prohibit most forms of voting discrimination.: 253 President Lyndon B. Johnson recognized this, and shortly after the 1964 elections in which Democrats gained overwhelming majorities in both chambers of Congress, he privately instructed Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to draft "the goddamndest, toughest voting rights act that you can".: 48–50 However, Johnson did not publicly push for the legislation at the time; his advisers warned him of political costs for vigorously pursuing a voting rights bill so soon after Congress had passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Johnson was concerned that championing voting rights would endanger his Great Society reforms by angering Southern Democrats in the 1964 elections, civil rights organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) pushed for federal action to protect the voting rights of racial minorities.: 254–255 Their efforts culminated in protests in Alabama, particularly in the city of Selma, where County Sheriff Jim Clark's police force violently resisted African-American voter registration efforts. Speaking about the voting rights push in Selma, James Forman of SNCC said: "Our strategy, as usual, was to force the U.S. government to intervene in case there were arrests—and if they did not intervene, that inaction would once again prove the government was not on our side and thus intensify the development of a mass consciousness among blacks. Our slogan for this drive was 'One Man, One Vote.'": 255
In January 1965, Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, and other civil rights leaders organized several peaceful demonstrations in Selma, which were violently attacked by police and white counter-protesters. Throughout January and February, these protests received national media coverage and drew attention to the issue of voting rights. King and other demonstrators were arrested during a march on February 1 for violating an anti-parade ordinance; this inspired similar marches in the following days, causing hundreds more to be arrested.: 259–261 On February 4, civil rights leader Malcolm X gave a militant speech in Selma in which he said that many African Americans did not support King's nonviolent approach;: 262 he later privately said that he wanted to frighten whites into supporting King.: 69 The next day, King was released and a letter he wrote addressing voting rights, "Letter From A Selma Jail", appeared in The New York Times.: 262
With increasing national attention focused on Selma and voting rights, President Johnson reversed his decision to delay voting rights legislation. On February 6, he announced he would send a proposal to Congress.: 69 Johnson did not reveal the proposal's content or disclose when it would come before Congress.: 264
On February 18 in Marion, Alabama, state troopers violently broke up a nighttime voting-rights march during which officer James Bonard Fowler shot and killed young African-American protester Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was unarmed and protecting his mother.: 265  Spurred by this event, and at the initiation of on March 7 SCLC and SNCC began the first of the Selma to Montgomery marches, in which Selma residents intended to march to Alabama's capital, Montgomery, to highlight voting rights issues and present Governor George Wallace with their grievances. On the first march, demonstrators were stopped by state and county police on horseback at the Edmund Pettus Bridge near Selma. The police shot tear gas into the crowd and trampled protesters. Televised footage of the scene, which became known as "bloody Sunday", generated outrage across the country.: 515 A second march was held on March 9, which became known as "Turnaround Tuesday". That evening, three white Unitarian ministers who participated in the march were attacked on the street and beaten with clubs by four Ku Klux Klan members. The worst injured was Reverend James Reeb from Boston, who died on Thursday, March 11.
In the wake of the events in Selma, President Johnson, addressing a televised joint session of Congress on March 15, called on legislators to enact expansive voting rights legislation. In his speech, he used the words "we shall overcome", adopting the rallying cry of the civil rights movement.: 278  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was introduced in Congress two days later while civil rights leaders, now under the protection of federal troops, led a march of 25,000 people from Selma to historyEfforts to eliminate discriminatory election practices by litigation on a case-by-case basis by the United States Department of Justice had been unsuccessful and existing federal anti-discrimination laws were not sufficient to overcome the resistance by state officials to enforcement of the 15th Amendment. Against this backdrop Congress came to the conclusion that a new comprehensive federal bill was necessary to break the grip of state disfranchisement. The United States Supreme Court explained this in South Carolina v. Katzenbach (1966) with the following words:
In recent years, Congress has repeatedly tried to cope with the problem by facilitating case-by-case litigation against voting discrimination. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 authorized the Attorney General to seek injunctions against public and private interference with the right to vote on racial grounds. Perfecting amendments in the Civil Rights Act of 1960 permitted the joinder of States as parties defendant, gave the Attorney General access to local voting records, and authorized courts to register voters in areas of systematic discrimination. Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 expedited the hearing of voting cases before three-judge courts and outlawed some of the tactics used to disqualify Negroes from voting in federal elections. Despite the earnest efforts of the Justice Department and of many federal judges, these new laws have done little to cure the problem of voting discrimination. [...] The previous legislation has proved ineffective for a number of reasons. Voting suits are unusually onerous to prepare, sometimes requiring as many as 6,000 man-hours spent combing through registration records in preparation for trial. Litigation has been exceedingly slow, in part because of the ample opportunities for delay afforded voting officials and others involved in the proceedings. Even when favorable decisions have finally been obtained, some of the States affected have merely switched to discriminatory devices not covered by the federal decrees, or have enacted difficult new tests designed to prolong the existing disparity between white and Negro registration. Alternatively, certain local officials have defied and evaded court orders or have simply closed their registration offices to freeze the voting rolls. The provision of the 1960 law authorizing registration by federal officers has had little impact on local maladministration, because of its procedural complexities.
In South Carolina v. Katzenbach (1966) the Supreme Court also held that Congress had the power to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965 under its Enforcement Powers stemming from the Fifteenth Amendment:
Congress exercised its authority under the Fifteenth Amendment in an inventive manner when it enacted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. First: the measure prescribes remedies for voting discrimination which go into effect without any need for prior adjudication. This was clearly a legitimate response to the problem, for which there is ample precedent under other constitutional provisions. See Katzenbach v. McClung, 379 U. S. 294, 379 U. S. 302–304; United States v. Darby, 312 U. S. 100, 312 U. S. 120–121. Congress had found that case-by-case litigation was inadequate to combat widespread and persistent discrimination in voting, because of the inordinate amount of time and energy required to overcome the obstructionist tactics invariably encountered in these lawsuits. After enduring nearly a century of systematic resistance to the Fifteenth Amendment, Congress might well decide to shift the advantage of time and inertia from the perpetrators of the evil to its victims. [...] Second: the Act intentionally confines these remedies to a small number of States and political subdivisions which, in most instances, were familiar to Congress by name. This, too, was a permissible method of dealing with the problem. Congress had learned that substantial voting discrimination presently occurs in certain sections of the country, and it knew no way of accurately forecasting whether the evil might spread elsewhere in the future. In acceptable legislative fashion, Congress chose to limit its attention to the geographic areas where immediate action seemed necessary. See McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U. S. 420, 366 U. S. 427; Salsburg v. Maryland, 346 U. S. 545, 346 U. S. 550–554. The doctrine of the equality of States, invoked by South Carolina, does not bar this approach, for that doctrine applies only to the terms upon which States are admitted to the Union, and not to the remedies for local evils which have subsequently appeared. See Coyle v. Smith, 221 U. S. 559, and cases cited therein.
Original billrefer to captionUnited States President Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks at the signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965SenateThe Voting Rights Act of 1965 was introduced in Congress on March 17, 1965, as S. 1564, and it was jointly sponsored by Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield (D-MT) and Senate minority leader Everett Dirksen (R-IL), both of whom had worked with Attorney General Katzenbach to draft the bill's language. Although Democrats held two-thirds of the seats in both chambers of Congress after the 1964 Senate elections,: 49 Johnson worried that Southern Democrats would filibuster the legislation because they had opposed other civil rights efforts. He enlisted Dirksen to help gain Republican support. Dirksen did not originally intend to support voting rights legislation so soon after supporting the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but he expressed willingness to accept "revolutionary" legislation after learning about the police violence against marchers in Selma on bloody Sunday.: 95–96 Given Dirksen's key role in helping Katzenbach draft the legislation, it became known informally as the "Dirksenbach" bill.: 96 After Mansfield and Dirksen introduced the bill, 64 additional senators agreed to cosponsor it,: 150 with a total 46 Democratic and 20 Republican cosponsors.
The bill contained several special provisions that targeted certain state and local governments: a "coverage formula" that determined which jurisdictions were subject to the Act's other special provisions ("covered jurisdictions"); a "preclearance" requirement that prohibited covered jurisdictions from implementing changes to their voting procedures without first receiving approval from the U.S. attorney general or the U.S. District Court for D.C. that the changes were not discriminatory; and the suspension of "tests or devices", such as literacy tests, in covered jurisdictions. The bill also authorized the assignment of federal examiners to register voters, and of federal observers to monitor elections, to covered jurisdictions that were found to have engaged in egregious discrimination. The bill set these special provisions to expire after five scope of the coverage formula was a matter of contentious congressional debate. The coverage formula reached a jurisdiction if (1) the jurisdiction maintained a "test or device" on November 1, 1964, and (2) less than 50 percent of the jurisdiction's voting-age residents either were registered to vote on November 1, 1964, or cast a ballot in the November 1964 presidential election.: 317 This formula reached few jurisdictions outside the Deep South. To appease legislators who felt that the bill unfairly targeted Southern jurisdictions, the bill included a general prohibition on racial discrimination in voting that applied nationwide.: 1352 The bill also included provisions allowing a covered jurisdiction to "bail out" of coverage by proving in federal court that it had not used a "test or device" for a discriminatory purpose or with a discriminatory effect during the 5 years preceding its bailout request.: 6 Additionally, the bill included a "bail in" provision under which federal courts could subject discriminatory non-covered jurisdictions to remedies contained in the special bill was first considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chair, Senator James Eastland (D-MS), opposed the legislation with several other Southern senators on the committee. To prevent the bill from dying in committee, Mansfield proposed a motion to require the Judiciary Committee to report the bill out of committee by April 9, which the Senate overwhelmingly passed by a vote of 67 to 13.: 150  During the committee's consideration of the bill, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) led an effort to amend the bill to prohibit poll taxes. Although the Twenty-fourth Amendment—which banned the use of poll taxes in federal elections— was ratified a year earlier, Johnson's administration and the bill's sponsors did not include a provision in the voting rights bill banning poll taxes in state elections because they feared courts would strike down the legislation as Additionally, by excluding poll taxes from the definition of "tests or devices", the coverage formula did not reach Texas or Arkansas, mitigating opposition from those two states' influential congressional delegations.: 521 Nonetheless, with the support of liberal committee members, Kennedy's amendment to prohibit poll taxes passed by a 9–4 vote. In response, Dirksen offered an amendment that exempted from the coverage formula any state that had at least 60 percent of its eligible residents registered to vote or that had a voter turnout that surpassed the national average in the preceding presidential election. This amendment, which effectively exempted all states from coverage except Mississippi, passed during a committee meeting in which three liberal members were absent. Dirksen offered to drop the amendment if the poll tax ban were removed. Ultimately, the bill was reported out of committee on April 9 by a 12–4 vote without a April 22, the full Senate started debating the bill. Dirksen spoke first on the bill's behalf, saying that "legislation is needed if the unequivocal mandate of the Fifteenth Amendment ... is to be enforced and made effective, and if the Declaration of Independence is to be made truly meaningful.": 154 Senator Strom Thurmond (D-SC) retorted that the bill would lead to "despotism and tyranny", and Senator Sam Ervin (D-NC) argued that the bill was unconstitutional because it deprived states of their right under Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution to establish voter qualifications and because the bill's special provisions targeted only certain jurisdictions. On May 6, Ervin offered an amendment to abolish the coverage formula's automatic trigger and instead allow federal judges to appoint federal examiners to administer voter registration. This amendment overwhelmingly failed, with 42 Democrats and 22 Republicans voting against it.: 154–156 After lengthy debate, Ted Kennedy's amendment to prohibit poll taxes also failed 49–45 on May 11. However, the Senate agreed to include a provision authorizing the attorney general to sue any jurisdiction, covered or non-covered, to challenge its use of poll taxes.: 156–157 : 2 An amendment offered by Senator Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) to enfranchise English-illiterate citizens who had attained at least a sixth-grade education in a non-English-speaking school also passed by 48–19. Southern legislators offered a series of amendments to weaken the bill, all of which failed.: 159
On May 25, the Senate voted for cloture by a 70–30 vote, thus overcoming the threat of filibuster and limiting further debate on the bill. On May 26, the Senate passed the bill by a 77–19 vote (Democrats 47–16, Republicans 30–2); only senators representing Southern states voted against it.: 161 
House of Representatives"Remarks on the Signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965"20:40Statement by United States President Johnson on August 6, 1965, about the Voting Rights Act of 1965"Remarks on the Signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965"21:03Audio onlyProblems playing these files? See media help.Emanuel Celler (D-NY), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the Voting Rights Act in the House of Representatives on March 19, 1965, as H.R. 6400. The House Judiciary Committee was the first committee to consider the bill. The committee's ranking Republican, William McCulloch (R-OH), generally supported expanding voting rights, but he opposed both the poll tax ban and the coverage formula, and he led opposition to the bill in committee. The committee eventually approved the bill on May 12, but it did not file its committee report until June 1.: 162 The bill included two amendments from subcommittee: a penalty for private persons who interfered with the right to vote and a prohibition of all poll taxes. The poll tax prohibition gained Speaker of the House John McCormack's support. The bill was next considered by the Rules Committee, whose chair, Howard W. Smith (D-VA), opposed the bill and delayed its consideration until June 24, when Celler initiated proceedings to have the bill discharged from committee. Under pressure from the bill's proponents, Smith allowed the bill to be released a week later, and the full House started debating the bill on July 6.: 163
To defeat the Voting Rights Act, McCulloch introduced an alternative bill, H.R. 7896. It would have allowed the attorney general to appoint federal registrars after receiving 25 serious complaints of discrimination against a jurisdiction, and it would have imposed a nationwide ban on literacy tests for persons who could prove they attained a sixth-grade education. McCulloch's bill was co-sponsored by House minority leader Gerald Ford (R-MI) and supported by Southern Democrats as an alternative to the Voting Rights Act.: 162–164 The Johnson administration viewed H.R. 7896 as a serious threat to passing the Voting Rights Act. However, support for H.R. 7896 dissipated after William M. Tuck (D-VA) publicly said he preferred H.R. 7896 because the Voting Rights Act would legitimately ensure that African Americans could vote. His statement alienated most supporters of H.R. 7896, and the bill failed on the House floor by a 171–248 vote on July 9. Later that night, the House passed the Voting Rights Act by a 333–85 vote (Democrats 221–61, Republicans committeeThe chambers appointed a conference committee to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. A major contention concerned the poll tax provisions; the Senate version allowed the attorney general to sue states that used poll taxes to discriminate, while the House version outright banned all poll taxes. Initially, the committee members were stalemated. To help broker a compromise, Attorney General Katzenbach drafted legislative language explicitly asserting that poll taxes were unconstitutional and instructed the Department of Justice to sue the states that maintained poll taxes. To assuage concerns of liberal committee members that this provision was not strong enough, Katzenbach enlisted the help of Martin Luther King Jr., who gave his support to the compromise. King's endorsement ended the stalemate, and on July 29, the conference committee reported its version out of committee.: 166–167 The House approved this conference report version of the bill on August 3 by a 328–74 vote (Democrats 217–54, Republicans 111–20), and the Senate passed it on August 4 by a 79–18 vote (Democrats 49–17, Republicans 30–1).: 167  On August 6, President Johnson signed the Act into law with King, Rosa Parks, John Lewis, and other civil rights leaders in attendance at the signing article: Amendments to the Voting Rights Act of 1965refer to captionUnited States President George W. Bush signs amendments to the Act in July 2006Congress enacted major amendments to the Act in 1970, 1975, 1982, 1992, and 2006. Each amendment coincided with an impending expiration of some or all of the Act's special provisions. Originally set to expire by 1970, Congress repeatedly reauthorized the special provisions in recognition of continuing voting Congress extended the coverage formula and special provisions tied to it, such as the Section 5 preclearance requirement, for five years in 1970, seven years in 1975, and 25 years in both 1982 and 2006. In 1970 and 1975, Congress also expanded the reach of the coverage formula by supplementing it with new 1968 and 1972 trigger dates. Coverage was further enlarged in 1975 when Congress expanded the meaning of "tests or devices" to encompass any jurisdiction that provided English-only election information, such as ballots, if the jurisdiction had a single language minority group that constituted more than five percent of the jurisdiction's voting-age citizens. These expansions brought numerous jurisdictions into coverage, including many outside of the South. To ease the burdens of the reauthorized special provisions, Congress liberalized the bailout procedure in 1982 by allowing jurisdictions to escape coverage by complying with the Act and affirmatively acting to expand minority political participation.: 523
In addition to reauthorizing the original special provisions and expanding coverage, Congress amended and added several other provisions to the Act. For instance, Congress expanded the original ban on "tests or devices" to apply nationwide in 1970, and in 1975, Congress made the ban permanent.: 6–9 Separately, in 1975 Congress expanded the Act's scope to protect language minorities from voting discrimination. Congress defined "language minority" to mean "persons who are American Indian, Asian American, Alaskan Natives or of Spanish heritage." Congress amended various provisions, such as the preclearance requirement and Section 2's general prohibition of discriminatory voting laws, to prohibit discrimination against language minorities.: 199 Congress also enacted a bilingual election requirement in Section 203, which requires election officials in certain jurisdictions with large numbers of English-illiterate language minorities to provide ballots and voting information in the language of the language minority group. Originally set to expire after 10 years, Congress reauthorized Section 203 in 1982 for seven years, expanded and reauthorized it in 1992 for 15 years, and reauthorized it in 2006 for 25 years.: 19–21, 25, 49 The bilingual election requirements have remained controversial, with proponents arguing that bilingual assistance is necessary to enable recently naturalized citizens to vote and opponents arguing that the bilingual election requirements constitute costly unfunded mandates.: 26
Several of the amendments responded to judicial rulings with which Congress disagreed. In 1982, Congress amended the Act to overturn the Supreme Court case Mobile v. Bolden (1980), which held that the general prohibition of voting discrimination prescribed in Section 2 prohibited only purposeful discrimination. Congress responded by expanding Section 2 to explicitly ban any voting practice that had a discriminatory effect, regardless of whether the practice was enacted or operated for a discriminatory purpose. The creation of this "results test" shifted the majority of vote dilution litigation brought under the Act from preclearance lawsuits to Section 2 lawsuits.: 644–645 In 2006, Congress amended the Act to overturn two Supreme Court cases: Reno v. Bossier Parish School Board (2000), which interpreted the Section 5 preclearance requirement to prohibit only voting changes that were enacted or maintained for a "retrogressive" discriminatory purpose instead of any discriminatory purpose, and Georgia v. Ashcroft (2003), which established a broader test for determining whether a redistricting plan had an impermissible effect under Section 5 than assessing only whether a minority group could elect its preferred candidates.: 207–208 Since the Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula as unconstitutional in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), several bills have been introduced in Congress to create a new coverage formula and amend various other provisions; none of these bills have passed.
Provisionsrefer to captionThe first page of the Voting Rights Act of 1965The act contains two types of provisions: "general provisions", which apply nationwide, and "special provisions", which apply to only certain states and local governments.: 1 "The Voting Rights Act was aimed at the subtle, as well as the obvious, state regulations which have the effect of denying citizens their right to vote because of their race. Moreover, compatible with the decisions of this Court, the Act gives a broad interpretation to the right to vote, recognizing that voting includes "all action necessary to make a vote effective." 79 Stat. 445, 42 U.S.C. § 19731(c)(1) (1969 ed., Supp. I). See Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U. S. 533, 377 U. S. 555 (1964)." Most provisions are designed to protect the voting rights of racial and language minorities. The term "language minority" means "persons who are American Indian, Asian American, Alaskan Natives or of Spanish heritage." The act's provisions have been colored by numerous judicial interpretations and congressional amendments.
General provisionsGeneral prohibition of discriminatory voting lawsSection 2 prohibits any jurisdiction from implementing a "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure ... in a manner which results in a denial or abridgement of the right ... to vote on account of race," color, or language minority status.: 37  Section 2 of the law contains two separate protections against voter discrimination for laws which, in contrast to Section 5 of the law, are already implemented. The first protection is a prohibition of intentional discrimination based on race or color in voting. The second protection is a prohibition of election practices that result in the denial or abridgment of the right to vote based on race or color. If the violation of the second protection is intentional, then this violation is also a violation of the Fifteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court has allowed private plaintiffs to sue to enforce these prohibitions.: 138  In Mobile v. Bolden (1980), the Supreme Court held that as originally enacted in 1965, Section 2 simply restated the Fifteenth Amendment and thus prohibited only those voting laws that were intentionally enacted or maintained for a discriminatory In 1982, Congress amended Section 2 to create a "results" test, which prohibits any voting law that has a discriminatory effect irrespective of whether the law was intentionally enacted or maintained for a discriminatory purpose.: 3  The 1982 amendments stipulated that the results test does not guarantee protected minorities a right to proportional representation. In Thornburg v. Gingles (1986) the United States Supreme Court explained with respect to the 1982 amendment for section 2 that the "essence of a Section 2 claim is that a certain electoral law, practice, or structure interacts with social and historical conditions to cause an inequality in the opportunities enjoyed by black and white voters to elect their preferred representatives." The United States Department of Justice declared that section 2 is not only a permanent and nationwide-applying prohibition against discrimination in voting to any voting standard, practice, or procedure that results in the denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, but also a prohibition for state and local officials to adopt or maintain voting laws or procedures that purposefully discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in a language minority group.
The United States Supreme Court expressed its views regarding Section 2 and its amendment from 1982 in Chisom v. Roemer (1991). Under the amended statute, proof of intent is no longer required to prove a § 2 violation. Now plaintiffs can prevail under § 2 by demonstrating that a challenged election practice has resulted in the denial or abridgement of the right to vote based on color or race. Congress not only incorporated the results test in the paragraph that formerly constituted the entire § 2, but also designated that paragraph as subsection (a) and added a new subsection (b) to make clear that an application of the results test requires an inquiry into "the totality of the circumstances." Section 2(a) adopts a results test, thus providing that proof of discriminatory intent is no longer necessary to establish any violation of the section. Section 2(b) provides guidance about how the results test is to be applied. There is a statutory framework to determine whether a jurisdiction's election law violates the general prohibition from Section 2 in its amended form:
Section 2 prohibits voting practices that “result in a denial or abridgment of the right * * * to vote on account of race or color [or language-minority status],” and it states that such a result “is established” if a jurisdiction’s “political processes * * * are not equally open” to members of such a group “in that [they] have less opportunity * * * to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.” 52 U.S.C. 10301. [...] Subsection (b) states in relevant part: A violation of subsection (a) is established if, based on the totality of circumstances, it is shown that the political processes leading to nomination or election in the State or political subdivision are not equally open to participation by members of a class of citizens protected by subsection (a) in that its members have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.
The Office of the Arizona Attorney general stated with respect to the framework to determine whether a jurisdiction's election law violates the general prohibition from Section 2 in its amended form and the reason for the adoption of Section 2 in its amended form:
To establish a violation of amended Section 2, the plaintiff must prove,“based on the totality of circumstances,” that the State’s “political processes” are “not equally open to participation by members” of a protected class, “in that its members have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.” § 10301(b). That is the “result” that amended Section 2 prohibits: “less opportunity than other members of the electorate,” viewing the State’s “political processes” as a whole. The new language was crafted as a compromise designed to eliminate the need for direct evidence of discriminatory intent, which is often difficult to obtain, but without embracing an unqualified “disparate impact” test that would invalidate many legitimate voting procedures. S. REP. NO. 97–417, at 28–29, 31–32, 99 (1982)
In Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (2021) the United States Supreme Court introduced the means to review Section 2 challenges. The slip opinion stated in its Syllabus section in this regard that "The Court declines in these cases to announce a test to govern all VRA [Section 2] challenges to rules that specify the time, place, or manner for casting ballots. It is sufficient for present purposes to identify certain guideposts that lead to the Court's decision in these cases." The Court laid out these guideposts used to evaluate the state regulations in context of Section 2, which included: the size of the burden created by the rule, the degree which the rule deviates from past practices, the size of the racial imbalance, and the overall level of opportunity afforded voters in considering all election rules.
When determining whether a jurisdiction's election law violates the general prohibition from Section 2 of the VRA, courts have relied on factors enumerated in the Senate Judiciary Committee report associated with the 1982 amendments ("Senate Factors"), including:
The history of official discrimination in the jurisdiction that affects the right to vote;The degree to which voting in the jurisdiction is racially polarized;The extent of the jurisdiction's use of majority vote requirements, unusually large electoral districts, prohibitions on bullet voting, and other devices that tend to enhance the opportunity for voting discrimination;Whether minority candidates are denied access to the jurisdiction's candidate slating processes, if any;The extent to which the jurisdiction's minorities are discriminated against in socioeconomic areas, such as education, employment, and health;Whether overt or subtle racial appeals in campaigns exist;The extent to which minority candidates have won elections;The degree that elected officials are unresponsive to the concerns of the minority group; andWhether the policy justification for the challenged law is tenuous.The report indicates not all or a majority of these factors need to exist for an electoral device to result in discrimination, and it also indicates that this list is not exhaustive, allowing courts to consider additional evidence at their right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined. Our Constitution leaves no room for classification of people in a way that unnecessarily abridges this right.
— Justice Black on the right to vote as the foundation of democracy in Wesberry v. Sanders (1964).Section 2 prohibits two types of discrimination: "vote denial", in which a person is denied the opportunity to cast a ballot or to have their vote properly counted, and "vote dilution",: 2–6 in which the strength or effectiveness of a person's vote is diminished.: 691–692 Most Section 2 litigation has concerned vote dilution, especially claims that a jurisdiction's redistricting plan or use of at-large/multimember elections prevents minority voters from casting sufficient votes to elect their preferred candidates.: 708–709 An at-large election can dilute the votes cast by minority voters by allowing a cohesive majority group to win every legislative seat in the jurisdiction.: 221 Redistricting plans can be gerrymandered to dilute votes cast by minorities by "packing" high numbers of minority voters into a small number of districts or "cracking" minority groups by placing small numbers of minority voters into a large number of districts.
In Thornburg v. Gingles (1986), the Supreme Court used the term "vote dilution through submergence" to describe claims that a jurisdiction's use of an at-large/multimember election system or gerrymandered redistricting plan diluted minority votes, and it established a legal framework for assessing such claims under Section 2.[a] Under the Gingles test, plaintiffs must show the existence of three preconditions:
The racial or language minority group "is sufficiently numerous and compact to form a majority in a single-member district";The minority group is "politically cohesive" (meaning its members tend to vote similarly); andThe "majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it ... usually to defeat the minority's preferred candidate.": 50–51 The first precondition is known as the "compactness" requirement and concerns whether a majority-minority district can be created. The second and third preconditions are collectively known as the "racially polarized voting" or "racial bloc voting" requirement, and they concern whether the voting patterns of the different racial groups are different from each other. If a plaintiff proves these preconditions exist, then the plaintiff must additionally show, using the remaining Senate Factors and other evidence, that under the "totality of the circumstances", the jurisdiction's redistricting plan or use of at-large or multimember elections diminishes the ability of the minority group to elect candidates of its litigation further defined the contours of these "vote dilution through submergence" claims. In Bartlett v. Strickland (2009), the Supreme Court held that the first Gingles precondition can be satisfied only if a district can be drawn in which the minority group comprises a majority of voting-age citizens. This means that plaintiffs cannot succeed on a submergence claim in jurisdictions where the size of the minority group, despite not being large enough to comprise a majority in a district, is large enough for its members to elect their preferred candidates with the help of "crossover" votes from some members of the majority group.: A2 In contrast, the Supreme Court has not addressed whether different protected minority groups can be aggregated to satisfy the Gingles preconditions as a coalition, and lower courts have split on the issue.[b]
The Supreme Court provided additional guidance on the "totality of the circumstances" test in Johnson v. De Grandy (1994). The court emphasized that the existence of the three Gingles preconditions may be insufficient to prove liability for vote dilution through submergence if other factors weigh against such a determination, especially in lawsuits challenging redistricting plans. In particular, the court held that even where the three Gingles preconditions are satisfied, a jurisdiction is unlikely to be liable for vote dilution if its redistricting plan contains a number of majority-minority districts that is proportional to the minority group's population size. The decision thus clarified that Section 2 does not require jurisdictions to maximize the number of majority-minority districts. The opinion also distinguished the proportionality of majority-minority districts, which allows minorities to have a proportional opportunity to elect their candidates of choice, from the proportionality of election results, which Section 2 explicitly does not guarantee to minorities.: 1013–1014
An issue regarding the third Gingles precondition remains unresolved. In Gingles, the Supreme Court split as to whether plaintiffs must prove that the majority racial group votes as a bloc specifically because its members are motivated to vote based on racial considerations and not other considerations that may overlap with race, such as party affiliation. A plurality of justices said that requiring such proof would violate Congress's intent to make Section 2 a "results" test, but Justice White maintained that the proof was necessary to show that an electoral scheme results in racial discrimination.: 555–557 Since Gingles, lower courts have split on the issue.[c]
The right to vote freely for the candidate of one's choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government. And the right of suffrage can be denied by a debasement or dilution of the weight of a citizen's vote just as effectively as by wholly prohibiting the free exercise of the franchise. [...] Undoubtedly, the right of suffrage is a fundamental matter in a free and democratic society. Especially since the right to exercise the franchise in a free and unimpaired manner is preservative of other basic civil and political rights, any alleged infringement of the right of citizens to vote must be carefully and meticulously scrutinized.
— Chief Justice Earl Warren on the right to vote as the foundation of democracy in Reynolds v. Sims (1964).Although most Section 2 litigation has involved claims of vote dilution through submergence,: 708–709 courts also have addressed other types of vote dilution under this provision. In Holder v. Hall (1994), the Supreme Court held that claims that minority votes are diluted by the small size of a governing body, such as a one-person county commission, may not be brought under Section 2. A plurality of the court reasoned that no uniform, non-dilutive "benchmark" size for a governing body exists, making relief under Section 2 impossible. Another type of vote dilution may result from a jurisdiction's requirement that a candidate be elected by a majority vote. A majority-vote requirement may cause a minority group's candidate of choice, who would have won the election with a simple plurality of votes, to lose after a majority of voters unite behind another candidate in a runoff election. The Supreme Court has not addressed whether such claims may be brought under Section 2, and lower courts have reached different conclusions on the issue.[d]
In addition to claims of vote dilution, courts have considered vote denial claims brought under Section 2. The Supreme Court, in Richardson v. Ramirez (1974), held that felony disenfranchisement laws cannot violate Section 2 because, among other reasons, Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment permits such laws.: 756–757 A federal district court in Mississippi held that a "dual registration" system that requires a person to register to vote separately for state elections and local elections may violate Section 2 if the system has a racially disparate impact in light of the Senate Factors.: 754  Starting in 2013, lower federal courts began to consider various challenges to voter ID laws brought under Section 2.
Specific prohibitionsThe act contains several specific prohibitions on conduct that may interfere with a person's ability to cast an effective vote. One of these prohibitions is prescribed in Section 201, which prohibits any jurisdiction from requiring a person to comply with any "test or device" to register to vote or cast a ballot. The term "test or device" is defined as literacy tests, educational or knowledge requirements, proof of good moral character, and requirements that a person be vouched for when voting. Before the Act's enactment, these devices were the primary tools used by jurisdictions to prevent racial minorities from voting. Originally, the Act suspended tests or devices temporarily in jurisdictions covered by the Section 4(b) coverage formula, but Congress subsequently expanded the prohibition to the entire country and made it permanent.: 6–9 Relatedly, Section 202 prohibits jurisdictions from imposing any "durational residency requirement" that requires persons to have lived in the jurisdiction for more than 30 days before being eligible to vote in a presidential election.: 353
Several further protections for voters are contained in Section 11. Section 11(a) prohibits any person acting under color of law from refusing or failing to allow a qualified person to vote or to count a qualified voter's ballot. Similarly, Section 11(b) prohibits any person from intimidating, harassing, or coercing another person for voting or attempting to vote. Two provisions in Section 11 address voter fraud: Section 11(c) prohibits people from knowingly submitting a false voter registration application to vote in a federal election, and Section 11(e) prohibits voting twice in a federal under Section 208, a jurisdiction may not prevent anyone who is English-illiterate or has a disability from being accompanied into the ballot box by an assistant of the person's choice. The only exceptions are that the assistant may not be an agent of the person's employer or union.: 221
Bail-inSection 3(c) contains a "bail-in" or "pocket trigger" process by which jurisdictions that fall outside the coverage formula of Section 4(b) may become subject to preclearance. Under this provision, if a jurisdiction has racially discriminated against voters in violation of the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendments, a court may order the jurisdiction to have future changes to its election laws preapproved by the federal government.: 2006–2007 Because courts have interpreted the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to prohibit only intentional discrimination, a court may bail in a jurisdiction only if the plaintiff proves that the jurisdiction enacted or operated a voting practice to purposely discriminate.: 2009
Section 3(c) contains its own preclearance language and differs from Section 5 preclearance in several ways. Unlike Section 5 preclearance, which applies to a covered jurisdiction until such time as the jurisdiction may bail out of coverage under Section 4(a), bailed-in jurisdictions remain subject to preclearance for as long as the court orders. Moreover, the court may require the jurisdiction to preclear only particular types of voting changes. For example, the bail-in of New Mexico in 1984 applied for 10 years and required preclearance of only redistricting plans. This differs from Section 5 preclearance, which requires a covered jurisdiction to preclear all of its voting the Act's early history, Section 3(c) was little used; no jurisdictions were bailed in until 1975. Between 1975 and 2013, 18 jurisdictions were bailed in, including 16 local governments and the states of Arkansas and New Mexico.: 1a–2a Although the Supreme Court held the Section 4(b) coverage formula unconstitutional in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), it did not hold Section 3(c) unconstitutional. Therefore, jurisdictions may continue to be bailed-in and subjected to Section 3(c) preclearance. In the months following Shelby County, courts began to consider requests by the attorney general and other plaintiffs to bail in the states of Texas and North Carolina, and in January 2014 a federal court bailed in Evergreen, Alabama.
A more narrow bail-in process pertaining to federal observer certification is prescribed in Section 3(a). Under this provision, a federal court may certify a non-covered jurisdiction to receive federal observers if the court determines that the jurisdiction violated the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendments. Jurisdictions certified to receive federal observers under Section 3(a) are not subject to provisionsSee also: List of jurisdictions subject to the special provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965Coverage formulaMap depicting states and counties encompassed by the act's coverage formula in January 2008 (excluding bailed-out jurisdictions)States and counties encompassed by the Act's coverage formula in January 2008 (excluding bailed-out jurisdictions). Several counties subsequently bailed out, but the majority of the map accurately depicts covered jurisdictions before the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), which declared the coverage formula unconstitutional.Section 4(b) contains a "coverage formula" that determines which states and local governments may be subjected to the Act's other special provisions (except for the Section 203(c) bilingual election requirements, which fall under a different formula). Congress intended for the coverage formula to encompass the most pervasively discriminatory jurisdictions. A jurisdiction is covered by the formula if:
As of November 1, 1964, 1968, or 1972, the jurisdiction used a "test or device" to restrict the opportunity to register and vote; andLess than half of the jurisdiction's eligible citizens were registered to vote on November 1, 1964, 1968, or 1972; or less than half of eligible citizens voted in the presidential election of November 1964, 1968, or 1972.As originally enacted, the coverage formula contained only November 1964 triggering dates; subsequent revisions to the law supplemented it with the additional triggering dates of November 1968 and November 1972, which brought more jurisdictions into coverage. For purposes of the coverage formula, the term "test or device" includes the same four devices prohibited nationally by Section 201—literacy tests, educational or knowledge requirements, proof of good moral character, and requirements that a person be vouched for when voting—and one further device defined in Section 4(f)(3): in jurisdictions where more than five percent of the citizen voting age population are members of a single language minority group, any practice or requirement by which registration or election materials are provided only in English. The types of jurisdictions that the coverage formula applies to include states and "political subdivisions" of states.: 207–208 Section 14(c)(2) defines "political subdivision" to mean any county, parish, or "other subdivision of a State which conducts registration for voting."
As Congress added new triggering dates to the coverage formula, new jurisdictions were brought into coverage. The 1965 coverage formula included the whole of Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia; and some subdivisions (mostly counties) in Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, and North Carolina. The 1968 coverage resulted in the partial coverage of Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Wyoming. Connecticut, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, and Wyoming filed successful "bailout" lawsuits, as also provided by section 4. The 1972 coverage covered the whole of Alaska, Arizona, and Texas, and parts of California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota.
The special provisions of the Act were initially due to expire in 1970, and Congress renewed them for another five years. In 1975, the Act's special provisions were extended for another seven years. In 1982, the coverage formula was extended again, this time for 25 years, but no changes were made to the coverage formula, and in 2006, the coverage formula was again extended for 25 years.
Throughout its history, the coverage formula remained controversial because it singled out certain jurisdictions for scrutiny, most of which were in the Deep South. In Shelby County v. Holder (2013), the Supreme Court declared the coverage formula unconstitutional because the criteria used were outdated and thus violated principles of equal state sovereignty and federalism. The other special provisions that are dependent on the coverage formula, such as the Section 5 preclearance requirement, remain valid law. However, without a valid coverage formula, these provisions are unenforceable.
Preclearance requirementSection 5 requires that covered jurisdictions receive federal approval, known as "preclearance", before implementing changes to their election laws. A covered jurisdiction has the burden of proving that the change does not have the purpose or effect of discriminating on the basis of race or language minority status; if the jurisdiction fails to meet this burden, the federal government will deny preclearance and the jurisdiction's change will not go into effect. The Supreme Court broadly interpreted Section 5's scope in Allen v. State Board of Election (1969), holding that any change in a jurisdiction's voting practices, even if minor, must be submitted for preclearance. The court also held that if a jurisdiction fails to have its voting change precleared, private plaintiffs may sue the jurisdiction in the plaintiff's local district court before a three-judge panel.[e] In these Section 5 "enforcement actions", a court considers whether the jurisdiction made a covered voting change, and if so, whether the change had been precleared. If the jurisdiction improperly failed to obtain preclearance, the court will order the jurisdiction to obtain preclearance before implementing the change. However, the court may not consider the merits of whether the change should be may seek preclearance through either an "administrative preclearance" process or a "judicial preclearance" process. If a jurisdiction seeks administrative preclearance, the attorney general will consider whether the proposed change has a discriminatory purpose or effect. After the jurisdiction submits the proposed change, the attorney general has 60 days to interpose an objection to it. The 60-day period may be extended an additional 60 days if the jurisdiction later submits additional information. If the attorney general interposes an objection, then the change is not precleared and may not be implemented.: 90–92 The attorney general's decision is not subject to judicial review, but if the attorney general interposes an objection, the jurisdiction may independently seek judicial preclearance, and the court may disregard the attorney general's objection at its discretion.: 559 If a jurisdiction seeks judicial preclearance, it must file a declaratory judgment action against the attorney general in the U.S. District Court for D.C. A three-judge panel will consider whether the voting change has a discriminatory purpose or effect, and the losing party may appeal directly to the Supreme Court. Private parties may intervene in judicial preclearance several cases, the Supreme Court has addressed the meaning of "discriminatory effect" and "discriminatory purpose" for Section 5 purposes. In Beer v. United States (1976), the court held that for a voting change to have a prohibited discriminatory effect, it must result in "retrogression" (backsliding). Under this standard, a voting change that causes discrimination, but does not result in more discrimination than before the change was made, cannot be denied preclearance for having a discriminatory effect.: 283–284 For example, replacing a poll tax with an equally expensive voter registration fee is not a "retrogressive" change because it causes equal discrimination, not more.: 695 Relying on the Senate report for the Act, the court reasoned that the retrogression standard was the correct interpretation of the term "discriminatory effect" because Section 5's purpose is " 'to insure that [the gains thus far achieved in minority political participation] shall not be destroyed through new [discriminatory] procedures' ".: 140–141 The retrogression standard applies irrespective of whether the voting change allegedly causes vote denial or vote dilution.: 311
In 2003, the Supreme Court held in Georgia v. Ashcroft that courts should not determine that a new redistricting plan has a retrogressive effect solely because the plan decreases the number of minority-majority districts. The court emphasized that judges should analyze various other factors under the "totality of the circumstances", such as whether the redistricting plan increases the number of "influence districts" in which a minority group is large enough to influence (but not decide) election outcomes. In 2006, Congress overturned this decision by amending Section 5 to explicitly state that "diminishing the ability [of a protected minority] to elect their preferred candidates of choice denies or abridges the right to vote within the meaning of" Section 5. Uncertainty remains as to what this language precisely means and how courts may interpret 2000, the "discriminatory purpose" prong of Section 5 was understood to mean any discriminatory purpose, which is the same standard used to determine whether discrimination is unconstitutional. In Reno v. Bossier Parish (Bossier Parish II) (2000), the Supreme Court extended the retrogression standard, holding that for a voting change to have a "discriminatory purpose" under Section 5, the change must have been implemented for a retrogressive purpose. Therefore, a voting change intended to discriminate against a protected minority was permissible under Section 5 so long as the change was not intended to increase existing discrimination.: 277–278 This change significantly reduced the number of instances in which preclearance was denied based on discriminatory purpose. In 2006, Congress overturned Bossier Parish II by amending Section 5 to explicitly define "purpose" to mean "any discriminatory examiners and observersUntil the 2006 amendments to the Act,: 50 Section 6 allowed the appointment of "federal examiners" to oversee certain jurisdictions' voter registration functions. Federal examiners could be assigned to a covered jurisdiction if the attorney general certified that
The Department of Justice received 20 or more meritorious complaints that the covered jurisdiction denied its residents the right to vote based on race or language minority status; orThe assignment of federal examiners was otherwise necessary to enforce the voting rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendments.: 235–236 Federal examiners had the authority to register voters, examine voter registration applications, and maintain voter rolls.: 237 The goal of the federal examiner provision was to prevent jurisdictions from denying protected minorities the right to vote by engaging in discriminatory behavior in the voter registration process, such as refusing to register qualified applicants, purging qualified voters from the voter rolls, and limiting the hours during which persons could register. Federal examiners were used extensively in the years following the Act's enactment, but their importance waned over time; 1983 was the last year that a federal examiner registered a person to vote. In 2006, Congress repealed the the Act's original framework, in any jurisdiction certified for federal examiners, the attorney general could additionally require the appointment of "federal observers". By 2006, the federal examiner provision was used solely as a means to appoint federal observers.: 239 When Congress repealed the federal examiner provision in 2006, Congress amended Section 8 to allow for the assignment of federal observers to jurisdictions that satisfied the same certification criteria that had been used to appoint federal examiners.: 50
Federal observers are tasked with observing poll worker and voter conduct at polling places during an election and observing election officials tabulate the ballots.: 248 The goal of the federal observer provision is to facilitate minority voter participation by deterring and documenting instances of discriminatory conduct in the election process, such as election officials denying qualified minority persons the right to cast a ballot, intimidation or harassment of voters on election day, or improper vote counting.: 231–235 Discriminatory conduct that federal observers document may also serve as evidence in subsequent enforcement lawsuits.: 233 Between 1965 and the Supreme Court's 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder to strike down the coverage formula, the attorney general certified 153 local governments across 11 states. Because of time and resource constraints, federal observers are not assigned to every certified jurisdiction for every election.: 230 Separate provisions allow for a certified jurisdiction to "bail out" of its certification.
BailoutUnder Section 4(a), a covered jurisdiction may seek exemption from coverage through a process called "bailout." To achieve an exemption, a covered jurisdiction must obtain a declaratory judgment from a three-judge panel of the District Court for D.C. that the jurisdiction is eligible to bail out. As originally enacted, a covered jurisdiction was eligible to bail out if it had not used a test or device with a discriminatory purpose or effect during the 5 years preceding its bailout request.: 22, 33–34 Therefore, a jurisdiction that requested to bail out in 1967 would have needed to prove that it had not misused a test or device since at least 1962. Until 1970, this effectively required a covered jurisdiction to prove that it had not misused a test or device since before the Act was enacted five years earlier in 1965,: 6 making it impossible for many covered jurisdictions to bail out.: 27 However, Section 4(a) also prohibited covered jurisdictions from using tests or devices in any manner, discriminatory or otherwise; hence, under the original act, a covered jurisdiction would become eligible for bailout in 1970 by simply complying with this requirement. But in the course of amending the Act in 1970 and 1975 to extend the special provisions, Congress also extended the period of time that a covered jurisdiction must not have misused a test or device to 10 years and then to 17 years, respectively.: 7, 9 These extensions continued the effect of requiring jurisdictions to prove that they had not misused a test or device since before the Act's enactment in 1965.
In 1982, Congress amended Section 4(a) to make bailout easier to achieve in two ways. First, Congress provided that if a state is covered, local governments in that state may bail out even if the state is ineligible to bail out. Second, Congress liberalized the eligibility criteria by replacing the 17-year requirement with a new standard, allowing a covered jurisdiction to bail out by proving that in the 10 years preceding its bailout request:
The jurisdiction did not use a test or device with a discriminatory purpose or effect;No court determined that the jurisdiction denied or abridged the right to vote based on racial or language minority status;The jurisdiction complied with the preclearance requirement;The federal government did not assign federal examiners to the jurisdiction;The jurisdiction abolished discriminatory election practices; andThe jurisdiction took affirmative steps to eliminate voter intimidation and expand voting opportunities for protected minorities.Additionally, Congress required jurisdictions seeking bailout to produce evidence of minority registration and voting rates, including how these rates have changed over time and in comparison to the registration and voting rates of the majority. If the court determines that the covered jurisdiction is eligible for bailout, it will enter a declaratory judgment in the jurisdiction's favor. The court will retain jurisdiction for the following 10 years and may order the jurisdiction back into coverage if the jurisdiction subsequently engages in voting 1982 amendment to the bailout eligibility standard went into effect on August 5, 1984. Between that date and 2013, 196 jurisdictions bailed out of coverage through 38 bailout actions; in each instance, the attorney general consented to the bailout request.: 54 Between that date and 2009, all jurisdictions that bailed out were located in Virginia. In 2009, a municipal utility jurisdiction in Texas bailed out after the Supreme Court's opinion in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder (2009), which held that local governments that do not register voters have the ability to bail out. After this ruling, jurisdictions succeeded in at least 20 bailout actions before the Supreme Court held in Shelby County v. Holder (2013) that the coverage formula was provisions allow a covered jurisdiction that has been certified to receive federal observers to bail out of its certification alone. Under Section 13, the attorney general may terminate the certification of a jurisdiction if 1) more than 50 percent of the jurisdiction's minority voting age population is registered to vote, and 2) there is no longer reasonable cause to believe that residents may experience voting discrimination. Alternatively, the District Court for D.C. may order the certification election requirementsTwo provisions require certain jurisdictions to provide election materials to voters in multiple languages: Section 4(f)(4) and Section 203(c). A jurisdiction covered by either provision must provide all materials related to an election—such as voter registration materials, ballots, notices, and instructions—in the language of any applicable language minority group residing in the jurisdiction.: 209 Language minority groups protected by these provisions include Asian Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Native Alaskans. Congress enacted the provisions to break down language barriers and combat pervasive language discrimination against the protected groups.: 200, 209
Section 4(f)(4) applies to any jurisdiction encompassed by the Section 4(b) coverage formula where more than five percent of the citizen voting age population are members of a single language minority group. Section 203(c) contains a formula that is separate from the Section 4(b) coverage formula, and therefore jurisdictions covered solely by 203(c) are not subject to the Act's other special provisions, such as preclearance. The Section 203(c) formula encompasses jurisdictions where the following conditions exist:
A single language minority is present that has an English-illiteracy rate higher than the national average; andEither:The number of "limited-English proficient" members of the language minority group is at least 10,000 voting-age citizens or large enough to comprise at least five percent of the jurisdiction's voting-age citizen population; orThe jurisdiction is a political subdivision that contains an Indian reservation, and more than five percent of the jurisdiction's American Indian or Alaska Native voting-age citizens are members of a single language minority and are limited-English proficient.: 223–224 Section 203(b) defines "limited-English proficient" as being "unable to speak or understand English adequately enough to participate in the electoral process".: 223 Determinations as to which jurisdictions satisfy the Section 203(c) criteria occur once a decade following completion of the decennial census; at these times, new jurisdictions may come into coverage while others may have their coverage terminated. Additionally, under Section 203(d), a jurisdiction may "bail out" of Section 203(c) coverage by proving in federal court that no language minority group within the jurisdiction has an English illiteracy rate that is higher than the national illiteracy rate.: 226 After the 2010 census, 150 jurisdictions across 25 states were covered under Section 203(c), including statewide coverage of California, Texas, and Florida.
Impactrefer to captionFinal page of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed by United States President Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the Senate Hubert Humphrey, and Speaker of the House John McCormackAfter its enactment in 1965, the law immediately decreased racial discrimination in voting. The suspension of literacy tests and the assignments of federal examiners and observers allowed for high numbers of racial minorities to register to vote.: 702 Nearly 250,000 African Americans registered in 1965, one-third of whom were registered by federal examiners. In covered jurisdictions, less than one-third (29.3 percent) of the African American population was registered in 1965; by 1967, this number increased to more than half (52.1 percent),: 702 and a majority of African American residents became registered to vote in 9 of the 13 Southern states. Similar increases were seen in the number of African Americans elected to office: between 1965 and 1985, African Americans elected as state legislators in the 11 former Confederate states increased from 3 to 176.: 112 Nationwide, the number of African American elected officials increased from 1,469 in 1970 to 4,912 in 1980.: 919 By 2011, the number was approximately 10,500. Similarly, registration rates for language minority groups increased after Congress enacted the bilingual election requirements in 1975 and amended them in 1992. In 1973, the percent of Hispanics registered to vote was 34.9 percent; by 2006, that amount nearly doubled. The number of Asian Americans registered to vote in 1996 increased 58 percent by 2006.: 233–235
After the Act's initial success in combating tactics designed to deny minorities access to the polls, the Act became predominately used as a tool to challenge racial vote dilution.: 691 Starting in the 1970s, the attorney general commonly raised Section 5 objections to voting changes that decreased the effectiveness of racial minorities' votes, including discriminatory annexations, redistricting plans, and election methods such as at-large election systems, runoff election requirements, and prohibitions on bullet voting.: 105–106 In total, 81 percent (2,541) of preclearance objections made between 1965 and 2006 were based on vote dilution.: 102 Claims brought under Section 2 have also predominately concerned vote dilution.: 708–709 Between the 1982 creation of the Section 2 results test and 2006, at least 331 Section 2 lawsuits resulted in published judicial opinions. In the 1980s, 60 percent of Section 2 lawsuits challenged at-large election systems; in the 1990s, 37.2 percent challenged at-large election systems and 38.5 percent challenged redistricting plans. Overall, plaintiffs succeeded in 37.2 percent of the 331 lawsuits, and they were more likely to succeed in lawsuits brought against covered enfranchising racial minorities, the Act facilitated a political realignment of the Democratic and Republican parties. Between 1890 and 1965, Black disenfranchisement enabled the Democratic Party to dominate Southern politics. After Johnson signed the Act into law, newly enfranchised Black voters began to push the Democratic Party to the left throughout the South; this in turn pushed Southern white conservatives to switch their support from the Democratic to Republican party.: 290 This trend caused the two parties to ideologically polarize, with the Democratic Party becoming more Liberal and the Republican Party becoming more Conservative.: 290 The trends also created competition between the two parties,: 290 which Republicans capitalized on by implementing the Southern strategy. Over the subsequent decades, the creation of majority-minority districts to remedy racial vote dilution claims also contributed to these developments. By packing liberal-leaning racial minorities into small numbers of majority-minority districts, large numbers of surrounding districts became more solidly white, conservative, and Republican. While this increased the elected representation of racial minorities as intended, it also decreased white Democratic representation and increased the representation of Republicans overall.: 292 By the mid-1990s, these trends culminated in a political realignment: the Democratic Party and the Republican Party became more ideologically polarized and defined as liberal and conservative parties, respectively; and both parties came to compete for electoral success in the South,: 294 with the Republican Party controlling most of Southern politics.: 203
Research shows that the Act successfully and massively increased voter turnout and voter registration, in particular among African Americans. The act has also been linked to concrete outcomes, such as greater public goods provision (such as public education) for areas with higher black population shares and more members of Congress who vote for civil rights-related legislation. A 2016 study in the American Journal of Political Science found "that members of Congress who represented jurisdictions subject to the preclearance requirement were substantially more supportive of civil rights-related legislation than legislators who did not represent covered jurisdictions." A 2013 Quarterly Journal of Economics study found that the Act boosted voter turnout and increases in public goods transfers from state governments to localities with higher black population. A 2018 study in The Journal of Politics found that Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act "increased black voter registration by 14–19 percentage points, white registration by 10–13 percentage points, and overall voter turnout by 10–19 percentage points. Additional results for Democratic vote share suggest that some of this overall increase in turnout may have come from reactionary whites." A 2019 study in the American Economic Journal found that preclearance substantially increased turnout among minorities, even as far as to 2012 (the year prior to the Supreme Court ruling ending preclearance). The study estimates that preclearance led to an increase in minority turnout of 17 percentage points. A 2020 study found that the jurisdictions which had previously been covered by preclearance massively increased the rate of voter registration purges after the 2013 United States Supreme Court Shelby County v. Holder decision in which the "coverage formula" in Section 4(b) of the VRA that determined which jurisdictions had to presubmit changes in their election policies for federal approval was struck down. Another 2020 study found that VRA coverage halved the incidence and the onset of political eligibility provisionsEarly in the history of enforcement for the Act, the Supreme Court of the United States was rather quick to address both the constitutionality of the Act in its entirety as well as the constitutionality of several provisions relating to voter qualifications and prerequisites to voting. During the following year, in 1966, two legal cases were adjudicated by the Court regarding the Act. On the seventh day of March, in the landmark case of South Carolina v. Katzenbach (1966), the Supreme Court held that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a constitutional method to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment. A few months later, on the thirteenth day of June, the Supreme Court held that section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was constitutional in the case of Katzenbach v. Morgan (1966). This section prohibits jurisdictions from administering literacy tests to citizens who attain a sixth-grade education in an American school in which the predominant language was Spanish, such as schools in Puerto Rico. Although the Court had earlier held that literacy tests did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment, in the case of Lassiter v. Northampton County Board of Elections (1959), the Katzenbach-Morgan case allowed Congress could enforce Fourteenth Amendment rights—such as the right to vote—by prohibiting conduct that it deemed to interfere with such rights, even if that conduct may not be independently After Congress created a nationwide ban on all literacy tests and similar devices in 1970, in the case of Oregon v. Mitchell (1970), the Supreme Court upheld the ban as being constitutional. In that case, the Court also addressed the constitutionality of various other provisions relating to voter qualifications and prerequisites to voting; the Court upheld Section 202 of the 1965 law, which prohibits every state and local government from requiring people to live in their borders for longer than 30 days before allowing them to vote in a presidential election. Additionally, the Court upheld the provision lowering the minimum voting age to 18 years in federal elections, but it held that Congress exceeded its power by lowering the voting age to 18 in state elections; this precipitated the ratification of the Twenty-sixth Amendment the following year, which lowered the voting age in all elections from 21 years to 18 years in age. The Court was deeply divided in the Oregon-Mitchell case and a majority of the justices did not agree on one rationale for the 2 results testThe question of constitutionality regarding section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which contains a general prohibition on discriminatory voting laws, has not been definitively explained by the Supreme Court. As amended in 1982, section 2 prohibits any voting practice that has a discriminatory effect, irrespective of whether the practice was enacted or is administered for the purpose of discriminating. This "results test" contrasts with the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, both of which directly prohibit only purposeful discrimination. Given this disparity, whether the Supreme Court would uphold the constitutionality of section 2 as appropriate legislation that was passed to enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, and under what rationale, remains unclear.: 758–759
In Mississippi Republican Executive Opinion v. Brooks (1984), the Supreme Court summarily affirmed, without a written opinion, a lower court's decision that 1982 amendment to section 2 is constitutional. Justice Rehnquist, joined by Chief Justice Burger, dissented from the opinion. They reasoned that the case presented complex constitutional issues that warranted a full hearing. When making later decisions, the Supreme Court is more likely to disregard a previous judgment if it lacks a written opinion, but for lower courts the Supreme Court's unwritten summary affirmances are as binding as are Supreme Court judgments with written opinions. Partially due to Brooks, the constitutionality of the section 2 results test has since been unanimously upheld by lower courts.: 759–760
The case of Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (2021) evaluated the applicability of section 2 of the 1965 law in the wake of the decision in the case of Shelby County v. Holder (2013). The Democratic National Committee asserted a set of Arizona election laws and policies were discriminatory towards Hispanics and Native Americans under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While lower courts upheld the election laws, an en banc Ninth Circuit reversed the decision and found these laws to be in violation of section 2 of the 1965 law. The Arizona law was upheld by the Supreme Court after it introduced the means to review section 2 challenges.
Coverage formula and preclearanceThe Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Section 5 preclearance requirement in three cases. The first case was South Carolina v. Katzenbach (1966), which was decided about five months after the Act's enactment. The court held that Section 5 constituted a valid use of Congress's power to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment, reasoning that "exceptional circumstances" of pervasive racial discrimination, combined with the inadequacy of case-by-case litigation in ending that discrimination, justified the preclearance The court also upheld the constitutionality of the 1965 coverage formula, saying that it was "rational in both practice and theory" and that the bailout provision provided adequate relief for jurisdictions that may not deserve Supreme Court again upheld the preclearance requirement in City of Rome v. United States (1980). The court held that because Congress had explicit constitutional power to enforce the Reconstruction Amendments "by appropriate legislation", the Act did not violate principles of federalism. The court also explicitly upheld the "discriminatory effect" prong of Section 5, stating that even though the Fifteenth Amendment directly prohibited only intentional discrimination, Congress could constitutionally prohibit unintentional discrimination to mitigate the risk that jurisdictions may engage in intentional discrimination. Finally, the court upheld the 1975 extension of Section 5 because of the record of discrimination that continued to persist in the covered jurisdictions. The court further suggested that the temporary nature of the special provisions was relevant to Section 5's final case in which the Supreme Court upheld Section 5 was Lopez v. Monterey County (Lopez II) (1999). In Lopez II, the court reiterated its reasoning in Katzenbach and Rome, and it upheld as constitutional the requirement that covered local governments obtain preclearance before implementing voting changes that their parent state required them to implement, even if the parent state was not itself a covered 2006 extension of Section 5 was challenged before the Supreme Court in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder (2009). The lawsuit was brought by a municipal water district in Texas that elected members to a water board. The District wished to move a voting location from a private home to a public school, but that change was subject to preclearance because Texas was a covered jurisdiction. The District did not register voters, and thus it did not appear to qualify as a "political subdivision" eligible to bail out of coverage. Although the court indicated in dicta (a non-binding part of the court's opinion) that Section 5 presented difficult constitutional questions, it did not declare Section 5 unconstitutional; instead, it interpreted the law to allow any covered local government, including one that does not register voters, to obtain an exemption from preclearance if it meets the bailout requirements.
In a 5–4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), the Supreme Court struck down Section 4(b) as unconstitutional. The court reasoned that the coverage formula violates the constitutional principles of "equal sovereignty of the states" and federalism because its disparate treatment of the states is "based on 40 year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day", rendering the formula outdated. The court did not strike down Section 5, but without Section 4(b), no jurisdiction may be subject to Section 5 preclearance unless Congress enacts a new coverage formula. After the decision, several states that were fully or partially covered—including Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina—implemented laws that were previously denied preclearance. This prompted new legal challenges to these laws under other provisions unaffected by the court's decision, such as Section 2.: 189–200 Research has shown that the coverage formula and the requirement of preclearance substantially increased turnout among racial minorities, even as far as the year before Shelby County. Some jurisdictions that had previously been covered by the coverage formula increased the rate of voter registration purges after Shelby County. On 1 July 2021, the Act's preclearance requirements were further weakened at the state and local level following the Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee in a 6-3 Supreme Court ruling which held that Section 2 preclearance provisions could not apply to out-of-precinct voting or ballot collecting.
Racial gerrymanderingMain article: Gerrymandering in the United States: Affirmative racial gerrymanderingWhile Section 2 and Section 5 prohibit jurisdictions from drawing electoral districts that dilute the votes of protected minorities, the Supreme Court has held that in some instances, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prevents jurisdictions from drawing district lines to favor protected minorities. The court first recognized the justiciability of affirmative "racial gerrymandering" claims in Shaw v. Reno (1993). In Miller v. Johnson (1995), the court explained that a redistricting plan is constitutionally suspect if the jurisdiction used race as the "predominant factor" in determining how to draw district lines. For race to "predominate", the jurisdiction must prioritize racial considerations over traditional redistricting principles, which include "compactness, contiguity, [and] respect for political subdivisions or communities defined by actual shared If a court concludes that racial considerations predominated, then the redistricting plan is considered "racially gerrymandered" and must be subjected to strict scrutiny, meaning that the redistricting plan will be upheld as constitutional only if it is narrowly tailored to advance a compelling state interest. In Bush v. Vera (1996),: 983 a plurality of the Supreme Court assumed that complying with Section 2 or Section 5 constituted compelling interests, and lower courts have allowed only these two interests to justify racial gerrymandering.: 877
See alsoFlag United States portalicon Law portalicon Politics portalFederal lawsNational Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA)Help America Vote Act (HAVA)Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA)Attempted federal legislationFor the People Act (2019 and 2021)John Lewis Voting Rights Act (2019 and 2021)State lawsCalifornia Voting Rights ActVoting Rights Act of VirginiaMore
MARTIN LUTHER KING personal photo album rare aunt civil rights autographs 1977: