As I am wont to do, for this anniversary of Martin Luther King’s birthday, I want to recommend another less well-known, but important, speech, the 1966 Ware Lecture: Don’t Sleep Through the Revolution. Delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly in Hollywood, Florida, May 18, 1966.
Here’s just an excerpt:
One of the great misfortunes of history is that all too many individuals and institutions find themselves in a great period of change and yet fail to achieve the new attitudes and outlooks that the new situation demands. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution.
In a couple different Facebook strains around the Martin Luther King holiday, I read suggestions that Martin Luther King was a creationist. This is, as far as any evidence I’ve seen, a total fabrication.
I like to look for less familiar text for Martin Luther King’s birthday. Unfortunately, soundbites from his I Have a Dream speech, for instance, have been so torn from its context as to make it unrecognizable.
A Knock at Midnight (found here [PDF]) was delivered on 14 September 1958. It has some Cold War references that I removed, not because there aren’t modern day equivalents, but for clarity, and an attempt at brevity. The text was based on Luke 11:5-6, RSV: “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him”? It’s all MLK until the end.
Although this parable is concerned with the power of persistent prayer, it may also serve as a basis for our thought concerning many contemporary problems and the role of the church in grappling with them. It is midnight in the parable; it is also midnight in our world, and the darkness is so deep that we can hardly see which way to turn…
NBC News did a very interesting thing last month: it rebroadcast the August 25, 1963 episode of the news panel program Meet the Press, 50 years after the original broadcat. You can read the transcript at the site as well. The guests were Roy Wilkins, head of the NAACP, and Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. They were speaking three days before the massive March on Washington.
It’s likely you’ll see a LOT of stories about the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Every single one will marvel about how much progress has been made in America in the area of race, since 1963. Almost all will point to a black President, the current Attorney General, and two recent Secretaries of State as examples. The divergence in opinions come on this point: some will claim that we have “reached the promised land,” making sure to paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr. from that day a half century ago – as though he were the only speaker there – while others will suggest that we haven’t quite gotten there yet.
When President Obama suggested that we look at race again in light of the Trayvon Martin case, that Obama could have been Trayvon 35 years ago, some, such as Touré at TIME, thought it was a brave personal observation. He wrote: “The assertion that blacks are hallucinating or excuse-making or lying when we talk about the many very real ways white privilege and racial bias and the lingering impact of history impact our lives is painful. It adds insult to injury to attack all assertions of racism and deny its continued impact or existence.”
I can’t imagine how difficult Martin Luther King’s life must have been sometimes. His last speech, on April 3, 1968, was amazingly eerie in that he recalled the day about a decade earlier when he was stabbed at a 1958 Harlem book signing and almost did not survive.
“A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back – but they are gone. It is up to us. It is up to you.” – Marian Wright Edelman
I saw this quote on Facebook a couple days after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. The quote made me think about what would MLK, Jr. be doing and saying about current events. I have read and/or listened to many of Martin’s writings and speeches, so I could (I hope) reasonably extrapolate his views.
For Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday – the holiday is tomorrow, but the actual anniversary of what would have been his 83rd birthday is today – I recommend that you read Letter from a Birmingham Jail, written 16 April 1963 to “My Dear Fellow Clergymen”, published in the Atlantic magazine as The Negro Is Your Brother. Below are just a few excerpts that I believe are particularly applicable to today. For a historical context of the letter, read here.
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.”…I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.”…
…More basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid. Continue reading Go read 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail'!→
Since the King holiday is coming up, I thought I’d mention that noise I’ve been reading about Martin Luther King, Jr. being a Republican. This involved posters over the past couple years and his niece declaring it to be so. Frankly, I have not come across a totally credible source proving it one way or another.
The Republican party, of course, was the party of Lincoln, while the Democratic party, particularly in the South, where King lived, was the party of George Wallace and other segregationists. So it is quite plausible that he was a member of the GOP, at least until the 1960 election of John Kennedy. Surely he voted for Democrat Lyndon Johnson over Republican Barry Goldwater in 1964, his public comments make clear.
But most of the conversations miss the greater point, which is, “Would Martin Luther King, Jr. be a Republican in the 21st Century?” Those who suggest that the answer would be “yes” generally zero in on one section of his March on Washington I Have A Dream speech in August 1963, the part that goes: I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. The clear implication is that race-based remedies for past or current discrimination should be off the table.
Stevie Wonder is 60 years old today. Only 60? Seems that he’s been around forever. I guess that’s what happens when you’re dubbed the “12-year-old genius.” Wish I had the time to indicate all of his significance in my musical life. Among other things, I’ve stated that he and Paul Simon were THE two most important artists in my record collection in the 1970s. Here are just some highlights.
Really don’t remember the earlier singles, such as “Fingertips, Part 2”, except as an oldie. The first song I recall listened to, on the radio, was Uptight (Everything’s Alright) in 1966. I loved it! Later, I got an album from my sister’s godfather, of all people, of Bill Cosby called Silver Throat, where he sings a parody of Uptight called Little Old Man.
My sister owned the 1966 album Down to Earth, containing the title track and A Place In the Sun, the latter a song written by Stevie that everyone at the time seemed compelled to cover. I owned 1970’s Signed Sealed Delivered.
Possibly my favorite Wonder song in the early years was 1967’s “I Was Made to Love Her”