Religion NewsToday

King’s final full yr of life: Protest, reward, ire, incarceration

(RNS) — Whereas Martin Luther King Jr. Day is generally commemorated with quotes and clips of King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech and pictures of bus boycotts and the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, among the most necessary moments of King’s work got here later, as he turned his consideration from civil rights to poverty and the Vietnam Conflict.

As he made extra appearances in Northern cities to protest segregation and unequal remedy of Black People, King’s recognition started to drop. Surveys of the American public in addition to statements from some clergy and activists confirmed the price of shifting his focus away from the South and Jim Crow after the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

In 1967 — the final full yr of his life earlier than he was killed in Memphis, Tennessee — Faith Information Service (then often known as Spiritual Information Service) printed dozens of tales about King, chronicling how his rising outspokenness towards the Vietnam Conflict and his advocacy for the poor, whereas it garnered assist from celebrities akin to Dr. Benjamin Spock, drew criticism from evangelist Billy Graham and others.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. discusses his deliberate poor folks’s demonstration from the pulpit of the Washington Nationwide Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on March 31, 1968. (AP Picture)

Right here’s a sampling:

January 1967

When Gallup Ballot’s 1967 checklist of “most admired” males was introduced early within the yr, King had dropped out of the highest 10.

On the prime of the checklist had been President Lyndon Johnson, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and Robert Kennedy. They had been adopted by the one two non secular leaders cited that yr: Graham, cited fourth, and Pope Paul VI, who was fifth.

King had been listed sixth in 1965 and fourth in 1964.


RELATED: Book: How Martin Luther King Jr. used the pulpit to ‘redeem’ America’s soul


(By 1999, Gallup cited King second on a listing of essentially the most admired folks of the twentieth century, after Mom Teresa and forward of John F. Kennedy, Albert Einstein and Helen Keller.)

April 1967

In the identical month that King gave his controversial “Beyond Vietnam” speech at New York’s Riverside Church, he co-led a march for peace from Central Park to the United Nations Plaza. He marched with Spock, the famend pediatrician and pacifist, and spoke at a rally together with Stokely Carmichael, chief of the Pupil Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks about his opposition to the war in Vietnam at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, in New York. RNS file photo by John C. Goodwin

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks about his opposition to the struggle in Vietnam at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, in New York. RNS file picture by John C. Goodwin

Police estimated the five-hour occasion drew a crowd of about 125,000, reads an RNS story headlined “CLERGY JOIN GREAT CROWD IN NEW YORK PEACE RALLY.”

However RNS additionally reported that King stated the group was nearer to 250,000 or 300,000, calling it the “largest peace demonstration ever held within the U.S.” 

Underneath the headline “DEMONSTRATIONS PROLONG WAR, BILLY GRAHAM CHARGES,” RNS reported that Graham stated he thought King was unsuitable to hyperlink the anti-war efforts with the civil rights motion.

“Absolutely Negroes are divided in regards to the struggle as the remainder of us, and it’s an affront to the hundreds of loyal Negro troops who’re in Vietnam,” stated Graham, who a couple of months earlier than had preached to U.S. troops in Vietnam on Christmas Day.

The Christian Century, a primarily mainline Protestant weekly, backed King’s stance, nevertheless: “As a civil rights chief King is just not solely dedicated to serving to the Negro,” the journal stated in an editorial. “He’s dedicated additionally to the motto of the Southern Christian Management Convention: ‘To avoid wasting the soul of America.’” 

It added: “King maintained that he couldn’t rigorously protest the usage of violence in fixing the issues of American ghettos with out additionally condemning violence in Vietnam.”

Might 1967

Contrasting reactions to King’s and others’ place on the struggle prolonged past Protestants.

Dean Joseph O’Meara of the College of Notre Dame Legislation Faculty stated in a Might 3 RNS story headlined “NOTRE DAME LAW DEAN ATTACKS KING, CARMICHAEL VIETNAM STANDS”: “Such individuals (Dr. King and Mr. Carmichael) are doing irreparable hurt to the reason for civil rights by in search of to hyperlink the civil rights motion with their very own legal makes an attempt to influence younger males to keep away from army service.”

O’Meara, who had been lively within the American Civil Liberties Union, stated another objectors to the Vietnam Conflict — however not King and Carmichael — “are motivated by strongly held ethical ideas” and “are entitled to respect.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson, right, talks with Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders in his White House office in Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 1964. (AP Photo)

President Lyndon B. Johnson, proper, talks with Martin Luther King Jr. and different civil rights leaders in his White Home workplace in Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 1964. (AP Picture)

A Might 1 RNS story reported that King preached the day earlier than about Muhammad Ali, then often known as Cassius Clay, hailing his choice to refuse to be inducted into the U.S. Military.

“He’s giving up even fame,” King stated of the heavyweight champion in a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the place he served as co-pastor together with his father. “He
is giving up hundreds of thousands of {dollars} with the intention to arise for what his conscience tells him is true.”

Ali had sought a draft exemption, citing his affiliation with the Nation of Islam, a non secular motion that has championed Black separatism and empowerment.

King additionally stated: “Each younger man on this nation who believes that this fashion is abominable and unjust ought to file as a conscientious objector.”

August 1967

That summer season, the Minnesota Baptist Conference adopted a decision at its 108th annual assembly calling King “a false prophet, blind main the blind.”

His work was known as “extra in concord with Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy than with Jesus Christ,” stated an RNS story headlined “MINNESOTA BAPTIST CONVENTION DENOUNCES MARTIN LUTHER KING.” 

The group, based in 1859 and now often known as the Minnesota Baptist Affiliation,
was described within the RNS story as having “fundamentalist and ultra-conservative views.” It was one among 5 state Baptist our bodies within the state on the time.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is struck by a rock during a march in Chicago on August 5, 1966. RNS archive photo

The Rev.. Martin Luther King Jr. is struck by a rock throughout a march in Chicago on Aug. 5, 1966. RNS archive picture

The conference’s decision included the views of Bishop Charles E. Tucker, an African Methodist Episcopal Zion chief who had stated King was “following the Communist social gathering line, giving assist and luxury to the enemy.”

Two months earlier, the Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church had endorsed Tucker’s denunciation of King and Carmichael as nicely.

The information wasn’t all unhealthy for King.

The Rev. Peter Riga, a Roman Catholic priest, advised the annual assembly of the Biblical-Liturgical Institute at Holy Cross Abbey in Cañon Metropolis, Colorado: “If I had to decide on the best Christian on the planet in the present day, it might be Martin Luther King. He has fortitude with humility; he has suffered however is not going to strike again out of hate.”

Riga added that he agreed with King that clergymen and different ministers ought to declare themselves conscientious objectors and forgo their draft exempt standing.

“Clergymen and ministers ought to take their stand for peace earlier than the legislation,” stated Riga, who served as an Military chaplain in Vietnam and later left the priesthood and have become a lawyer.

October 1967

Different defenders of King took subject when a distinguished Episcopal seminary selected to not honor the 1964 Nobel Prize winner with an honorary diploma.

Earlier than a ceremony marking the a hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Basic Theological Seminary, Bishop Robert Spears Jr., who chaired the anniversary committee, confirmed that King was one among 18-20 folks steered for the honorary diploma however stated he was rejected as a result of the main focus of the honors was on ecumenical work. He stated King’s “principal contribution was not that of an ecumenical nature.”

The Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, center left, holds hands with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. while singing "We Shall Overcome” during a civil rights rally at Soldier Field in Chicago on June 21, 1964. Photo courtesy of OCP Media

The Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, middle left, holds palms with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. whereas singing “We Shall Overcome” throughout a civil rights rally at Soldier Subject in Chicago on June 21, 1964. Picture courtesy of OCP Media

The unbiased Episcopal Peace Fellowship known as the choice “a stunning vestige in racial bias” and stated he was “indisputably among the many foremost ecumenical leaders of our time. Fairly other than his dedication to nonviolence and moderation within the probably revolutionary battle for human rights, Dr. King has reduce throughout all racial traces in uniting churchmen in ecumenical witness to world peace.”

The Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity joined the fellowship in criticizing the seminary, saying King was “one of the crucial purposeful ecumenists on the planet in the present day, and plenty of lapsed churchmen have returned to the religion of their fathers due to the relevance and heroism which he has exemplified as a Christian chief.”

That month RNS additionally reported that King started serving 4 days of a five-day jail time period after the Supreme Court docket declined to evaluate earlier convictions for violating a courtroom injunction towards holding demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963.

Talking at an Atlanta information convention, King known as the $50 high quality and jail sentence a “small worth to pay” as a result of he believed the 1963 demonstrations led to the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., right, and other civil rights leaders, are pushed off the road as they resume a voters' march begun by James Meredith. Later they continued their walk, marching single file along the highway's shoulder. Meredith was shot from ambush by a white man as he was marching from Memphis, Tenn., to Jackson, capital of Mississippi, in an effort to encourage black residents to vote in the state's primary election. Religious leaders were quick to condemn the shooting and called for greater efforts in behalf of voting rights. Religion News Service file photo

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., proper, and different civil rights leaders, are pushed off the highway as they resume a voters march begun by James Meredith. Faith Information Service file picture

“However I’m unhappy,” he stated, “that the Supreme Court docket of our land … couldn’t uphold the rights of particular person residents within the face of deliberate use of the courts of the State of Alabama as a method of oppression.”

King was wearing a denim shirt, sweater and blue denims and carried a Bible and two different books, RNS reported.

November 1967

Initially taken to the Jefferson County Jail in Bessemer that his aides stated was a Ku Klux Klan stronghold, King was transferred to Birmingham. A Nov. 3 RNS story headlined “DR. KING SHIFTED TO ‘SAFER’ JAIL” quotes Jefferson County Sheriff Mel Bailey saying the Birmingham courthouse jail was the “most secure place” for King.

On the time of his launch, the choose stated: “So far as I used to be capable of inform, he was a mannequin prisoner.”

Whereas imprisoned with the Revs. Ralph D. Abernathy, Wyatt Tee Walker and A.D. King, who was King’s brother, the civil rights leaders had been planning what turned often known as the Poor Folks’s Marketing campaign.

After King’s assassination on April 4, 1968, the huge civil disobedience marketing campaign they deliberate for the subsequent spring was led by Abernathy.

Inhabitants of Resurrection City, home of the Poor People's Campaign in Washington, read newspaper accounts on June 8, 1968, of the capture of James Earl Ray, the accused assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in London. Announcement of the capture was read over the public address system in the campsite. RNS archive photo via UPI Telephoto. Photo courtesy of the Presbyterian Historical Society

Inhabitants of Resurrection Metropolis, house of the Poor Folks’s Marketing campaign in Washington, learn newspaper accounts on June 8, 1968, of the seize of James Earl Ray, the accused murderer of the Rev.. Martin Luther King Jr., in London. Announcement of the seize was learn over the general public handle system within the campsite. RNS archive picture. Picture courtesy of the Presbyterian Historic Society


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