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When Segregationists Bombed Martin Luther King Jr.'s House

When Segregationists Bombed Martin Luther King Jr.'s House

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On January 30, 1956, Martin Luther King Jr.’s house was bombed by segregationists in retaliation for the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

Taylor B. Branch, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006).

Taylor B. Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-1963 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988).

Taylor B. Branch, Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998).

Clayborne Carson, ed., The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Reprint ed. (2001 New York: Warner Books, 1998).

Michael Eric Dyson, I May Not Get There with You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Free Press, 2000).

Adam Fairclough, To Redeem the Soul of America: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King, Jr. New ed. (2001 Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987).

David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Reprint ed. (2004 New York: Morrow, 1986).

David J. Garrow, The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr.: From "Solo" to Memphis (New York: Norton, 1981).

John A. Kirk, Martin Luther King Jr.: Profiles in Power (New York: Longman, 2004).

Laura T. McCarty, Coretta Scott King: A Biography (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-Clio, 2009).

David S. Williams, From Mounds to Megachurches: Georgia’s Religious Heritage (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008).

[History Which Happened On This Day]: Martin Luther King Jr.’s House Bombed

January 30, 1956, an unidentified white supremacist terrorist bombed the Montgomery home of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. No one was harmed, but the explosion outraged the community and was a major test of King’s steadfast commitment to non-violence.

King was relatively new to Montgomery, Alabama but had quickly involved himself in the civil rights struggle there. He was a leading organizer of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which began in December of 1955 after activist Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated city bus to a white passenger. The boycott brought King national recognition, but also made him a target of white supremacists. He was speaking at a nearby church on the evening of January 30 when a man pulled up in a car, walked up to King’s house, and tossed an explosive onto the porch. The bomb went off, damaging the house, but did not harm King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, who was inside with the couple’s seven-month-old daughter Yolanda.

News of the bombing spread quickly, and an angry crowd soon gathered outside King’s home. A matter of minutes after his home had been bombed, standing feet away from the site of the explosion, King preached non-violence. “I want you to love our enemies,” he told his supporters. “Be good to them, love them, and let them know you love them.” It was a prime example of King’s deeply-held belief in nonviolence, as what could have been a riot instead became a powerful display of the highest ideals of the civil rights movement.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s home is bombed
On January 30, 1956, an unidentified white supremacist terrorist bombed the Montgomery home of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. No one was harmed, but the explosion outraged the community and was a major test of King’s steadfast commitment to non-violence.

King was relatively new to Montgomery, Alabama but had quickly involved himself in the civil rights struggle there. He was a leading organizer of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which began in December of 1955 after activist Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated city bus to a white passenger. The boycott brought King national recognition, but also made him a target of white supremacists. He was speaking at a nearby church on the evening of January 30 when a man pulled up in a car, walked up to King’s house, and tossed an explosive onto the porch. The bomb went off, damaging the house, but did not harm King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, who was inside with the couple’s seven-month-old daughter Yolanda.

News of the bombing spread quickly, and an angry crowd soon gathered outside King’s home. A matter of minutes after his home had been bombed, standing feet away from the site of the explosion, King preached non-violence. “I want you to love our enemies,” he told his supporters. “Be good to them, love them, and let them know you love them.” It was a prime example of King’s deeply-held belief in nonviolence, as what could have been a riot instead became a powerful display of the highest ideals of the civil rights movement.

King added that “if I am stopped this movement will not stop,” a sentiment he repeated throughout his life. Later that same year, while the boycott was still in effect, someone fired a shotgun at the Kings’ home, and they continued to receive death threats and intimidation—including a threatening letter from the Federal Bureau of Investigation—until King was assassinated in 1968. The bombing was only one chapter in a long history of violence against civil rights leaders and African Americans that continues to this day. Bombings, shootings and arson at African American churches remain shockingly common in the United States—a massacre committed by a white supremacist at a church in Charleston, South Carolina claimed nine lives in 2015, and in 2019 the son of a local sheriff’s deputy was arrested and charged with a string of arson attacks on African American churches in Louisiana

King added that “if I am stopped this movement will not stop,” a sentiment he repeated throughout his life. Later that same year, while the boycott was still in effect, someone fired a shotgun at the Kings’ home, and they continued to receive death threats and intimidation—including a threatening letter from the Federal Bureau of Investigation—until King was assassinated in 1968. The bombing was only one chapter in a long history of violence against civil rights leaders and African Americans that continues to this day. Bombings, shootings and arson at African American churches remain shockingly common in the United States—a massacre committed by a white supremacist at a church in Charleston, South Carolina claimed nine lives in 2015, and in 2019 the son of a local sheriff’s deputy was arrested and charged with a string of arson attacks on African American churches in Louisiana

The King Years

1929 Martin Luther King, Jr. is born at noon on January 15, to Reverend and Mrs. Martin Luther King, Sr., at their 501 Auburn Avenue home in Atlanta, Georgia.

1944 MLK wins an oratory contest on April 17 with a speech entitled “The Negro and The Constitution.” At age fifteen he graduates from Booker T. Washington High School and is admitted to Morehouse College (Atlanta) on September 20.

1948 MLK is ordained on February 25 at the age of nineteen as a minister at Ebenezer Baptist Church his father is its pastor. MLK graduated from Morehouse College on June 8 with a degree in sociology. He enters Crozer Theological Seminary (Pennsylvania) on September 14.

1951 MLK receives bachelor of divinity degree from Crozer on May 8 and hears his first lecture on Gandhi. He enters Boston University for graduate studies in theology on September 13.

1953 Coretta Scott and MLK marry in Marion, Alabama, on June 18. Martin Luther King, Sr., officiates at the ceremony.

1954 MLK delivers his first trial sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, on January 24. On October 31, he becomes its pastor.

1955 MLK is granted the doctorate of philosophy in systematic theology from Boston University on June 5. His dissertation topic: “A Comparison of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Wiseman.” MLK is elected on August 26 to the executive committee of the Montgomery NAACP. After Rosa Parks’s December 1 arrest for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus, he joins the bus boycott. On December 5, MLK is elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association and becomes the bus boycott spokesman and leader.

1956 On January 26, MLK is arrested as part of a “Get Tough” campaign to intimidate the bus boycotters. On January 30, his home is bombed. He successfully pleads for calm to a vengeful crowd of neighbors gathered outside his home. On November 13, the Supreme Court rules that bus segregation is illegal. After black Montgomery walked for more than one year as part of the boycott, on the morning of December 21, MLK is one of the first passengers to ride on the newly integrated buses.

1957 MLK forms the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to fight segregation and achieve civil rights, and on February14 becomes its first president. He and Coretta attend the midnight ceremonies in Accra on March 6, marking Ghana’s independence. On May 17, in Washington, D.C., MLK speaks to a crowd of fifteen thousand at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom to expand civil rights. On September 27, partially in response to the Prayer Pilgrimage, the U.S. Congress passes the first civil rights act since Reconstruction.

1958 MLK’s first book, Stride Toward Freedom, is published on September 17. At a Harlem book signing on September 20, MLK is nearly killed when he is stabbed by an assailant. Along with other civil rights leaders, he meets on June 23 with President Dwight D. Eisenhower to discuss problems affecting black Americans.

1959 MLK and Coretta make a pilgrimage to India on February 2 and spend a month there as the guests of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to study Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence and to pay homage at his shrine. On November 29, MLK announces his resignation, effective January 1, as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church to concentrate on civil rights work full time. He moves to Atlanta to direct the activities of the SCLC.

1960 On January 20, MLK moves to Atlanta and becomes co-pastor, with his father, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Lunch counter sit-ins begin on February 1 in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee is founded on April 15 to coordinate student protests at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, and elsewhere. MLK is the keynote speaker at the event. In Atlanta, on October 19, MLK is arrested during a sit-in while waiting to be served at a restaurant. He is sentenced to four months in jail, but after intervention by then presidential candidate John Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy, MLK is released.

1961 On May 4, soon after the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in interstate transportation, Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) demonstrators begin the first Freedom Ride through the South, traveling as a racially mixed group on a Greyhound bus. On May 21, MLK addresses a mass rally in support of another group of Freedom Riders at a mob-besieged church in Montgomery, Alabama. In November, the Interstate Commerce Commission bans segregation in interstate travel in response to the Freedom Riders’ protests. On December 15, MLK arrives in Albany, Georgia, at the request of the leader of the Albany protest, to desegregate public facilities there. The following day, at a demonstration attended by seven hundred protesters, MLK is arrested for obstructing the sidewalk and parading without a permit.

1962 Following the unsuccessful Albany, Georgia, movement, MLK is tried and convicted on July 10 for leading the march the previous December. He is arrested again on July 27 and jailed for holding a prayer vigil in Albany. He leaves jail on August 10 and agrees to halt demonstrations there. On October 16, he meets with President Kennedy at the White House.

1963 Sit-in demonstrations begin in February in Birmingham, Alabama. On April 3, the Birmingham campaign is officially launched. On Good Friday, April 12, Police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor arrests MLK and Ralph Abernathy for demonstrating without a permit. During the days he spends jailed, MLK writes his historic “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” On April 19, MLK and Abernathy are released on bond. During May 2-7, Birmingham police use fire hoses and dogs against the Children’s Crusade. More than one thousand demonstrators, mostly high school students, are jailed. Protest leaders suspend mass demonstrations as negotiations begin on May 8. Two days later, the Birmingham agreement is announced. The stores, restaurants, and schools will be desegregated hiring of blacks implemented and charges dropped against the protesters. The day after the settlement is reached, segregationists bomb the Gaston Motel where MLK was staying. On May 13, federal troops arrive in Birmingham. The Birmingham protests prove to be the turning point in the war to end legal segregation in the South. On June 11, President Kennedy announces new civil rights legislation. Kennedy is the first U.S. president to say publicly that segregation is legally and morally wrong. On June 23, MLK leads 125,000 people on a Freedom Walk in Detroit. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28 is the largest civil rights demonstration in history with nearly 250,000 marchers. MLK leads the march for Jobs and Freedom. The demonstrators demand an end to state-supported segregation and equal job opportunities. At the march, MLK makes his memorable “I Have a Dream” speech. On September 15 in Birmingham, a dynamite blast kills four black girls attending Sunday school at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. MLK delivers the eulogy for the four girls on September 22. President Kennedy is assassinated on November 22.

1964 On January 3, MLK appears on the cover of Time magazine as its Man of the Year. MLK is arrested protesting for the integration of public accommodations in St. Augustine, Florida, on June 11. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner—three civil rights workers who tried to register black voters during the Freedom Summer—are reported missing on June 21. MLK attends the signing ceremony of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the White House on July 2. The FBI finds the bodies of the slain civil rights workers buried not far from Philadelphia, Mississippi. On December 10, at age thirty-five, MLK becomes the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

1965 On February 2, MLK is arrested in Selma, Alabama, during a voting rights demonstration. Marching demonstrators are beaten at the Pettus Bridge by state highway patrolmen and sheriff’s deputies on March 7. In reaction to the brutal beatings, President Johnson addresses the nation, describes the voting right act he will submit to Congress, and uses the slogan made famous by the civil rights movement: “We Shall Overcome.” Federal troops are mobilized on March 21-25 to protect more than three thousand protestors marching from Selma to Montgomery. MLK, who led the march, addresses a crowd of more than twenty-five thousand supporters in front of the Cradle of the Confederacy, the Alabama State Capitol. On August 6, the 1965 Voting Rights Act is signed by President Johnson and MLK is given one of the pens.

1966 On January 22, MLK moves into a Chicago tenement to attract attention to the living conditions of the poor. In the spring, he tours Alabama to help elect black officials under the newly passed Voting Rights Act. On July 10, MLK initiates an effort to make Chicago an open city in regard to housing. James Meredith is shot during MLK’s March Against Fear, on June 6. MLK and others continue the march. On August 5, as he leads a march through Chicago, MLK is stoned by a crowd of angry whites.

1967 On April 4, MLK delivers his first public antiwar speech at New York’s Riverside Church. On April 15, in the shadow of the United Nations building, he delivers a speech against the war in Vietnam in what turns into the largest peace protest in the history of the country. The Justice Department reports that as of July 6 more than 50 percent of all the eligible black voters are now registered to vote in Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and South Carolina. The Supreme Court upholds a conviction of MLK by a Birmingham court for demonstrating without a permit. Starting October 30, MLK spends four days in a Birmingham jail. On November 27, MLK announces the inception of the Poor People’s Campaign focusing on jobs and freedom for the poor of all races.

1968 MLK announces that the Poor People’s Campaign will culminate in a march on Washington to demand a $12 billion Economic Bill of Rights guaranteeing employment to the able-bodied, incomes to those unable to work, and an end to housing discrimination. On March 18, MLK speaks to sanitation workers on strike in Memphis, Tennessee, and agrees to support them. On March 28, MLK leads a march that turns violent. He is appalled by the violence but vows to march again after the protestors learn discipline. On April 3, MLK delivers the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech at the Memphis Masonic Temple. At sunset on April 4, sniper James Earl Ray fatally shoots MLK as the civil rights leader stands on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Ray is later convicted for the murder, which sparks riots and disturbances in 130 U.S. cities and results in 20,000 arrests. MLK’s funeral, on April 9 in Atlanta, is an international event, and his coffin is carried on a mule cart followed by more than 50,000 mourners. Within a week of the assassination, the Open Housing Act is passed by Congress.

1986 On November 2, MLK’s birthday, January 15, is declared a national holiday.

2011 The dedication of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial takes place in Washington, D.C., August 26-28.

Timeline from MLK: A celebration in Word and Image introduced by Charles Johnson, edited by Bob Adelman

3: Martin Luther King Jr. On Conquering Fear

Note: The Humanity Archive is recorded to be heard and felt. If you can we highly suggest you to listen to the audio. Writing can’t produce the emotion of the recorded show. Transcripts are made before the show is produced, so they are not word for word. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

On September 20th, 1958 a 29-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Blumstein’s Department Store in Harlem. And I wonder if he realized that 24 years earlier at Blumstein’s, it was the site of ground zero for a civil rights struggle similar to his own. You see, in 1934, it was the place where the 'Buy where you can work' campaign was going on. 75% of Blumstein store sales were to black people. Yet they couldn't work as clerks or cashiers there. Now thousands protested. Needless to say, they hired black people soon after that.

So here sat King at this very same store signing copies of his book, Stride Toward Freedom. The book, in all its detail, was King's intimate account of how he himself and 50,000 others fought for civil rights with non-violent resistance. And in 1955, how they staged the surprisingly successful Montgomery bus boycott. I still can't contain my fascination with the irony here that he now sat in a store that was boycotted for the very same thing that he boycotted for. Stop short on that interesting fact, because there's a bigger reason that King's book signing wouldn't go as planned.

You see, what was organized to be a light-hearted event, it's a book signing. One where he could kind of just relaxed for a minute from all of the civil rights struggling and engage with new readers and greet his fans and admirers. It would take a dark turn as King was greeting and signing books an unassuming 42-year-old woman approached him. She was wearing a smart suit, cat glasses, a necklace and earrings, and she was carrying a large black handbag. And she asked, 'are you, Martin Luther King?' When he replied yes. She said you've been annoying me for a long time. Then she plunged a letter opener deep into his chest.

This woman was later identified as Izola Curry. Originally from Georgia. She had moved to New York for work. Not much is known about her, but she was later found to be schizophrenic. And she had thought for a long time that King and the NAACP had her under constant surveillance. She thought that they were her enemies. The pictures of Curry in the New York Daily News that I saw, I was shocked. I mean, she was deeply disturbed in her facial expressions, but by her appearance, I never would've even thought that she could murder anybody. She just looked like this unassuming, nice, slightly over a middle-aged Black woman who was on her way to church, not someone who is on the way to jail for attempted murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Now I can't begin to imagine what it's like to be stabbed, but I've read accounts where people say they felt nothing at all, mostly from shock and adrenaline. And then the accounts also range to things like they felt every single millimeter of the steel entering their body and this painful experience. Police arrived on the scene to find King sitting in a chair. He was stunned and he had the letter opener’s ivory handle still protruding just below his collar. He was rushed to the hospital and surgeons opened his chest and after a dangerous operation, completed just inches from his heart, he survived. And King says about it, "when I was well enough to talk with Dr. Aubre Maynard, the Chief of the Surgeons who performed the delicate, dangerous operation, I learned the reason for the long delay that proceeded surgery.

He told me that the razor tip of the instrument had been touching my aorta and that my whole chest had to be open to extract it. "'If you had sneezed during all those hours of waiting, Dr. Maynard said your aorta would have been punctured and you would have drowned in your own blood'" Curry would spend the rest of her life in mental institutions for the attempted murder of King. Dying only in 2015 and she's largely lost to history. King in typical King fashion that we may take for granted now he quickly let the offense go.

He says to the surprise of many that he said that he forgave Curry. Now it's difficult for most of us to imagine this kind of letting go. And I think our natural reaction to getting stabbed would be resentment, right? Payback. Like that James Brown song payback. That songs popular for a reason. That's how most of us think. But you have to imagine the moral fortitude, the courage, all of these things that will be needed to let go of these very powerful, emotional feelings that you would have towards someone if they stabbed you. And then to make that determination that forgiveness is the appropriate attitude to take. King did this.

His philosophy of love allowed him to bypass the bitterness, the anger, the hate, the resentment that would have tormented many of us. King regularly stood up to death with the firmest footing than with this profound sense of forgiveness. So I think that he is someone who was highly qualified to counsel others on overcoming fear. That is going to be the topic of today's program. Dr. King on overcoming fear.

Welcome to The Humanity Archive where we explore the past, inform our present, looking at humanity's best. And sometimes even our worst examples to see how we can situate ourselves in the now and move forward to a better and brighter future. We don't just look at history as a static rock, but a ever flowing presence in our daily lives and a way for us to move forward. I'm Jermaine Fowler and I feel so magnificent to be sitting here and talking to you right now in our topic for today is this idea of acknowledging and facing fear.

I got the idea for this show when I was reading Martin Luther King, Jr's book, A Gift of Love. And who to put it better than the person who wrote the forward to the book, a Reverend by the name of Dr. Raphael G. Warnock. And he says, "As Dr. King prepared for the Birmingham campaign in early 1963. He drafted the final sermons for Strength to Love, a volume of his best-known homilies. King had begun working on the sermons during a fortnight in jail in 1962 having been arrested for holding a prayer vigil outside of Albany City Hall.

King and Ralph Abernathy shared a jail cell for 15 days. That was according to King dirty, filthy, and ill-equipped, and the worst I'd ever seen. While behind bars he spent uninterrupted time preparing the drafts for a classic sermon, such as loving your enemies, love, and action, and shattered dreams, and continued to work on the volume after his release."

Arrested for holding a prayer vigil. If that doesn't jump out to you, I don't know what will. But in his book King talks about it a lot. But the section on antidotes for fear jumped out at me because I've often wondered why 40 million Americans suffer from some anxiety disorder. Like why are we afraid? OCD, PTSD, phobias, stress, and so on and so forth. I've heard a theory that says, as we shift more and more to a status-seeking, money motivated, material-driven society, consumer culture, all of these things cause our anxiety to increase.

But when we focus on community, family, a meaningful philosophy our anxiety decreases. So there's a correlation there. So as I was reading this, I saw where King guides readers on four steps to overcoming fear. I think something that will be helpful to many in the audience, helpful to me, something that I try to incorporate into my daily philosophy. Again, here we try not to only look at history like it's a movie but to see how we can use history, philosophy, thoughts, and help them to inform our actions in the present. And I know King is somebody who was greatly admired, but I don't hear many people talk about his thoughts much here, his philosophy much, or his worldview much.

And that's kind of what we're going to do here. We're going to look a little bit more into the man and his philosophy for life. So again, he guides readers on this is the first step to overcoming fear. And he says, "first we must unflinchingly, face our fears and honestly ask ourselves, why are we afraid? This confrontation will to some measure grant us power. We shall never be cured of fear by escapism or repression. For the more, we attempt to ignore and repress our fears the more we multiply our inner conflicts. By looking squarely and honestly at our fears, we learn that many of them reside in some childhood need or apprehension by bringing our fears to the forefront of consciousness we may find them to be more imaginary than real.

Some of them will turn out to be snakes under the carpet." That was a man under relentless attack by segregationists, white supremacists and at times those of his own race. Dr. Martin Luther King embodied courage under fire as someone who had acknowledged real fears. At one point in time, he was savagely punched and kicked by a white man when he was angry about him registering as the first Black guest of a historic Alabama hotel, or did he respond with the strength of love? In another instance, he was marching in Chicago. He was swarmed by about 700 white protesters, hurling bricks, and bottles, and rocks at him. And he was struck in the head. He fell nearly unconscious.

There is a picture of it. You can find it online right now. Then he regained his composure and he courageously continued to lead the protest with a resolute nerve. Imagine marching through a sea of fury and hate. People threatening real anti-black violence at even the mere thought of economic empowerment for Black people. This is what he had went there to contribute to. The very thought of desegregation. King said, "I have never seen, even in Mississippi and Alabama, a mob as hateful as I've seen here in Chicago." A lot of people like to think of the North as a more liberal part of the country, not so much so in King's eyes.

He took off his tie though at that time and he promised to keep demonstrating. Then he said, "yes, it is definitely a closed society. We're going to make it an open society." Talking of the separation that he saw between the races in Chicago. Talking of the lack of opportunity that he saw for Black people in Chicago. Talking of the lack of upward mobility of the Black people that he saw in Chicago. Said he is going to make it open for them. This was his dream and vision there. And there's many of these instances of King facing fear in which he would have had to acknowledge his fear.

Years earlier his house was bombed in 1956 and it detonated on the porch of his home in Montgomery, Alabama, and his wife Coretta was inside. No one was hurt, but imagine the type of fear after something like this, that could be so debilitating. At the time he was 10 weeks into leading a bus boycott, one that his enemies vowed to crush. Yet not even this downed his spirit. Now try to think about what he was up against. To look death in the face like this. To go up to organizations like one called The Anti Negro White Citizens Council.

Imagine The Anti Negro White Citizens Council. This was a group of the mayor and the police chief and all of these government officials were a part of this group openly. Imagine the courage to go up against this type of enemy. And that gets into his second point that courage is always necessary whenever you want to face fear. Like all of us, I'm sure King, he had to have an inward struggle with fear. Nobody is fearless unless you're a sociopath or a psychopath or someone with no feeling. But even if he had this fear inside, outwardly he seemed steadfast. He seemed unmoved. He seemed ready to face overwhelming hate for America.

And in this spirit, he considers as a second way that we can deal with this fear and it is through courage. He says, "we can master fear through one of the supreme virtues known to man, courage. Courage is the power of the mind to overcome fear. Unlike anxiety, fear has a definite object which may be faced, analyzed, attacked, and if need be endured. Courage, the determination to not be overwhelmed by an object, however frightful, enables us to stand up to any fear. Many of our fears are not mere snakes under the carpet. Trouble is a reality in the strange medley of life. Dangers lurk within the circumference of every action. (14m 9s):

Accidents do occur. Bad health is an ever-threatening possibility. And death is a stark, grim, and inevitable fact of human experience. Courage is in a resolution to go forward in spite of obstacles and frightening situations. Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstance. Courageous men never lose the zest for a living, even though their life is zestless. Cowardly men overwhelmed by the uncertainties of life, lose the will to live. We must constantly build dykes of courage to hold back the flood of fear."

Think of those three solid examples that I just gave you of King facing his fears and living the advice that he is giving us himself. I imagine many of you face your own set of fears daily. Some more challenging than others. And I challenge you to remember this next time you face your next set of challenges and fears. To build up the dyke of courage against a flood of fears as King says. (15m 22s):

Now is the next point is that love is stronger. And he acknowledges that fear has many manifestations, right? Inward ones such as jealousy, hate, self-loathing, and depression, as well as outward ones such as segregation, human persecution, and war. With ongoing fear of death threats to his family, he admitted that he was tempted to carry a firearm. Think about Martin Luther King pistol-packing, toting a gun. Could anybody have blamed him if he did do this? I don't think so, but he knew it was against his nonviolent philosophy. He firmly asserted that the only counter to these fears was love even when much of America hated him.

I don't know if you've heard, but King wasn't as popular in his time then he is now, but he always maintained that even his detractors were his brothers and his sisters. He never let the extreme hate separate him from his belief that peaceful assertiveness was the only means to social change. Love at the foundation of his every action. Love causing him to criticize but not demonize. Love causing him to shed tears but not let those tears turn into rage-filled anger. Love at the basis of his conquering of fear. He says, "fear is mastered through love.

Hate is rooted in fear. And the only cure for fear hate is love. Is not fear one of the major causes of war? We say that war is a consequence of hate, but close scrutiny reveals this sequence. First fear, then hate, then war and finally deeper hatred. We are afraid of the superiority of other people, of failure, and of scorn, and disapproval of those opinions. So we most value envy, jealousy, a lack of self-confidence, a feeling of insecurity, and a haunting sense of inferiority are all rooted in fear. Is there a cure for these annoying theories that pervert our personal lives?

Yes. A deep and abiding commitment to the way of love. Perfect love casts out fear, hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear, only love can do that."

I once heard someone say that, imagine if the people of the Civil Rights Movement let their anger take hold. Let their outrage take hold. Let their bitterness take hold. Let their resentment take hold. Picked up firearms. Let their resentment continue to be fueled. If this were to happen we may have a Black Al Qaeda in America. Terrorist cells everywhere in a continuous war against the American government. This didn't happen. It's due in part to this resounding principle of love that flowed throughout the movement.

This ability to take that resentment and make a different decision about it. Let that resentment bathe in the bath of love and then come forward as critical examination of America in a steadfast commitment to dialog, to protests, to boycott to these other means that would affect change.

Imagine if those are those of the Civil Rights Movement would have done otherwise. America would not be the same as it is today.

Now Martin Luther King, as we know, was a religious leader and he was someone with robust faith. He had a religious zeal and unflinching commitment to revolutionary Christianity. These are parts of King that are entrenched in his legacy and in his personality and in his movement. As a Baptist minister, he fought racism through a mixture of scripture and a hyper-social consciousness. And it's no wonder that his final antidote for fear is faith. And secular or non-secular, religious or non-religious, I think this idea can be applied to anyone. He isn't really talking about blind uncritical faith.

I don't think he is talking about that. He's talking about an acknowledgment of letting whatever your source of good, whether it be spiritual or philosophical, or even the love of your family be the wind at your back. With this idea that humans need faith that comes through spirituality he writes, "fear is mastered through faith. A common source of fear is an awareness of deficient resources in the consequent inadequacy for life. Abnormal fears and phobias that are expressed in neurotic anxiety may be cured by psychiatry, but the fear of death, nonbeing, and nothingness expressed in existential anxiety may be cured only by a positive religious faith.

A positive religious faith does not offer an illusion that we shall be exempt from pain and suffering, nor does it imbue us with the idea that life has a drama of a unalloyed comfort and untroubled ease. Rather it instills us with the inner equilibrium needed to face strains, burdens, and fears that inevitably come, and assures us that the universe is trustworthy and a God is concerned. Religion endows us with the conviction that we are not alone in this vast uncertain universe beneath and above the shifting sands of time. The uncertainties that darken our days and the vicissitudes that cloud our nights as a wise and loving God. That above the manyness of times stands the one eternal God with wisdom to guide us, strength to protect us, and love to keep us."

Though it almost seems blasphemous even to mention the word of God in any form in today's times in this technological, scientific era that we live in, most people favor the intellectual over the spiritual these days. I think this has been the reality throughout history. This is ebbing and flowing between the rational versus the spiritual, but at any rate King, he believed in God. And he thought that this religious faith was such an important part of facing fear that he read his Bible daily, preach sermons, committed his life to Christianity as a way of mitigating his fears.

And it brings me to the question, who do you believe in? Do you believe in yourself? Do you believe in God? Do you believe in Buddha? Do you believe in Mohammed? Whoever you believe in, or even if it's just in common good or your family, King is saying that this faith can help you overcome fear. Now, certainly, we will never fully eradicate our fear, nor should we. It is a nature-given response. It heightens our awareness. It helps us stay alive in dangerous situations. But the question then becomes is our fear paralyzing us or is it motivating us? I think that those deemed the greatest people in human history faced fear head-on.

They kept it at bay. And in Martin Luther King's case, they conquered it. And his book, A Gift of Love is a magnificent read in its entirety but the section on facing fear is a call to each and every one of us to live a life of courage and a life of fulfillment that we can only have if we face our fears.


These places, critical to the interpretation of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy as a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement, were originally included in the National Historic Site or National Historic Landmark listings first established on October 10, 1980. The site was expanded and designated as a national historical park through a bipartisan bill long championed by John Lewis and signed on January 8, 2018, by President Donald Trump. [3]

In total, the buildings included in the site make up 35 acres (0.14 km 2 ). The visitor center contains a museum that chronicles the American Civil Rights Movement and the path of Martin Luther King Jr. The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change includes the burial place of King, and his wife, activist Coretta Scott King. An 1894 firehouse (Fire Station No. 6) served the Sweet Auburn community until 1991, and now contains a gift shop and an exhibit on desegregation in the Atlanta Fire Department. The "I Have a Dream" International World Peace Rose Garden, and a memorial tribute to Mohandas K. Gandhi are part of the site, as is the "International Civil Rights Walk of Fame" which commemorates some of the courageous pioneers who worked for social justice.

In 2019, the National Park Foundation purchased the Life Home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Sunset Avenue, where the family moved in 1965, from the estate of Coretta Scott King and transferred it to the National Park Service for restoration before it is opened to the public as an expansion of the National Historic Park. [4]

Annual events celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January typically draw large crowds. Speakers have included Presidents of the United States, national and local politicians, and civil rights leaders. Remembrances are also held during Black History Month (February), and on the anniversary of King's April 4, 1968, assassination in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District, an area bounded roughly by Irwin, Randolph, Edgewood, Jackson, and Auburn avenues, was listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on May 2, 1974. [1] [5] The district included Ebenezer Baptist Church, King's grave site and memorial, Dr. King's birthplace, shotgun row houses, Victorian houses, the Atlanta Baptist Preparatory Institute site, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Fire Station No. 6, and the Triangle Building at the intersection of Old Wheat Street and Auburn Avenue. [5]

Much of the area was designated as a national historic landmark district on May 5, 1977. [2] The Trust for Public Land purchased 5 single-family homes along Auburn Avenue in the late 1970s, the same block Martin Luther King Jr. grew up on. [6] [7] The Trust for Public Land purchased more than a dozen properties over the next 20 years to create a parking lot as well as a pedestrian greenway to link the King district to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center. [6] In 2008, The Trust for Public Land acquired one of the remaining historic properties in the neighborhood, on the corner of Auburn Avenue. [6]

By U.S. Congressional legislation, the site with associated buildings and gardens was authorized as a national historic site on October 10, 1980 it is administered by the National Park Service (NPS). [8] A 22.4-acre (91,000 m 2 ) area including 35 contributing properties was covered, including 22 previously included in the NRHP historic district. [8] The area covered in the NRHP designation was enlarged on June 12, 2001. [1] In 2018, it was redesignated as a national historical park, adding Prince Hall Masonic Temple to the protected area. [9]

The King Birth Home is located at 501 Auburn Avenue in the Sweet Auburn Historic District) . Built in 1895, it sits about a block east of Ebenezer Baptist Church. [10] King's maternal grandparents, Reverend Adam Daniel (A.D.) Williams, who was pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, and his wife, Jennie Williams, bought the house for $3,500 in 1909. In 1926, when King's father married Alberta Williams, the couple moved into the house, where King Jr. was born in 1929.

The King family lived in the house until 1941. [11] It was then converted into a two-family dwelling. The Rev. A. D. Williams King, Dr. King's brother, lived on the second floor in the 1950s and early 1960s.

The first level includes the front porch, parlor, study, dining room, kitchen, laundry, bedroom and a bathroom. The second level includes four bedrooms and a bathroom. The visitor center offers free tours of the house led by National Park Service rangers, but with limited availability. [12]

In 1968, after King's death, Coretta Scott King founded the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (a.k.a. the King Center). [13] Since 1981, the center has been housed in a building that is part of the King complex located on Auburn Avenue adjacent to Ebenezer Baptist Church. [14]

In 1977, a memorial tomb was dedicated to King. His remains were moved to the tomb, on a plaza between the center and the church. King's gravesite and a reflecting pool are located next to Freedom Hall. After her death, Mrs. King was interred with her husband on February 7, 2006. An eternal flame is located nearby.

Freedom Hall at 449 Auburn Avenue features exhibits about Dr. and Mrs. King, Mahatma Gandhi and American activist Rosa Parks. It hosts special events and programs associated with civil rights and social justice. It contains a Grand Foyer, large theater/conference auditorium, bookstore and resource center, and various works of art from across the globe. The Grand Foyer features art from Africa and Georgia. The paneling lining the staircase is from the sapeli tree, which grows in Nigeria.

In 1990, Behold, a statue honoring Martin Luther King Jr., was dedicated near Ebenezer Baptist Church. [15]

As of 2006, the King Center is a privately-owned inholding within the authorized boundaries of the park. The King family has debated among themselves as to whether they should sell it to the National Park Service to ensure preservation. [16]

The visitor center at 449 Auburn Avenue [17] was built in 1996 and features the multimedia exhibit Courage To Lead, which follows the parallel paths of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Visitors can also walk down a stylized "Freedom Road". The Children of Courage exhibit, geared towards children, tells the story of the children of the Civil Rights Movement with a challenge to our youth today. Video programs are presented on a continuing basis and there is a staffed information desk. [18]

The statue of Mohandas Gandhi was donated by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, India, in collaboration with The National Federation of Indian American Associations and The Embassy of India, USA. The inscribed bronze plaque reads: [19]

Nonviolence, to be a potent force, must begin with the mind. Nonviolence of the mere body without the cooperation of the mind is nonviolence of the weak of the cowardly, and has, therefore, no potency. It is a degrading performance. If we bear malice and hatred in our bosoms and pretend not to retaliate, it must recoil upon us and lead to our destruction.

Tribute to the Mahatma Gandhi was inevitable. If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony. We may ignore him at our own risk

The "International Civil Rights Walk of Fame" was created in 2004 and honors some of the participants in the Civil Rights Movement. The walk along the Promenade, includes footsteps, marked in granite and bronze. According to the National Park Service, the Walk of Fame was created to "pay homage to the "brave warriors" of justice who sacrificed and struggled to make equality a reality for all." The new addition to the area is expected to enhance the historic value of the area, enrich cultural heritage, and augment tourist attractions.

The "Walk of Fame" is the brainchild of Xernona Clayton, founder and executive producer of the renowned Trumpet Awards and a civil rights activist in her own right. Ms. Clayton said, "This is a lasting memorial to those whose contributions were testaments to the fact that human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. This historic site will serve as a symbol of pride and a beacon of hope for all future generations. We are looking forward to building a monument to the civil struggle that depicts every step taken toward the goal of justice and the tireless exertions and passionate concern of these dedicated individuals." [20]

Located at 332 Auburn Avenue, the Prince Hall Masonic Temple is where the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) established its initial headquarters in 1957. [21] This historic and distinguished civil rights organization was co-founded by Dr. King, who also served as its first president. Owned by the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia, the building was included within the authorized boundary of the park in 2018.

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park honors the life of Dr. King

A sniper's bullet struck Martin Luther King Jr's neck, which caused his death.

The assassination took place at 6:05 pm on his second-floor balcony at the Lorraine Motel, a day after his speech on Memphis. As he was standing on the balcony, when a bullet from a sniper struck his neck. King was immediately sent to the hospital, only to be pronounced dead after an hour. Eventually, James Earl Ray got arrested for the assassination. A convicted felon and an American fugitive, King unfortunately made it to his long list of victims.

May 13, 2001: New York Times: FBI’s Failure to Turn Over Documents in Oklahoma City Bombing Case Feeds Conspiracy Theories

New York Times reporter David Stout observes that the FBI’s admitted failure to turn over documents to convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, June 2, 1997, and May 10-11, 2001) will fuel conspiracy theories that will last for years. Attorney General John Ashcroft admitted as much when he ordered a delay in McVeigh’s scheduled execution to review the incident, saying, “If any questions or doubts remain about this case, it would cast a permanent cloud over justice.” Stout writes: “But for some people the cloud has been there all along, and always will be. They will never accept the government’s assertion that the withholding of the documents was simple human, bureaucratic error. And so the 1995 bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City seems likely to join the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as events whose truth—in the eyes of some Americans—is forever untold.” Charles Key, a former Oklahoma state legislator who has recently released a statement packed with assertions of a larger conspiracy and government malfeasance surrounding the bombing (see May 4, 2001), has been particularly vocal in his scorn over the document incident, and his contention that it is just part of a larger conspiracy by the government to cover up the truth behind the bombing. McVeigh’s former lawyer Stephen Jones seems to agree with Key in his recent book (see August 14-27, 1997) Others Unknown: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma Bombing Conspiracy, Jones asserts: “The real story of the bombing, as the McVeigh defense pursued it, is complex, shadowy, and sinister. McVeigh, like the government, had its own reasons to keep it so. It stretches, web-like, from America’s heartland to the nation’s capital, the Far East, Europe, and the Middle East, and much of it remains a mystery.” Others go even farther in their beliefs. Charles Baldridge of Terre Haute, Indiana, where McVeigh is incarcerated awaiting execution, says, “I won’t say that McVeigh didn’t do it, but he wasn’t the brains, he wasn’t the one who orchestrated it.” Asked who orchestrated the bombing, Baldridge replies, “The government.” Many people believe that if the government did not actually plan and execute the bombing, it allowed it to happen, in order to use it as an excuse for passing anti-terrorism laws and curbing basic freedoms. Many of the same conspiracy theories that sprouted in the aftermath of the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) are now appearing in the public discourse about the Oklahoma City bombing, Stout notes. [New York Times, 5/13/2001]

Was Martin Luther King Jr. a Republican or a Democrat? The Answer Is Complicated

M artin Luther King Jr.’s influence on American politics and his views about policy issues are a perennial topic of discussion around the time of his January 15 birthday and the Martin Luther King Jr. Day federal holiday. However, the civil-rights leader’s personal political party affiliation remains a mystery.

His niece Alveda King, an Evangelical supporter of President Donald Trump, has argued that her uncle was a Republican, like his father Martin Luther King, Sr., who was also a Baptist minister. That idea has been repeated often, but videos that claim to show that Martin Luther King, Jr. is Republican have been proven not to do so. King’s son Martin Luther King III said in 2008 that it’s “disingenuous” to insist he was when there is no evidence of him casting a Republican vote. “It is even more outrageous to suggest that he would support the Republican Party of today,” the younger King added, “which has spent so much time and effort trying to suppress African American votes in Florida and many other states.&rdquo

The idea that King would have been a registered Republican is not far-fetched, given the party’s history and its position in national politics in the 1950s, but scholars and those who knew him best say they can’t imagine that he would have supported Republican presidential candidates in the 1960s. In fact, King himself said he voted for Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson for President in 1964.

“I know of no one who has verified MLKJ’s party registration,” says Clayborne Carson, editor of King’s autobiography and Professor of History and Founding Director of The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University. “[He] may have been registered as a Republican and voted Democratic [in national elections].”

If he did so, Carson adds, he would have been doing what many black Southerners did at the time: in Georgia and Alabama, where King lived, the Democratic party was “staunchly segregationist” and few African Americans would have registered as Democrats, even as the party was changing when it came to federal politics. In the South, of the two, the Republican Party “was the least hostile” to them, Carson says.

The Republican Party had initially attracted many black voters by supporting ending slavery and enfranchising African Americans during the Civil War and Reconstruction. But in the late 1800s, as more western states joined the Union, party leaders began to depend less on to wooing black southern votes. The parties would realign in the mid-20th century, as African-Americans moved North to cities where Democratic Party machines courted their votes, and they played a key role in electing Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression.

Another reason to believe that King would have supported Democratic presidential candidates can be seen in an incident that took place just before Democrat John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960. That October, King was arrested during a sit-in to protest the segregation of an Atlanta department store’s eating areas. A judge sentenced King to six months of hard labor, but Kennedy called the Georgia Governor and asked him to find a way to get King out. He also called King’s wife Coretta, who was pregnant with their third child, to express his sympathies. &ldquoI just wanted you to know that I was thinking about you and Dr. King,&rdquo he told her. &ldquoIf there is anything I can do to help, please feel free to call on me.&rdquo

The judge announced King’s release on Oct. 27. King announced on Nov. 1 that, while he would not be officially endorsing a candidate so that he “could be free to be critical of both parties when necessary,” he was grateful to Senator Kennedy for the “genuine concern he expressed in my arrest.”

“Senator Kennedy exhibited moral courage of a high order,” King said at the time. “He voluntarily expresses his position effectively and took an active and articulate stand for a just resolution. I hope that this example of Senator Kennedy’s courage will be a lesson deeply learned and consistently applied by all as we move forward in a non-violent but resolute spirit to achieve rapidly proper standards of humanity and justice in our swiftly evolving world.”

King’s father, Martin Luther King Sr., did endorse Kennedy. And Kennedy won the election, thanks in part to winning over about 70% of the black vote.

From the archive, 24 May 1961: Martin Luther King unmoved by death threats

It seems a stroke of luck for the United States that the Negroes' leader in Montgomery, Alabama, during the present crisis is a scholarly Baptist minister whose hero is Mahatma Gandhi. He might well have been a black Huey Long or some such political boss of the kind who tries to hold hate-the-white demonstrations in Harlem (and - luckily again - finds little support there). That he is the Rev. Martin Luther King is an assurance that the worst the segregationists can do will be grimly put into perspective and that the extremes of the one side will not lead to extremes on the other - if he can help it.

When Mr King preached to a frightened Negro crowd in a besieged Montgomery church the other day, it was no new situation for him. Only a few years ago a bomb was tossed outside his living-room and threats to his life have become as common in his mail as messages of support from individuals in all the states. After the first threats against his family, he was tempted to carry a gun and then quickly rejected the idea. "How could I have claimed to be the leader of a non-violence movement then?" he explained. For a brief time his wife took their infant daughter to live in Atlanta, Georgia, but soon returned to Montgomery. The Kings - like so many Negroes in the Deep South - have learnt to live with the threat of violence hanging over them, an uneasy condition in some ways, one is tempted to think, like that of the Jews in Nazi Germany.

Yet if you make such a comparison, Mr King is the first to reject it. "We are fighting segregation, not persecution," he says, and the "fighting" for him is in the spiritual field quite as much as in the day-to-day one of Montgomery. Since his leadership filled the feud-ridden vacuum in the Negro community of Montgomery, he has steadily preached what he learnt from his father, who is also a Baptist minister, and from his study of Gandhi's works and example.

"The strong man is the man who can stand up for his rights and not hit back" is what he has impressed on his followers, and the success of his teaching is reflected in the calm, stoical bearing of the young Negroes wherever they try to claim their constitutional rights - whether at lunch-counters, in the buses, or in the schools. The minority of the whites may be crazily hate-filled and psychologically upset, the majority at the best superior and apathetic, but the Negroes under Mr King's leadership have shown a dignity and a restraint that should put the US in their debt for generations - were it not for the fact that their bearing is partly the result of their appreciation that they are one with the whites in being fellow-Americans. They realise what the whites against them rarely do: that if either of them wrecks the nation in inter-racial conflicts all of them will go down.

This America-first attitude is typical of most of the Negro leadership nationally, for it has managed to organise a country-wide advancement programme for Negroes - that is, get rid of segregation - without forming a separate political party. The Negro leaders have been shrewd enough to realise that to get into party politics as a Negro group would merely further segregation rather than achieve their ideal of the opposite. They have been lucky on most fronts in having men who have been able to overcome their bitter heritage in making their decisions. At headquarters great tacticians like Thurgood Marshall, the constitutional lawyer in the field men to set the example like Martin Luther King.

He has stirred not only his fellow-Negroes but - and this may be his greatest achievement - some of the whites. The white ministers in many areas had made no effort either because they believed in segregation or because their congregations were apparently unconvertible. A priest said recently in New Orleans, for example, that "you tell them segregation is sinful and they just look at you." Now some of the apparently apathetic ministers are following Mr King's example and perhaps the trickle will become a river. "No matter how low somebody sinks into racial bigotry, he can be redeemed," insists Mr King, and his opponents hate him for it. It is bad enough to be beaten but worse to be forgiven.

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