From this Selma house, Martin Luther King made civil rights history

19 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

MLK Day: King’s legacy must go beyond the surface.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s campaign in Selma which led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is well known and is now celebrated on screen in “Selma.” Less well known is how, at a critical moment, Dr. Surely, the impact and import of his powerful words delivered in 1963 with that compelling voice, ringing out across the National Mall from the lectern at Lincoln’s feet, are etched into our collective consciousness as a country. Remembrances of the King legacy come amid somber reflection by many on incidents in which unarmed black men were killed by police in recent months, spurring protests and heightening tensions in the U.S. Bolden and King met that day, and King later invited the young 22-year-old bellhop — who could work at the Mango hotel but not stay there because of the colour of his skin — to Atlanta to work with him.

I recall a colleague some years ago offhandedly commenting that the only reason we really even acknowledge King at all is because the kids are off from school. King’s 86th birthday, is a fitting moment to remember how his intervention at the final moment enabled millions of poor whites as well as blacks to vote. While en route to an elementary school in Atlanta on Friday for a talk about his friend King, the 76-year-old paused to share some memories with CBC News. Although this colleague was alive during the societal struggles of the 1960s, for him, King, the civil rights movement and the holiday had no resonance. He was white, and, to him, that anyone would actually celebrate King’s legacy was a foreign concept — exclusively a “black thing” that never touched his life.

Louis Democrat. “Not just in Ferguson, but over and over again across this country.” The King holiday, meanwhile, was being met with activities nationwide, including plans for a wreath-laying in Maryland, a tribute breakfast in Boston and volunteer service activities by churches and community groups in Illinois. Day, observed Monday, has added significance in the wake of the anger and protests, sometimes violent ones, that erupted nationwide following the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., last summer. “We need to honour it more,” Bolden said about King’s legacy. “Because that’s what Dr. The breakfast has become one of the premier events on the state’s political calendar, both for long-time incumbents and those eyeing a future run for office. When Southern whites returned to power after the death of Reconstruction they embedded devices in their state constitutions designed to circumvent the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments—literacy tests, residency and property qualifications, and poll taxes.

A producer on the film, Winfrey praised the 1965 marchers for their courage in meeting fierce opposition on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma — scene of Sunday’s remembrance march. “Look at what they were able to do with so little, and look at how we now have so much,” Winfrey said. “If they could do that, imagine what now can be accomplished with the opportunity through social media and connection, the opportunity through understanding that absolutely we are more alike than we are different.” White officers used clubs and tear gas on March 7, 1965 — “Bloody Sunday” — to rout marchers intent on walking some 50 miles to Montgomery, the Alabama capital, to seek the right for blacks to register to vote. The intent of the laws was explicit: “The plan,” said one Mississippi official in 1890, “is to invest permanently the powers of government in the hands of the people who ought to have them—the white people.” And so it was for nearly a century. King was assassinated two years later, and after a long fight by his wife and supporters, a federal holiday was created in his honour in 1983. (Toby Massey/Associated Press) There were riots in Ferguson after the officer Darren Wilson wasn’t indicted, and violent incidents in other cities across the U.S., but there were many peaceful demonstrations that went on for weeks.

It’s hard to step out from that insulated bubble.” In some ways, the celebrations across communities may even unintentionally encourage some of that perceived exclusivity by too sharply focusing on community through racial identity. That may not seem like much, but black voters were forced to pay it retroactively, so Parks, at 42, paid $16.50 , “a considerable amount of money,” she later noted.

Dale Charles, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s branch in Little Rock, Ark., said in an interview that he feels some of the gains that King fought and died for are being eroded. “We still have a long ways yet to go in some of the things he was fighting for,” said Charles. “For a moment we had them, and there are people working to make sure that they don’t continue.” King encouraged people to judge each other by the content of one’s character, not skin colour, and not enough Americans are following that advice, he said. “We have begun to see, in my opinion, a more divided country. Certainly, some who comment passionately here on stories question whether it’s being carried by today’s civil rights leaders; others even suggest it is being perverted to encourage racial division rather than unity. Common had a part in the movie and said that song sought to show the link between the struggle of the past and today’s injustices. “We are the ones that can change the world,” Common said afterward. “It is up to us, and it takes all us — black, white, Latino, Asian, native-American, whatever nationality or religious background. In 1964, the country had ratified the Twenty-Fourth Amendment abolishing poll taxes in federal elections, which meant that only by constitutional amendment could local poll taxes be eliminated. Furthermore, Supreme Court decisions in 1937 and 1951 had found that poll taxes did not necessarily discriminate against blacks and thus did not violate the Fifteenth Amendment.

Kennedy plunged ahead, ignoring pressures from Johnson, who felt the amendment threatened the survival of the bill. .As the debate over Kennedy’s amendment opened, many observers felt the vote would be close, although Majority Leader Mike Mansfield believed he had the votes to defeat Kennedy. It’s with this slight refocusing that King’s legacy can continue to move beyond the monumental moment and not relegate the speech and the movement to being simply a monument, frozen in time and relevance. He and New York Republican Jacob Javits spent hours plotting strategy, trying to find ways to convince their fellow senators to support the elimination of the poll tax. In the following years individual states made it a holiday, too, and Klein said every year the number of employers in the private sector who give their staff the day off is growing.

What happened in Ferguson put a focus on the treatment of African-Americans, Klein said, and it’s provided an opportunity to talk about King’s beliefs, particularly with young people. King’s philosophy, methods and strategies to deal with issues of police-community violence,” said Klein. “Hopefully things are going to get a lot better there and in many other cities this year as a result of the increasing national dialogue on bringing non-violent action and programs into police departments and into communities all across America.” King’s former colleague Rev. Johnson was both angry and depressed. “McCormack was afraid that somebody would be stronger for the Negro than he was,” he later complained, “so he came out red hot for complete repeal.” Any changes by the House to the Senate’s bill would require a conference committee in which representatives and senators would have to resolve their differences. Worse still, any changed bill had to start all over again in either the Senate, where a southern filibuster loomed, or in the House, where Howard Smith’s Rules Committee would block it until a discharge petition was filed, which would take another three weeks—all while a restive Congress yearned to recess for the summer. Surely, Johnson thought, his enemies would take advantage of the delays and the bill would die. “They been doin’ that for thirty-five years that I been here,” Johnson moaned, “and I been watchin’ ’em do it.” The new bill, which contained the ban, passed the full House and immediately went to a joint House-Senate Conference Committee to resolve the differences.

Katzenbach promised to add a new explicit statement, formally asserting that the tax deprived blacks of the right to vote, and he promised to order the Justice Department to sue those four states that still required it.

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