Former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver Conversion

Former atheist, Marxist & Black Panther

In 1981, former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver spoke at the BYU Freedom Festival about his conversion from being the Marxist, atheist, spokesman for the Black Panther’s party, to being a Christian, freedom loving, Founding Father appreciating, patriotic American. It’s an amazing journey Eldridge took and an important one for us to learn from.

The Black Panther Party (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defence) was an African-American revolutionary socialist organization active in the United States from 1966 until 1982. The Black Panther Party achieved national and international notoriety through its involvement in the Black Power movement and U.S. politics of the 1960s and 1970s

Founded in Oakland, California by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale on October 15, 1966, the organization initially set forth a doctrine calling primarily for the protection of African-American neighbourhoods from police brutality. The leaders of the organization espoused socialist and Marxist doctrines; however, the Party’s early Black Nationalist reputation attracted a diverse membership. The Black Panther Party’s objectives and philosophy expanded and evolved rapidly during the party’s existence, making ideological consensus within the party difficult to achieve, and causing some prominent members to openly disagree with the views of the leaders.

The organization’s official newspaper, The Black Panther, was first circulated in 1967

His Journey from an atheist to being a Christian

(born 1935, Wabbaseka, near Little Rock, Ark., U.S.—died May 1, 1998, Pomona, Calif.) American black militant whose autobiographical volume Soul on Ice (1968) is a classic statement of black alienation in the United States. Cleaver was an inmate of correctional institutions in California almost constantly from his junior high school days until 1966 for crimes ranging from possession of marijuana to assault with intent to murder. While in prison, he supplemented his incomplete education with wide reading and became a follower of the Black Muslim separatist Malcolm X.

He also began writing the essays that would eventually be collected in Soul on Ice, and whose publication in Ramparts magazine helped him win parole in 1966. After being paroled, Cleaver met Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, who had just founded the Black Panther Party in Oakland, Calif. Cleaver soon became the party’s minister of information. The publication in 1968 of Soul on Ice, a collection of angry memoirs in which Cleaver traced his political evolution while denouncing American racism, made him a leading black radical spokesman. In April 1968, however, he was involved in a shoot-out in Oakland between Black Panthers and police that left one Panther dead and Cleaver and two police officers wounded.

Faced with re-imprisonment after the shoot-out, Cleaver jumped bail in November 1968 and fled first to Cuba and then to Algeria. Having broken with the Panthers in 1971 and grown disillusioned with communism, Cleaver returned voluntarily to the United States in 1975. The charges against him were dropped in 1979 when he pled guilty to assault in connection with the 1968 shoot-out and was put on five years’ probation. In his later years Cleaver proclaimed himself a born-again Christian and a Republican, engaged in various business ventures, and struggled with an addiction to cocaine.

A 1982 interview with Eldridge Cleaver by David Mill

In 1982 I interviewed Eldridge Cleaver, former “Minister of Information” for the Black Panther Party. He had come to the University of Maryland on a lecture tour. The one-time gun-toting Marxist revolutionary was now a Reagan Republican and a fan of Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. Which made for a lively conversation.

I have no romantic attachment to the Panthers. In fact, I resent the simple-minded glorification of violent black radicalism. If Mr. Cleaver’s recollections can be trusted, my resentment is justified.

Cleaver died in 1998 at the age of 62. He certainly lived an interesting life, including seven years of exile in Cuba, France and Algeria (after a gun battle with Oakland police). This three-part interview covers a lot of ground. Stick with it till the end of pt. 3 and you’ll see perhaps the weirdest thing anyone ever said to me during an interview.

DAVID MILLS: It seems quite a change of heart you’ve had over 15 years. During the Black Power movement, you thought the primary crisis we faced was the American system. Now you say it’s the Communist threat.

ELDRIDGE CLEAVER: It’s not a total change, because the stuff I was preoccupied with in the ’60s is still true. American history is American history. I’m not trying to say America is utopia. Far from it. But I think that in the past I was oblivious to what was going on in Communist countries, or I didn’t believe what was said against the Communists.

”…We used to say that America’s enemies are our friends…”

I was really favorable toward the Communists because they made such a strong critique of capitalism and America. They were opposed to America systematically, so I viewed that as a source of strength or a source of alliances. Many people do this. We used to say that America’s enemies are our friends. …

What changed my whole point of view was that I had a chance to leave America and go live in Communist countries and see what was going on there. Without having that experience, I probably would still, like a lot of other people, be running around pushing the same line.

We have many problems in America, and some of them are absolutely outrageous. But with all our problems, we have more freedom in this country than any of those Communist countries.

So what I say today is we need to be more precise in what’s wrong with America. In the past we just used the shotgun approach, and just said burn it down, destroy it, overthrow it, that sort of stuff. Well, that’s very dangerous thinking. It’s not even thinking. It’s sloganizing.

Everybody admits that we have a huge economic problem, but the question becomes what do we do about it? Just close the curtain down, you know? Stop the show, change all the furniture around on the stage, and then let the show go on?

That’s one of my gripes with revolutionaries. Most of these revolutionary scenarios call for exactly that. But it’s like changing a tire on a moving vehicle; we have to figure out how to solve these problems while the thing’s in motion. So that means being very precise about what’s wrong.

MILLS: Let’s backtrack, because it’s ironic. Do you think that during the Panther movement when you were advocating revolution, that you and the Black Panthers were being used by the Communists?

CLEAVER: At different stages, you could say that. The Communists did not summon us into being. We grew up in our own community around our own issues and, as a matter of fact, against the activity of the Communists. They weren’t happy to see us come along because we were organizing people outside of their fold. They also had an attitude toward armed struggle that was more conservative than ours.

At a certain point, the Communists recognized that we were the ones having impact in the community. So they came to us. They offered us free legal representation – we always needed lawyers – and they would contribute finances to us. And we wanted to do this, because we were Marxists ourselves.

I think at a certain point, the Black Panther Party became the driving engine for a whole phase of the [Communist] movement. So in that sense, the Communists used us. On a worldwide basis, they used us propaganda-wise.

MILLS: What’s ironic about that is that was the FBI’s excuse to go after the Panthers, wasn’t it? That you were tools of the Communists?

CLEAVER: Well, it’s not against the law to be a Communist. But when you advocate the violent overthrow of the government, or when you practice it –

You know, many people lie about what they’re doing. And we used to lie, use falsehood, when we were describing our own activity. For instance, we would go out and ambush the police. Then, if we got caught, we’d say they shot at us first.

MILLS: And that was not true?

CLEAVER: It wasn’t always true. There were many times when we would shoot first.

And I say this because it illustrates the distortions that get involved when the people hate the police because they always see the police making trouble. But a lot of times, the police are not wrong. A lot of times, people did exactly what police said they did, but then they lie about it.

I think we were in that situation in the ’60s with the FBI. The FBI investigated us and came to the conclusion that we were a dangerous group.

MILLS: Was the FBI right?

”… I think it was right…”

CLEAVER: I think it was right. See, the problem gets into what does the FBI have a right to do to you? Once they make the decision that you are an enemy of America, then they consider you outside the law, so they use all their dirty tricks on you.

This got them into a lot of trouble. If they could have proven that we were systematically engaging in armed struggle, then they would have had less trouble with the public over what they were doing.

The whole thing is a mixture, because we were not always wrong. And we didn’t start out actually shooting at the cops. We were rebelling against a routine. We were rebelling against a whole history. We were rejecting America, America’s laws, everything like that.

MILLS: So the case could be made that J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI were justified in going after the Black Panther Party?

CLEAVER: I think a case could be made on the following points: that the FBI was not always wrong; that many of their accusations were accurate when it came to our use of violence, our use of bombs, our use of ambush tactics.

So if I would fault the FBI at all, it would be in its overzealousness in using CIA tactics on the American people. I say this because they did this to people who were not Black Panthers, or who were not involved in that kind of activity. Just people who dissented.

MILLS: There is still that kind of dissent in America. Why do you think that is?

CLEAVER: To really understand it, you have to go back to the Second World War. The Second World War was considered a patriotic war. America was solidly behind it.

But from that time on, there was a new kind of struggle, very controversial, with a new kind of political party which was not well understood, an international party coming in trying to change the government. That started the Cold War and what you call the “struggle for the minds of men.”

From that time on, we have had in America a preachment against the government, condemning the government, condemning the activity of the government in foreign countries – in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, all over the world. It was a whole period of decolonization that took place.

So we have in America a couple of generations of people who have grown up just hearing negative about America. This is amazing because it has a distorting impact. I think Americans have been bombarded with very powerful negative propaganda. … It has a brainwashing effect on people.

MILLS: What about black Americans? There’s nothing new about black dissatisfaction with America.

”…Blacks generally don’t feel part of America…”

CLEAVER: I think this is one of the very serious constituents of the black identity crisis. Blacks generally don’t feel part of America. I call it a fence-straddling mentality.

Even though you don’t have a strong “back-to-Africa” movement, you do have that theme that floats around in the community. The consequence is that you have people paralyzed on the fence. They neither go back to Africa nor do they participate fully in America. So you have millions and millions of blacks who are in a kind of catatonic trance over what to do.

The strong condemnation of America, the constant criticism of America, this has fixed a certain mindset. This is the mindset I have broken with, and it’s the mindset I encounter almost universally among middle-class blacks, which is what you find mostly on college campuses: America not being their home, or America being the worst country in the world, or everything being racist. Just racism, racism, everywhere is racism – not being able to draw some distinctions and to see some good in America as well as the bad.

Here’s more of my 1982 conversation with Eldridge Cleaver. This portion tracks his evolution as a radical.
DAVID MILLS: You have led a very dramatic life. I’d like to walk you through it, if you don’t mind, because it’s so fascinating and because of your new perspective on things.

Let’s start with your childhood. What were your feelings about race and America while growing up in Arkansas?

ELDRIDGE CLEAVER: I didn’t stay there long enough to get deep impressions. I left Arkansas when I was about 10 years old, so my memory of Arkansas is really about learning how to hunt with my dog, chasing rabbits, things like that.

MILLS: After moving to California, what kind of things influenced your political development?

CLEAVER: In growing up in L.A., I realized the existence of the white world, the black world and the Chicano world. I grew up in a neighborhood that was predominately Chicano, and the Chicanos, particularly at that time, had their own subculture which totally rejected white America.

I spent a lot of my time – my early years – as part of that view. And I think that had something to do with the strong withdrawal and rejection [of America] that I experienced.

MILLS: If you had grown up in a predominately black neighborhood, you might not have been so anti-American?

CLEAVER: I think so. And I say that because hanging out with the Chicano guys as a choice was, in itself, a rejection of what the blacks were doing – going along with the program.

In the ’40s, the Chicanos were involved in kind of a war in L.A. against the establishment, against the police. It was a very powerful reality in your life. The cops were always chasing them, they were outlaws. Living in that neighborhood helped sow the seeds of rebellion.

My parents wanted to guide me into being a minister. This was something that was really square as far as I could see, so I chose a rebellious direction.

MILLS: How many years of your life have you spent locked up?

CLEAVER: I add it up to be about 15.

I was sentenced to prison twice: once for possession of marijuana, and once for assault with a deadly weapon – not, as many people think, for rape.

When I was in prison, I wrote a book [“Soul on Ice”]. One section of the book dealt with the subject of rape, and I described some activity that I was involved in. And the way the press took it up, it was just sort of assumed that I was sentenced to prison for rape.

I was sentenced to prison for possession of marijuana, and I served two and a half years for that, then I was sentenced to prison for assault charges, and I stayed in there for 10 years.

MILLS: The first time you went to prison, how did that affect you?

CLEAVER: Well, I had some prior training for that by going to juvenile hall and the youth authority. So on that level I was already broken in to prison. But I think it had the effect of powerfully fixing my rebellious path.

I went to prison when I was 18 years old, and that’s a very delicate age for a young man. It’s an age when your sap is beginning to flow. And being locked up at that point is really one of the worst kinds of experiences.

That’s when I really began to be filled with hatred, and I think I became much more violent in prison. I believe that prisons, in that sense, are schools for crime.

I became a Communist in prison. I studied Marxism in prison.

MILLS: When you came out after that first term, you spent about a year on the outside before your second conviction. And during that time, as you revealed in “Soul on Ice,” you set about raping white women as a principle of black rebellion.

CLEAVER: I wrote this in prison. And I wrote this because I was trying to describe my own feelings, my own attitudes, and the attitudes of a lot of black men. At that time, this was something that was not really written about, talked about. It was kind of scandalous. There was a lot of denial in blacks who had these feelings.

MILLS: What feelings? Sexual attraction to white women?

”… interracial relationships were rising…”

CLEAVER: People used to deny that. The whole phenomenon was raging at that time because this whole black consciousness thing was coming in, interracial relationships were rising.

One of the old bugaboos of race relations in America has been black rape. It has been a big problem down through history and continues to be a problem. For my own part, I think there is often a lot of denial in that. But I think the facts will support a case that there is quite a bit of black rape.

MILLS: How come?

CLEAVER: Well, it has to do with social dynamics – I’ve said what I have to say about that subject in “Soul on Ice.”

MILLS: Looking back on that period now, how do you feel about your own activity?

CLEAVER: What I would do if I wrote about that again would be to put it in a larger context. At that point, I was trying to describe the motivations of the black rapist – what goes on inside his head, what he was thinking – whereas today I am very concerned about male violence against women. That was not what I was addressing in my essay. I would not repeat today what I said 20 years ago because the context is different.

MILLS: You have said that your affiliation with the Black Muslims and the solidarity of that group kept you going while in prison.

CLEAVER: I think it was very important in prison because everybody is organizing, like little armies, for survival. Racial tensions were really high in prison because of things that were going on outside. Consequently, we had a lot of riots in prison.

The prisons in California used to be segregated, and there were struggles inside the prison to break up some of those traditional practices. So there was a lot of motivation for people joining together in these kinds of groups. And the one that appealed to me was the Black Muslims.

You had the Mau-Mau, the Blood Brothers, just little cliques of people taking different names. But I had liked the concern of the Black Muslim organization, and the fact that it was an organization that was more legitimate than some of the cutthroat activity.

MILLS: But all during that time, you didn’t accept the Black Muslim philosophy that all white people were devils, correct?

”…Elijah Muhammad was just full of that demonology…”

CLEAVER: That’s why Malcolm X appealed to me, because Malcolm was more political. He had more of an economic analysis, whereas Elijah Muhammad was just full of that demonology.

Sometimes we would really wonder about the truth of Elijah’s teachings, because it was very easy to believe the whites were devils, particularly the way the information was organized. And it was very appealing to believe that. One man said that it was necessary to teach the black that the white man is the devil in order to get him to stop believing that the white man is God.

MILLS: After leaving prison in 1967, what attracted you to the Black Panthers?

CLEAVER: The fact that they were armed. When I left prison, I didn’t know anything about the Black Panther Party. But I left with the conviction that blacks had to take up guns.

The civil rights movement was turning violent already. I was still in prison when Watts went up in rebellion, and all the major cities across the country were experiencing those rebellions. So what I was aware of in prison was a lot of black people were being killed. And police were using police dogs, cattle prods, water hoses, all these things on the people. We in prison used to look at that news.

And we were already violent people. We were in prison for involving ourselves in criminal violence, nothing political. So it was very easy to transfer those attitudes. You began to just live for the day when you could get out and get involved.

One of the first things I did when I got out was to get some guns. And shortly thereafter, I met the Black Panthers at a meeting. When they came into this meeting, they had their guns. It was like love at first sight.

MILLS: What did you think of Martin Luther King during this period?

”….I actually sort of hated Martin Luther King…”

CLEAVER: At that time, I was very negative. I actually sort of hated Martin Luther King for preaching non-violence, and for being a Christian preacher. Martin Luther King to me was the embodiment of a lot of problems for black people.

”I used to want to kill Martin Luther King…”

I used to want to kill Martin Luther King. I thought it would be good if he was out of the way. I thought he was holding up the movement. Non-violence was never popular among the majority of black Americans from the very beginning. …

MILLS: Looking back now, what do you think of Dr. King?

CLEAVER: Well, looking back, for a long time, I have come to really admire him. When Martin Luther King was assassinated, I got busted two days later [in Oakland]. The gunfight I was involved in was part of the whole atmosphere that was reacting to his assassination.

When Martin Luther King was still alive, we were sort of waiting in the wings impatiently because we saw that non-violence was on the way out. Non-violence worked mostly in the South. When things moved toward the North, they became violent immediately. …

I remember when the media was anti-NAACP. They thought the NAACP were the most extreme people to come along, and they were for a while. But after a while, the media started loving the NAACP.

That’s because each extreme point, calibrated on a spectrum, tends to legitimize the ones it has eclipsed, if that makes sense. Like Martin Luther King and his direct-action movement, even though it was non-violent, eclipsed the NAACP’s legalistic tactics.

And when Martin Luther King came along, he started getting busted and going to jail, and the NAACP started getting invited to the White House. Then, when more violent people came along, Martin Luther King started getting invited to the White House.

Here is the last of my 1982 conversation with former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver. (I had saved my question about “the pants” for the very end.)

I interviewed Cleaver at the University of Maryland before he gave a speech. During that speech, Cleaver got heckled. It didn’t surprise him. He had been getting that a lot on his college tour…

DAVID MILLS: Kwame Toure – whom you knew as Stokely Carmichael – has come to this campus a few times. He was sponsored by the Black Student Union, which I would guess sympathizes more with his pan-Africanist philosophy than with your conservatism.

ELDRIDGE CLEAVER: I would guess so too.

MILLS: What do you think of that?

”…a lot of them think I’m an FBI agent or a CIA agent…”

CLEAVER: This is a problem I’m working on. First of all, I don’t think [black students] have heard what I’ve got to say. But there have been very powerful condemnations of me. Probably a lot of them think I’m an FBI agent or a CIA agent.

When I show up [at a college], they think I’m the one on the spot. But I show up with the understanding that they’re the ones on the spot. They’re often surprised because they think they’re on such solid ground. And it’s because they’ve been exposed to that kind of emotional rhetoric.

At the time the Black Power movement came into being, I think it was a very positive movement. I think it did a lot of good for black people and white people. But like many other things, it runs its course, and there are extremes.

It’s very appealing to black students to be told that they’re great, and that black is beautiful, and to have a whole cosmos of black interests spelled out in a way that is very ego-satisfying to them, and to condemn the white man.

MILLS: So how have black students reacted to your message?

CLEAVER: I’ve experienced all kinds of reactions. The one that I find unacceptable is the one that tries to stop me from talking by hissing, running commentary – I find the communists do this and some of Stokely’s people do this. Just being very emotional and shouting.

All I want is the opportunity to express my point of view.

MILLS: Is it true that in California during the ’60s, when you started speaking out against the Vietnam War and for revolution, Gov. Ronald Reagan got the parole officials to harass you to make you shut up?

CLEAVER: There’s no doubt about that.

I was chosen by students to be a lecturer at Berkeley. And as governor, Ronald Reagan was on the board of regents of the University of California system. He used to try to prevent me from speaking on campuses.

We referred to Ronald Reagan as the father of the Black Panther Party. It started under his administration. Reagan was always trying to get me off the streets. They were always trying to revoke my parole.

MILLS: How do you feel about Reagan as president?

CLEAVER: I voted for him. I supported him over Jimmy Carter in 1980.

I voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976, but I was completely upset by his performance. One of the things that had me upset was his very weak foreign policy, his weak way of dealing with every problem that we had, from Iran to the Soviet Union, Afghanistan, stuff that was jumping off in Latin America.

I felt that I had seen enough of Carter’s policies to recognize that he was basically accommodating America to the expansion of Communism in the world. So when it came to the election, I chose Ronald Reagan because I felt he would give the country a very strong foreign policy, and I had no doubt that he would do the things he was talking about to the economy. I still feel this.

MILLS: You’ve been an atheist, a Black Muslim, a born-again Christian. What is your current religious status?

”…I’m not a member of any church…”

CLEAVER: I don’t know how to describe my own religious status. I’m not a member of any church, but I’m someone who’s convinced that none of our problems can be solved without addressing the spiritual element.

MILLS: Are you a follower of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon?

”…Rev. Moon’s teachings. I’m not a follower…”

I’m not a member of the church…”

CLEAVER: Rev. Moon to me is one of the most significant religious and spiritual leaders in the history of the whole world. That’s saying a lot. I have been helped to a great extent by studying Rev. Moon’s teachings. I’m not a follower in the sense that I’m not a member of the church.

I started studying the Unification Church’s teachings in 1979, so I’ve had quite a bit of time to consider it and ponder it. The world is going through a lot of changes about Rev. Moon, but I do believe that in time they’ll be able to view him objectively.

MILLS: A few years ago, you were in the news for designing pants for men with a pouch in front to contain the genitals. Whatever became of those pants?

CLEAVER: As far as a business venture? I’m not a businessman so I wasn’t able to do any spectacular business. I lost money. But from an aesthetic point of view, from the point of view of clothing, I think this whole thing has been misunderstood.

”…the clothing industry is dominated by homosexuals…”

”…They want men and women to look basically the same…”

My design had to do with an argument against what’s being done with our clothing. Who controls our clothing? If you notice, the clothing industry is dominated by homosexuals. They want men and women to look basically the same.

There are a lot of problems involved in the design of men’s clothing. The way our clothing is designed right now requires a man to wear his genitals in either his right or his left pants leg. There are a lot of implications to that. Scientifically, it’s been determined that that structure generates a lot of heat that has a decomposing effect on sperm. There’s a whole warping effect that comes from wearing your genitals in your pants leg.

There’s a lot of evil in society that comes from clothing. Most of us are completely ignorant of this. One of the things that distinguishes us from animals is that we have the control of our second skin. This is a great power, because we can go underwater, we can go to the moon, we can go to the desert, to Alaska, because we just don’t have scales or hair. We have a technology where we manage our second skin.

This is a sacred responsibility, yet like many other things it is dealt with frivolously. And one of the most obnoxious things that is happening today is what the homosexuals are doing to our clothing.

If you view your pants as an extension of the fig leaf – which is what clothing really is, symbolically speaking – you begin to see that this is very intimately connected with the whole condition of man in the world. Scripturally, the fig leaf came about as a fallout from the fall of man. And I think from that point on, we’ve made a lot of trouble for ourselves by the way we handle our clothing.

KATHLEEN NEAL CLEAVER

Former wife of Eldridge Cleaver

Martin Luther King Jr Assassination

King Assassination Report – 1968

Martin Luther King’s Assassination Report: Walter Cronkite had almost finished broadcasting the “CBS Evening News” when he received word of Martin Luther King’s assassination. His report detailed the shooting and the nation’s reaction to the tragedy. (CBSNews)

Last Speech: “I Have Been To The Mountaintop”

Martin Luther King Last Speech – An excerpt from the last speech given by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee the next day on April 4, 1968.

I Have Been To The Mountaintop

Delivered 3rd April 1968, Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters), Memphis, Tennessee

Thank you very kindly, my friends. As I listened to Ralph Abernathy and his eloquent and generous introduction and then thought about myself, I wondered who he was talking about. It’s always good to have your closest friend and associate to say something good about you. And Ralph Abernathy is the best friend that I have in the world. I’m delighted to see each of you here tonight in spite of a storm warning. You reveal that you are determined to go on anyhow.

Something is happening in Memphis; something is happening in our world. And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God’s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn’t stop there.

I would move on by Greece and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon. And I would watch them around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and aesthetic life of man. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even go by the way that the man for whom I am named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church of Wittenberg. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating President by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But I wouldn’t stop there.

I would even come up to the early thirties, and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but “fear itself.” But I wouldn’t stop there.

Strangely enough, I would turn to the Almighty, and say, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the 20th century, I will be happy.”

Now that’s a strange statement to make, because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding.

Something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee — the cry is always the same: “We want to be free.”

And another reason that I’m happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn’t force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.

And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn’t done, and done in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed. Now, I’m just happy that God has allowed me to live in this period to see what is unfolding. And I’m happy that He’s allowed me to be in Memphis.

I can remember — I can remember when Negroes were just going around as Ralph has said, so often, scratching where they didn’t itch, and laughing when they were not tickled. But that day is all over. We mean business now, and we are determined to gain our rightful place in God’s world.

And that’s all this whole thing is about. We aren’t engaged in any negative protest and in any negative arguments with anybody. We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people. We are saying — We are saying that we are God’s children. And that we are God’s children, we don’t have to live like we are forced to live.

Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.

Secondly, let us keep the issues where they are. The issue is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we’ve got to keep attention on that. That’s always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers are on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn’t get around to that.

Now we’re going to march again, and we’ve got to march again, in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be — and force everybody to see that there are thirteen hundred of God’s children here suffering, sometimes going hungry, going through dark and dreary nights wondering how this thing is going to come out. That’s the issue. And we’ve got to say to the nation: We know how it’s coming out. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.

We aren’t going to let any mace stop us. We are masters in our nonviolent movement in disarming police forces; they don’t know what to do. I’ve seen them so often. I remember in Birmingham, Alabama, when we were in that majestic struggle there, we would move out of the 16th Street Baptist Church day after day; by the hundreds we would move out. And Bull Connor would tell them to send the dogs forth, and they did come; but we just went before the dogs singing, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.”

Bull Connor next would say, “Turn the fire hoses on.” And as I said to you the other night, Bull Connor didn’t know history. He knew a kind of physics that somehow didn’t relate to the transphysics that we knew about. And that was the fact that there was a certain kind of fire that no water could put out. And we went before the fire hoses; we had known water. If we were Baptist or some other denominations, we had been immersed. If we were Methodist, and some others, we had been sprinkled, but we knew water. That couldn’t stop us.

”We Shall Overcome”

And we just went on before the dogs and we would look at them; and we’d go on before the water hoses and we would look at it, and we’d just go on singing “Over my head I see freedom in the air.” And then we would be thrown in the paddy wagons, and sometimes we were stacked in there like sardines in a can. And they would throw us in, and old Bull would say, “Take ’em off,” and they did; and we would just go in the paddy wagon singing, “We Shall Overcome.” And every now and then we’d get in jail, and we’d see the jailers looking through the windows being moved by our prayers, and being moved by our words and our songs. And there was a power there which Bull Connor couldn’t adjust to; and so we ended up transforming Bull into a steer, and we won our struggle in Birmingham. Now we’ve got to go on in Memphis just like that. I call upon you to be with us when we go out Monday.

Now about injunctions: We have an injunction and we’re going into court tomorrow morning to fight this illegal, unconstitutional injunction. All we say to America is, “Be true to what you said on paper.” If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren’t going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren’t going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.

We need all of you. And you know what’s beautiful to me is to see all of these ministers of the Gospel. It’s a marvelous picture. Who is it that is supposed to articulate the longings and aspirations of the people more than the preacher? Somehow the preacher must have a kind of fire shut up in his bones. And whenever injustice is around he tell it. Somehow the preacher must be an Amos, and saith, “When God speaks who can but prophesy?” Again with Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Somehow the preacher must say with Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me,” and he’s anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor.”

And I want to commend the preachers, under the leadership of these noble men: James Lawson, one who has been in this struggle for many years; he’s been to jail for struggling; he’s been kicked out of Vanderbilt University for this struggle, but he’s still going on, fighting for the rights of his people. Reverend Ralph Jackson, Billy Kiles; I could just go right on down the list, but time will not permit. But I want to thank all of them. And I want you to thank them, because so often, preachers aren’t concerned about anything but themselves. And I’m always happy to see a relevant ministry.

It’s all right to talk about “long white robes over yonder,” in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here! It’s all right to talk about “streets flowing with milk and honey,” but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.

Now the other thing we’ll have to do is this: Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively — that means all of us together — collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that? After you leave the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the American Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That’s power right there, if we know how to pool it.

We don’t have to argue with anybody. We don’t have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don’t need any bricks and bottles. We don’t need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, “God sent us by here, to say to you that you’re not treating his children right. And we’ve come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God’s children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.”

And so, as a result of this, we are asking you tonight, to go out and tell your neighbors not to buy Coca-Cola in Memphis. Go by and tell them not to buy Sealtest milk. Tell them not to buy — what is the other bread? — Wonder Bread. And what is the other bread company, Jesse? Tell them not to buy Hart’s bread. As Jesse Jackson has said, up to now, only the garbage men have been feeling pain; now we must kind of redistribute the pain. We are choosing these companies because they haven’t been fair in their hiring policies; and we are choosing them because they can begin the process of saying they are going to support the needs and the rights of these men who are on strike. And then they can move on town — downtown and tell Mayor Loeb to do what is right.

But not only that, we’ve got to strengthen black institutions. I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a “bank-in” movement in Memphis. Go by the savings and loan association. I’m not asking you something that we don’t do ourselves at SCLC. Judge Hooks and others will tell you that we have an account here in the savings and loan association from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. We are telling you to follow what we are doing. Put your money there. You have six or seven black insurance companies here in the city of Memphis. Take out your insurance there. We want to have an “insurance-in.”

Now these are some practical things that we can do. We begin the process of building a greater economic base. And at the same time, we are putting pressure where it really hurts. I ask you to follow through here.

Now, let me say as I move to my conclusion that we’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. If it means leaving work, if it means leaving school — be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus, and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base….

Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn’t stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his brother.

Now you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn’t be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that “One who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony.” And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem — or down to Jericho, rather to organize a “Jericho Road Improvement Association.” That’s a possibility. Maybe they felt that it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.

But I’m going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, “I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable.” It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 miles — or rather 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you’re about 2200 feet below sea level. That’s a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the “Bloody Pass.” And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked — the first question that the Levite asked was, “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

That’s the question before you tonight. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job. Not, “If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?” The question is not, “If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?” The question is, “If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” That’s the question.

Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.

You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was, “Are you Martin Luther King?” And I was looking down writing, and I said, “Yes.” And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that’s punctured, your drowned in your own blood — that’s the end of you.

It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had merely sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I’ve forgotten what those telegrams said. I’d received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I’ve forgotten what that letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I’ll never forget it. It said simply,

Dear Dr. King,

I am a ninth-grade student at the White Plains High School.”

And she said,

While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I’m a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.

And I want to say tonight — I want to say tonight that I too am happy that I didn’t sneeze. Because if I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1960, when students all over the South started sitting-in at lunch counters. And I knew that as they were sitting in, they were really standing up for the best in the American dream, and taking the whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1961, when we decided to take a ride for freedom and ended segregation in inter-state travel.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been around here in 1962, when Negroes in Albany, Georgia, decided to straighten their backs up. And whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere, because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.

If I had sneezed — If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.

If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.

I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.

And they were telling me –. Now, it doesn’t matter, now. It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us. The pilot said over the public address system, “We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.”

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy, tonight.

I’m not worried about anything.

I’m not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!

Martin Luther King Jr Quotes

  • Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
    — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” 16 April 1963
  • We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
    — Speech in St. Louis, Missouri, March 22, 1964
  • The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbour will risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others.
    — Strength to Love (1963)
  • We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
    — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
  • I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
    — “I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963
  • Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
    — Strength to Love (1963)
  • Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land . . . So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.
    — “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, April 3, 1968 (the day before his assassination)
  • If a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.
    — Speech in Detroit, Michigan on June 23, 1963
  • The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
    — Strength to Love (1963), Ch. 7
  • Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
    — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
  • 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.
    — “I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963
  • I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for the law.
    — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
  • It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.
    — Quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 13, 1962
  • A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.
    — Strength to Love (1963)
  • We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.
    — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
  • I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.
    — Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, December 10, 1964
  • Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
    — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
  • We were here before the mighty words of the Declaration of Independence were etched across the pages of history. Our forebears labored without wages. They made cotton ‘king’. And yet out of a bottomless vitality, they continued to thrive and develop. If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. . . . Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.
    — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
  • Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.
    — “Where do we go from here?” speech, August 16, 1967
  • When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
    — “I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963

The Emancipation Proclaimation – ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Emancipation Proclamation 150th Anniversary

The Emancipation Proclaimation

 The Emancipation Proclamation

Washington, C.C. 1 January 1863

– Abolition of Slavery By the President of the United States of America: A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

”That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.”

Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit: Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons. And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages.

And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service. And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God. In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the City of Washington, this first day of? January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN WILLIAM, H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

The

Emancipation Proclamation

Amendment

to the

Constitution 
of the 
United States

The Emancipation Proclamation together with the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights are considered to be the four greatest documents in history relating to human freedom.

The Question of Slavery had been a major difficulty for the United States since the Declaration of Independence declared that “all men were created equal with rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” . The agonizing debate to include these inalienable rights into the Constitution continued throughout the writing of the Constitution and then throughout the drafting of the Bill of Rights. The final failure to include them tempered the greatness of these momentous documents.

The political philosophy of freedom, liberty and equality as set forth by our founding fathers of our great country is certainly paradoxical, considering that by the mid 1800’s we were the only major country in the world allowing slavery!

Abraham Lincoln was a staunch abolitionist although he was not free of prejudice. In order to win over the majority of the public, Lincoln, at his inaugural address in 1861, vowed not to interfere with the institution of slavery. Contrary to present belief, the general public in the North approved of this attitude.

On the outbreak of the Civil War, it was recognized that the slaves represented a military support advantage to the South. Lincoln reasoned that, if given a chance, these slaves may be willing to join the Northern armies, giving the advantage to the North. In addition, some action against the continuation of slavery would cause England and France to reevaluate their sympathies more in favor of the North.

Lincoln broke his vow and determined to issue a proclamation on January 1, 1863 freeing those slaves in areas of the South which were in active rebellion with the North. In all other areas of the South, the slaves were not freed by the Proclamation.

Lincoln had no legal right to issue such a proclamation, and indeed the affected states ignored it. However, the slaves, themselves, did not ignore it and nearly 180,000 slaves responded and found their way to join the Northern armies!

Jefferson Davis’s Counter Emancipation Proclamation (Also preserved at the Karpeles Manuscript Library) answers Lincoln by calling for increased men, supplies, patriotism and devotion to meet this new threat.

The Counter- Emancipation Proclamation

signed by:

Jefferson Davis

“The present condition of public affairs induces me to address the Governors of the several States on a subject of vital importance to the people. The repeated defeats inflicted on the Federal forces in their attempt to conquer our country have not yet sufficed to satisfy them of the impossibility of success in their nefarious design to subjugate these States. A renewed attempt on a still larger scale is now in progress; but with manifest distrust of success in a warfare conducted according to the usages of civilized nations …

… the United States propose to add to the enormous land and naval forces accumulated by them, bands of such of the African slaves of the South as they may be able to wrest from their owners, and thus to inflict on the non-combatant population of the Confederate States all of the horrors of a servile war.”

“To repel attacks conducted on so vast a scale … I earnestly appeal to them …

for their co-operation in the following important particulars:

1. In the enrollment of the conscripts and the forwarding of them to the proper points of rendezvous.

2. In restoring to the army all officers …absent without leave, or whose term of absence has expired, or who have recovered from disability and are now able to return to duty.

3. In securing for the use of the army all such necessary supplies as exist within the States in excess of the quantity indispensable for the support of the people at home.

Prompt action in these matters will save our people from very great suffering; will put our army in a condition to meet the enemy with decisive results, and thus secure for us an early and honorable peace on the basis of recognized independence.

In addition ….I…..recommend to the several Legislatures …..to command slave labor to the extent which may be required in the prosecution of works conducive to the public defense….”

The military success of the Emancipation Proclamation fueled the abolitionist movement and the proclamation, almost in spite of itself, became a fresh expression of one of man’s loftiest aspirations — the quest for freedom.

The advance toward full emancipation was now inexorable, much to Lincoln’s delight.   The “death blow to human bondage was sealed” two years later “by the ratification of the 13th Amendment” ..

 

The  Emancipation Proclamation Amendment  to the Constitution

of the United States.

 allthechildrenoflight-Emanpicipation

We Shall Overcome – I Have A Dream

I Have A Dream – Martin Luther King Jr

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was a principal leader of the non-violent Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. He not only began the Civil Rights Movement with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, he himself became an icon for the entire movement. Delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity. But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.

– Speech by Martin Luther King Jr

“One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.

So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.

So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.

The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. we must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” we can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four 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. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

  • Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
    — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” 16 April 1963
  • We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
    — Speech in St. Louis, Missouri, March 22, 1964
  • The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbour will risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others.
    — Strength to Love (1963)
  • We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
    — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
  • I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
    — “I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963
  • Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
    — Strength to Love (1963)
  • Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land . . . So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.
    — “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, April 3, 1968 (the day before his assassination)
  • If a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.
    — Speech in Detroit, Michigan on June 23, 1963
  • The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.
    — Strength to Love (1963), Ch. 7
  • Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
    — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
  • 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.
    — “I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963
  • I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for the law.
    — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
  • It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.
    — Quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 13, 1962
  • A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan.
    — Strength to Love (1963)
  • We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive.
    — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
  • I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant.
    — Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, December 10, 1964
  • Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
    — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
  • We were here before the mighty words of the Declaration of Independence were etched across the pages of history. Our forebears labored without wages. They made cotton ‘king’. And yet out of a bottomless vitality, they continued to thrive and develop. If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. . . . Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.
    — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963
  • Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them.
    — “Where do we go from here?” speech, August 16, 1967
  • When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”
    — “I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963

– Martin Luther King Jr