Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story Paperback – 10 Jan 2011
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Martin Luther King's early words return to us today with enormous power, as profoundly true, as wise and inspiring, now as when he wrote them fifty years ago. Howard Zinn" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
At the time Martin Luther King, Jr. was only 26 years old and the pastor of a Baptist church in Montgomery, within a year he was a national figure and a leader of the Civil Rights movement. One of the greatest orators in American history, remembered for his I Have A Dream speech, Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was assassinated on April 4th 1968.
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Over and over again Dr. King speaks to the role of the Christian church in establishing justice:
"Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them is a dry-as-dust religion. Such a religion is the kind the Marxists like to see--an opiate of the people." (p. 36)
King reminds us that when oppression exists, to do nothing is to not deserve anything better:
"Any individual who submitted willingly to injustice did not really deserve more justice." (p. 38)
Justice is part of the divine order and injustice, whether in particular acts or in covert systems is evil:
"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it ... So in order to be true to one's conscience and true to God, a righteous man has no alternative but to refuse to cooperate with an evil system." (p. 51)
King argues that one cannot dismiss this as merely "the social gospel," but it is at the core of Christianity:
"The gospel deals with the whole man, not only his soul, but his body; not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well-being ... Any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the social and economic conditions that scar the soul, is a spiritually moribund religion only waiting for the day to be buried. It well has been said: 'A religion that ends with the individual, ends.'" (p. 91)
"How often the church has had a high blood count of creeds and an anemia of deeds!" (p. 207)
King asserts that he is not espousing a passive approach:
"True pacifism is not nonresistance to evil, but nonviolent resistance to evil. Between these two positions, there is a world of difference." (p. 98)
Finally, King makes the point that resisting evil is not an attack against those who practice injustice:
"Nonviolent resistance is not aimed against oppressors, but against oppression." (p. 214)
The second chapter is subtitled "Montgomery Before the Protest". King describes segregation and its effect on 50,000 second-class citizens - the offspring of uprooted African victims of slavery. Although the Supreme Court ruled 3 years prior that "in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place", six southern states including Alabama had not even one African-American child attending school with Anglos by 1956.
Then on December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat so an Anglo could sit in it. In response to her unAmerican, Nazi-like arrest by officials who were servants of hatred rather than justice, African-American community leaders met in a Baptist church and organized the Montgomery bus boycott. It worked in a wonderful show of solidarity, but the haters's hatred was not extinguished. King and his compatriot R. David Abernathy had their houses bombed by local KKK terrorists. So the Supreme Court stepped in like they did with the public schools and said "the separate but equal" buffalo pucky was incorrect, thereby giving Jim Crow a black eye. (Jim Crow is a metaphor for the anti-African American laws that got started in 1890 by Southern Anglos to deny the African-American his right to vote - this after Mississippi had already put 2 African-Americans into the Senate in our nation's capitol).
The last chapter is "Where Do We Go From Here?" Dr. King noticed that the judiciary could do only so much - somebody had to implement the law that the judiciary laid down. No doubt, King was thinking back to the early 1800s when the Cherokee-Americans won their Supreme Court case to keep their land in Georgia, but President Andy Jackson (the state terrorist on the $20 dollar bill) sent the Yankee army to illegally force them to walk to Oklahoma (called the Trail of Tears because 10,000 died).
King advocated direct action, not the militant direct action embraced by the Black Panther Party and other African-American groups in defense of their civil rights, but the Gandhi-type of nonviolent direct action that the Indians had used against their British oppressors in India to get their civil rights back. "We must use the weapon of love", King said. King was out to wear down the hatred of the haters with love and kindness, fortified by an endless capacity to suffer whatever it took to take the kryptonite to hatred.
May God Bless this man of peace with His Mercy and Grace and forgive him his manly shortcomings.
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