martin luther king jr

Wayback Wednesday: King’s Chicago Anti-War March 1967

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Chicago Vietnam War March Image One
Dr. Martin Luther King talks to Al Raby of Chicago’s Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO) as they lead the march down State Street. To King’s right is Jack Spiegel of the United Shoeworkers and, to Raby’s left, is King assistant Bernard Lee.
Photo Credit: Jo Freeman

Fifty-three years ago, today, Martin Luther King, Jr. led, approximately, 5,000 demonstrators down State Street in Chicago…his first anti-war march.

In an address to the demonstrators, King declared that the Vietnam War was “a blasphemy against all that America stands for.” He also stated that “we must combine the fervor of the civil rights movement with the peace movement.” King first began speaking out against American involvement in Vietnam in the summer of 1965.

In addition to his moral objections to the war, he argued that the war diverted money and attention from domestic programs to aid the black poor. He was strongly criticized by other prominent civil rights leaders for attempting to link civil rights and the antiwar movement.

King & Spock Image Two
Dr. Benjamin Spock joins Dr. King
and Bernard Lee in the front line.
Photo Credit: jofreeman.com

Dr. King had never been neutral on the war in Vietnam but, he had been silent. He felt, as did the leaders of most other civil rights organizations, that the movement should concentrate on the domestic struggle. They were concerned that opposition to President Johnson’s foreign policy would result in loss of support for passing and enforcing civil rights laws at home. On July 5 1965, Dr. King told a college audience in Virginia that “the war in Vietnam must be stopped.” His friends and contacts in the Johnson Administration told him he was treading in dangerous waters and should back off.

By 1967, Dr. King was ready to speak his mind publicly. His first statement was made on February 25 at an anti-war conference in California, along with several Senators who also opposed the war. He said it was immoral and, also, took money and attention from the anti-poverty program. After the walk down State Street on March 25, Dr. King addressed a rally.

Veterans For Peace Image Three
Veterans for Peace get ready to march.
Photo Credit: jofreeman.com

There are videos of March 25, 1965 and videos of April 1, 1967 but, nothing for this date. ~Vic

Sources & Additional Reading:
MLK Leads Chicago Antiwar March (The History Channel)
Vietnam War (Stanford University King Institute)
Jack D. Speigel (Chicago Tribune)
Saturday, March 25, 1967 (Wikipedia)
King At Chicago (Jo Freeman’s Website)

Throwback Thursday: Losing King 1968

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MLK Image One
Image Credit: searchmap.eu

Fifty-one years ago, today, a powerful voice & soul was extinguished. I wasn’t even two years old when he was killed. He was only 39. He wasn’t a perfect person (who is?) but, his message was.

From The History Channel:

Just after 6:00p.m. on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. is fatally shot while standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The civil rights leader was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike and, was on his way to dinner when a bullet struck him in the jaw and severed his spinal cord. King was pronounced dead after his arrival at a Memphis hospital.

As word of the assassination spread, riots broke out in cities all across the United States and, National Guard troops were deployed in Memphis and Washington, D.C. On April 9, King was laid to rest in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets to pay tribute to King’s casket as it passed by in a wooden farm cart drawn by two mules.

MLK Image Two
Photo Credit: history.com

From Wikipedia:

The King family and others believe the assassination was the result of a conspiracy involving the U.S. government, Mafia and Memphis police, as alleged by Loyd Jowers in 1993. They believe that Ray was a scapegoat. In 1999, the family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Jowers for the sum of $10 million. During closing arguments, their attorney asked the jury to award damages of $100, to make the point that “it was not about the money.” During the trial, both sides presented evidence alleging a government conspiracy. The government agencies accused could not defend themselves or respond because they were not named as defendants. Based on the evidence, the jury concluded Jowers, and others, were “part of a conspiracy to kill King” and awarded the family $100. The allegations and the finding of the Memphis jury were later rejected by the United States Department of Justice in 2000 due to lack of evidence.

MLK Image Three
Photo Credit: nytimes.com

After the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, King told his wife, Coretta Scott King, “This is what is going to happen to me also. I keep telling you, this is a sick society.”

Senator Robert F. Kennedy was the first to tell his audience in Indianapolis that King had died. He stated:

“For those of you who are black, and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed but, he was killed by a white man.

His speech has been credited as preventing riots in Indianapolis when the rest of the country was not so lucky.

On March 10, 1969, James Earl Ray pleaded guilty (on his birthday) and was sentenced to 99 years in the Tennessee State Penitentiary. He died in prison at the age of 70 on April 23, 1998, twenty-nine years and 19 days after King’s assassination.

Many documents regarding an FBI investigation remain classified and will stay secret until 2027.

I’ve seen the Promised Land.