Historical

May 05, 2008

Mildred Loving RIP

Too few people might remember the name Mildred Loving upon her passing. What a fitting name. Mildred and her white husband were arrested in Virginia in 1958 for "cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth.” They avoided jail by agreeing to leave the state. The account she gave of her arrest is chilling.

She issued a statement in 2007 on the 40th anniversary of the ruling in Loving v Virginia. Full-text at link.

Loving for All

By Mildred Loving

Prepared for Delivery on June 12, 2007,
The 40th Anniversary of the Loving vs. Virginia Announcement

When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married.

We didn’t get married in Washington because we wanted to marry there. We did it there because the government wouldn’t allow us to marry back home in Virginia where we grew up, where we met, where we fell in love, and where we wanted to be together and build our family. You see, I am a woman of color and Richard was white, and at that time people believed it was okay to keep us from marrying because of their ideas of who should marry whom.

When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn’t that what marriage is?

Not long after our wedding, we were awakened in the middle of the night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for the “crime” of marrying the wrong kind of person. Our marriage certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed. The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile.

May 01, 2008

LBJ Speaks

The Dallas Morning News reports that the LBJ Library will be releasing 13 new hours of recorded tapes from Johnson's Presidency. The tapes are from a four month period which includes the assassination of Dr. King.

History buffs will be interested to learn what, if anything, Johnson had to say about developments on the tapes.

AUSTIN – Four of the nation’s most turbulent months will be examined through the eyes of President Lyndon B. Johnson with the release Thursday morning of more than 13 hours of recorded presidential conversations and transcripts.

The LBJ Library will make available for the first time White House discussions from January through April 1968. That period included the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and Johnson’s own decision not to seek re-election.

The time period also includes a series of other major crises, including the crash in Greenland of an American plane loaded with nuclear weapons, the seizure of the spy ship Pueblo by North Korea and the launch of the Tet offensive in Vietnam, which shocked America and called into stark question both the nation’s strategy and chance of success in the war.

On the homefront, Johnson is heard dealing with his own political challenges, including the entry of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy into the presidential race and Sen. Eugene McCarthy’s decision to challenge the president in the New Hampshire primary.

April 29, 2008

King Assassin's Canadian Connection

Many might not remember, or be old enough to appreciate the details of the manhunt for James Earl Ray after Dr. King's murder. The search did have an international connection. Ray fled to Canada and took on several assumed identities.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has an item out that includes emerging details of the search. For a petty thief and drifter, Ray certainly got around.

There are several interesting, or perhaps curious items in the full article.

Through its investigation, the CBC has learned that:

Ray was spotted acting furtively behind Toronto's new city hall building shortly after his photo appeared in Canadian newspapers as the prime suspect in the King murder. An eyewitness told police that Ray tried to hide his face with a newspaper before departing on foot with a red-haired woman whose identity has never been ascertained.

The address Ray gave when stopped for jaywalking in Toronto was never fully explored by police. It turned out to be a brothel run by an ex-con and was the likely source of not only the fake identities but also where he stayed on the two nights his whereabouts in the city could not be verified.
That address, 6 Condor Avenue in the east end, near the Canadian National Railway tracks, was circled on a map Ray left behind but it was mislabeled by police with the name of the street on the other side of the tracks.

Ray's official explanation of how he picked up at least three of the four aliases he used, of men from a small neighbourhood in Scarborough, has proven to be inaccurate, continuing his pattern of lying to shield those who helped him.

April 28, 2008

An Interview With Martin Luther King, Jr.

Readers might find this interesting. A journalist has secured permission to republish an interview done with Dr. King from May of 1963. It's an old article posted word for word. That would explain the use of the word "negro" in the introduction below. Few if any journalists would use that terminology today.

WHEN representatives of the Canadian Broadcasting Co. and I sat down for an interview with Martin Luther King, Jr., in the courtyard of the Gaston motel in the heart of downtown Birmingham's Negro district on May 14, we found him calm, composed and optimistic—qualities which characterize his leadership of the nonviolent resistance movement which has become the most vital force in the struggle to end racial segregation in the United States.

The day before, he had been able to announce completion of a four-point agreement between Negro negotiators and influential representatives of the white business community. He felt that the accord had marked the end of a month of nonviolent demonstrations that centered attention on a city which Dr. King has described as a symbol of the hard core of southern resistance to integration.

The item documents some poignant moments in the history of race relations in America.

"This is the beginning of the end of massive resistance to integration," he said. "Other communities will see that insisting on the segregationist position is like standing on the beach of history and trying to hold back the tide."

That was at noon on Saturday. Less than 12 hours later bombs hurled by white men ripped into the Birmingham home of Dr. King's brother, A. D. (like-wise a minister), while others tore a gaping hole in the Gaston Motel.

An hour earlier, members of the Ku Klux Klan of Alabama had held an open meeting in suburban Bessemer. By the light of two burning crosses they had prayed for the demise of Dr. King and "the Kennedys" and called on God to maintain separation of the races.

April 24, 2008

Looking Back While Looking Forward

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting item out today. With an eye on Baltimore, it notes the on going efforts to heal wounds and scars from forty years ago when Dr. King was assassinated.

BALTIMORE - Robert Birt's contribution toward healing his native city was to draw stick-figure people, orange flames, and a military tank onto a ceramic tile. It was his way of expressing a painful civic memory and it was long overdue.

For 40 years, the violent civil disturbances that erupted in this city following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. have been a taboo subject. In a feat of willful community amnesia, the citizens of Baltimore have tried to erase the events of early April 1968 – when grief, anger, and frustration exploded into looting, arson, and street violence – devastating neighborhoods and rending the city along racial lines.

Families didn't talk about it, teachers didn't plan civic lessons around it, and policymakers didn't draw valuable examples from it. And two generations of Baltimoreans have grown up with no idea it ever happened.

April 16, 2008

Dr. King At Fourteen

Evidently Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s gift for oratory goes back much further than many people might suspect. He was already displaying accomplishment in the area by the age of fourteen.

Via the Courier Herald Online, we learn that Atlanta's First African Baptist Church will receive a bronze plaque commemorating April 17th, 1944 - the day a fourteen year-old Dr. King won an oratory contest held by the church.

Link:

A bronze plaque will be presented to the church in recognition of the historic event.

At the age of 14, on April 17, 1944, young King won an oratory contest at First AB.

“The Hand of Providence was already moving in his young life, for the title of his speech was ‘The Negro and the Constitution,’ said Fraser in a press release. “Even at so young an age, it is amazing for us today to look back and see the historic implications of this speech in King’s life’s work.”

April 15, 2008

Dr. King's Impact Not Always Obvious

While Dr. King's most obvious influence on America in the Civil Rights cause is well known, few would probably associate him with their 401k. But a new book by a former Undersecretary of Labor, David George Ball, reveals how King's influence and inspiration was key to his efforts to make that vehicle of wealth accumulation available to all.

As a scholarship student at Yale Mr. Ball gave the relatively unknown Martin Luther King his thirtieth birthday party. Dr. King, in turn, inspired him with life-long ideals and David vowed to help make the world a better place in a secular career. He found his calling when President Bush nominated him as Assistant Secretary of Labor and head of the Pension and Welfare Benefit Administration.

April 14, 2008

Jesse Epps Acknowledged

Jesse Epps of Willingboro, NJ was one of the last individuals to speak to Dr. King on the day he was assassinated. The Burlington County Times notes Mr. Epps proximity to events of that tragic day and goes on to list Epps continuing work in the area of Civil Rights.

WILLINGBORO — Forty years ago, Jesse Epps sat in a room of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., talking with Martin Luther King Jr. about supporting the city's striking sanitation workers.

Epps was one of the last people to speak to King before he was assassinated on the motel balcony on April 4, 1968.

Earlier this month, Epps, now a resident of Willingboro, was awarded the Drum Major for Justice Award for his role in the sanitation strike by the women's branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The honor was bestowed at a ceremony in Memphis to commemorate the 40th anniversary of King's assassination.

April 08, 2008

One Neighborhood Forty Years On

It's been forty years since one area of Washington, DC burned in the wake of the assassination of Dr. King. National Public Radio takes a look at the rebuilding, which, all these years later, is still going on. Audio also available at link.

It has taken 40 years to undo the damage from a few days of rioting in Washington, D.C. The U Street corridor was decimated after fires in 1968, set in riots following the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

"They said, 'You burned it up, you live with it,'" lifelong resident Stanley Mayes says. "There's a few of us around who still know the sordid details as to how this place came back from the abyss."

The smoke from the fires was so bad, you couldn't breathe, Mayes says.

Now the area is marked by construction sites, an upscale wine shop and a luxury apartment building that has a sushi counter on the first floor.

April 02, 2008

King's Last Campaign

Also from Memphis, Leonard Pitts takes a look at the harsh reality surrounding Dr. King's last campaign.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Forty years later, they are old men, many with bent backs and gingerly steps. And they are taciturn, strangers to an era of confession, getting in touch with your feelings.

So if you ask them what it was like, being a black man and a sanitation worker in this city in the 1950s and '60s, they will say simply that it was "tough" or it was "bad."

And it will take some pushing for them to tell how you had to root through people's back yards, collecting their tree limbs and dead cats and chicken bones, because there was no such thing as a garbage can placed out by the curb. Or about white bosses who carried guns and called you "boy" and worked you 10, 12, 14 hours a day but only paid you for eight, at as little as $1.27 an hour. Or about how it was when the metal tubs you toted on your head rusted through and the garbage leaked.

"I have got maggots out of my head, what done fell in there. Sometimes, you find 'em in your collar," says Ozell Ueal, 68.

Your support brings us one step closer to building this Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Help us honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his vision for America. Help us “Build the Dream.”

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