Showing posts with label civil rights movement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label civil rights movement. Show all posts

Friday, June 09, 2023

National Civil Rights Museum celebrates Juneteenth with a free Community Day

The National Civil Rights Museum is celebrating the Juneteenth holiday on June 19 as a Community Day with free museum admission and museum Member Appreciation Day. 

This is the second year Juneteenth is observed as a federal holiday, and the museum welcomes all visitors to learn more about the origins and importance fo the holiday and the stories of hard-fought freedom since its origin. 

Juneteenth dates back to June 19, 1865, when Union soldier, Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the American Civil War had ended and the enslaved were now free. This announcement was more than two and half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This population of Black Texans were denied their freedom since January 1, 1863.

The museum’s Juneteenth Community Day will allow everyone free admission to explore this American history that illustrates the resilience and contributions of Black Americans despite access to basic freedoms and equality.  The goal is to focus on the continued struggle for civil and human rights that guarantee fundamental freedoms and to raise the consciousness of systemic racism with the desired outcome to reform race relations throughout our communities.

The free Juneteenth Community Day admission is on a first-come basis and there is no advance reservation.  Members will enjoy special benefits including expressed entry, a member gift, a museum store discount, and refreshments.

The Juneteenth Community Day is made possible by Ford Motor Company Fund. For more information, visit


About the National Civil Rights Museum

The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from slavery to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 90,000 student visits annually. The Museum is steadfast in its mission to chronicle the American civil rights movement and tell the story of the ongoing struggle for human rights.  It educates and serves as a catalyst to inspire action to create positive social change. 

The Museum is recognized as a 2019 National Medal Award recipient by the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS), the top national honor for museums and libraries.  It is a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Top 5% U.S. Museum, USA Today's Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC's Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10, American Treasures by USA Today; and Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Business Journal.


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Sunday, November 06, 2022

Sword and the Shield: Dual biography of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King

This “landmark” dual biography of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King transforms our understanding of the twentieth century’s most iconic African American leaders. (Ibram X. Kendi)

To most Americans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. represent contrasting ideals: self-defense versus nonviolence, Black Power versus civil rights, the sword versus the shield. The struggle for Black freedom is wrought with the same contrasts. While nonviolent direct action is remembered as an unassailable part of American democracy, the movement’s militancy is either vilified or erased outright.

In The Sword and the Shield, Peniel E. Joseph upends these misconceptions and reveals a nuanced portrait of two men who, despite markedly different backgrounds, inspired and pushed each other throughout their adult lives. Now updated with a new afterword, this is a strikingly revisionist account of Malcolm and Martin, the era they defined, and their lasting impact on today’s Movement for Black Lives.


Paperback *******Kindle Edition

Friday, October 14, 2022

Civil Rights icon Charles Sherrod dies at age 85

The Rev. Charles Melvin Sherrod, whose grassroots organizing of unregistered black voters sent shock waves through the segregated South and kickstarted the Albany Movement, has died. He was 85.

Sherrod, whose death was confirmed by his family, died of natural causes at his home in Albany (GA) on Tuesday at 3:45 p.m.

“He was a great husband, a great father and great servant to his community,” Sherrod’s wife of 56 years, Shirley Miller Sherrod, said. “His life serves as a shining example of service to one’s fellow man.”

Sherrod played a transformative role in the civil rights movement during the 1960s, cofounding the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and inspiring blacks in southwest Georgia to straighten their backs and stand up for their rights.

Born Jan. 2, 1937, in rural Surry, Va., Sherrod moved with his grandmother and siblings to nearby Petersburg, where he became president of his high school student body. He earned both his undergraduate and divinity degree at Virginia Union University in Richmond before engaging in sit-ins at segregated churches and department store lunch counters.

In April 1960, he traveled to Shaw University in Raleigh, and the following February, SNCC dispatched him and three others workers to Rock Hill, S.C., where he chose jail over bail and spent 30 days on the chain gang. It was a strategy he would employ again and again throughout his civil rights career.

In October 1961, Sherrod, headed to Albany as SNCC’s first field secretary to help register blacks to vote. His mastery at organizing mass meetings and empowering black youths to stand up for their rights also mobilized parents and the status quo to get off the sidelines. The result was The Albany Movement that garnered national and international attention and attracted scores of demonstrators, including Martin Luther King Jr.

Sherrod’s civil rights work was not restricted to Albany. He helped bus demonstrators from southwest Georgia to the 1963 March on Washington and ensured strong attendance in support of the Mississippi Freedom Party at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, N.J.

Meanwhile, back in southwest Georgia, Sherrod remained fully invested, spearheading voter registration efforts in surrounding counties, including the racially hostile Baker County. In the summer of 1965, he met the love of his life, Shirley Miller, the daughter of a black farmer who’d been gunned down in his own pasture by a white farmer who an all-white jury refused to indict for his murder.

After completing requirements for his master’s degree in divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1966, Sherrod broke ranks with SNCC over its ouster of whites. He cofounded alternatively the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education, continuing voter registration work with his wife.

In July 1968, Sherrod traveled to Israel with seven others to explore the idea of creating a community-held farm to serve as a safe haven for black farmers thrown off their land during the movement. Ultimately serving as the leader, Sherrod took the reins, secured the needed capital and acquired the 5,735-acre New Communities Inc. in neighboring Lee County.

From 1969 to 1985, he served at the helm of what became the nation’s largest black-owned farm and first community land trust. That is, until drought and discriminatory loan practices brought about its loss.

Still, Sherrod stayed the course. He served as one of Albany’s first black city commissioners from 1976 to 1990, ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the state senate in 1996, taught on faculty at Albany State University and served as chaplain at the Georgia State Prison in Homerville.

However, he never allowed himself to forget about the loss of New Communities. In 1999, acting on behalf of the nonprofit, he and Shirley Sherrod joined other black farmers in a class action lawsuit, suing the United States Department of Agriculture for discriminatory loan practices. What they recovered in an out-of-court settlement cleared the way for the nonprofit to acquire the 1,638-acre Cypress Pond Plantation near Albany. This former antebellum plantation where the enslaved toiled is now managed by descendants of the enslaved, serving as a legacy to Sherrod.

In addition to his wife Shirley, Sherrod is survived by two adult children, Russia Sherrod of Albany and Kenyatta (Mikhiela) Sherrod of Marietta, and five grandchildren: Kourtney (Charles III) Sherrod Corbin of Auburn, Ala.; Mia Sherrod of Dallas; Kiera Sherrod of Marietta; Simone Sherrod of Marietta, and Khloe Sherrod of Albany.


Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Freedom riders sentences posthumously vacated

Civil-rights leader Bayard Rustin and three other men who were sentenced to work on a chain gang in North Carolina after they launched the first of the freedom rides to challenge Jim Crow laws had their sentences posthumously vacated Friday, more than seven decades later.

During a special session Friday leading up to the weekend celebration of Juneteenth, North Carolina Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour dismissed charges against civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, Andrew Johnson, James Felmet and Igal Roodenko.

Judge Baddour, along with his decision, issued an emotional apology.

“Today’s session is an opportunity for us to make an amends publicly… We failed these men in Orange County, in Chapel Hill,” said Baddour. “We failed their cause and we failed to deliver justice in our community. And for that, I apologize.”

“While this judicial action is taking place 75 years after the injustice occurred, never should we falter in examining past wrongs, seeking reparation, and lifting those heavy burdens from our hearts and minds so that future generations may know justice,” said Renee Price, chairman of the Orange County Board of Commissioners.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Alabama State University names residence hall for Civil Rights leader Jo Ann Robinson Hall

Civil rights pioneer Jo Ann Robinson, who played an instrumental role in the historic 13-month Montgomery Bus Boycott in the mid-1950s, had a residence hall named after her at a ceremony on Alabama State University's campus.

In 2020, ASU removed the name of Bibb Graves from ASU’s oldest residence hall, and on September 17, 2021, the ASU Board of Trustees, upon the recommendation of President Quinton T. Ross, Jr., voted unanimously to rename the building.

Ross noted that several names were submitted, but the name of Jo Ann Robinson continued to rise to the top. “Professor Robinson was one of the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, but today we are here to sing her praises and to let the world know that Jo Ann Robinson’s name deserves to be honored along with the other icons with which we are all familiar, many of whom, like Professor Robinson, held significant ties to this great University.”

Jo Ann Robinson was a professor of English at Alabama State University during the 1950s. She became an impactful civic leader in Montgomery, particularly as a member and later as president of the Women’s Political Council (WPC), an organization that fought for voting and women’s rights.

Robinson became a key figure in launching and executing the Montgomery Bus Boycott. On December 1, 1955, after the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat on a city bus, Robinson—along with John Cannon, chairman of the Alabama State College business department and a few of Robinson’s students—created and mimeographed 35,000 leaflets that were distributed throughout the Montgomery community to alert residents to boycott the city’s transportation system.

The success of the protests led to the establishment of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), an organization to organize further civil rights protests. She became an Executive Board Member of the MIA and set on the MIA Negotiation Team with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., as they attempted to end the boycott through discussions with the city of Montgomery and the National City Lines. The MIA was an organization to organize further civil rights protests.

The successful yearlong boycott led to the desegregation of Montgomery city buses and became a foundational event in the modern Civil Rights Movement.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Claudette Colvin's juvenile record has been expunged

The juvenile court records of Claudette Colvin, a civil rights pioneer who refused in 1955 to give up her seat to a White person on an Alabama bus, have been sealed, destroyed and expunged following a judge's ruling.

Colvin, now 82, was arrested when she was 15 for refusing to give up her seat to a White person on a bus in Montgomery. The incident came nine months before Rosa Parks' far more famous arrest for a similar act of civil disobedience in the Jim Crow era.

Colvin was charged with two counts of violating Montgomery's segregation ordinance and one felony count of assaulting a police officer. She was convicted on all counts in juvenile court, and the segregation convictions were overturned on appeal.

Placed on an "indefinite probation" after her conviction on the assault charge, Colvin was never informed her probation had ended, her legal team said.

An Alabama family court judge in November granted Colvin's petition the prior month to expunge her record. Montgomery County Juvenile Judge Calvin Williams on November 24 signed the order for the records to be destroyed, including all references to the arrest.

He granted Colvin's motion to seal for good cause and fairness for "what has since been recognized as a courageous act on her behalf and on behalf of a community of affected people," Williams said.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Rosa Parks documentary coming to Peacock in 2022

Peacock announced Wednesday that production has begun on "The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks," a full length documentary about the life of the civil rights icon. The doc is slated to premiere on the streaming platform in 2022.

"Rebellious Life" is being directed by Yoruba Richen (HBO's "Black and Missing") and Johanna Hamilton. Soledad O’Brien is executive producing.

The documentary, promises to go beyond Parks' historic 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, is based on Jeanne Theoharis' 2013 biography, "The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks."

Monday, August 30, 2021

Civil rights activist Lucille Times, who boycotted Montgomery buses, dies at 100

Civil rights activist Lucille Times has died from complications from COVID-19 at the age of 100. She is remembered for starting a boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama, bus transit system after fighting with the same driver who later confronted Rosa Parks. Times personally picked up Black riders waiting for the bus and drove them to their destinations.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Civil rights pioneer Gloria Richardson dies at age 99

Gloria Richardson, an influential yet largely unsung civil rights pioneer whose determination not to back down while protesting racial inequality was captured in a photograph as she pushed away the bayonet of a National Guardsman, has died. She was 99.

Richardson was the first woman to lead a prolonged grassroots civil rights movement outside the Deep South. In 1962, she helped organized and led the Cambridge Movement on Maryland's Eastern Shore with sit-ins to desegregate restaurants, bowling alleys and movie theaters in protests that marked an early part of the Black Power movement.

Richardson became the leader of demonstrations over bread and butter economic issues like jobs, health care access and sufficient housing.

In pursuit of these goals, Richardson advocated for the right of Black people to defend themselves when attacked.

Richardson was born in Baltimore and later lived in Cambridge in Maryland's Dorchester County — the same county where Harriet Tubman was born. She entered Howard University when she was 16. During her years in Washington, she began to protest segregation at a drug store.

In 1962, Richardson attended the meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Atlanta and later joined the board.

In the summer of 1963, after peaceful sit-ins turned violent in Cambridge, Gov. J. Millard Tawes declared martial law. When Cambridge Mayor Calvin Mowbray asked Richardson to halt the demonstrations in exchange for an end to the arrests of Black protesters, Richardson declined to do so. On June 11, rioting by white supremacists erupted and Tawes called in the National Guard.

While the city was still under National Guard presence, Richardson met with U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy to negotiate what became informally known as the “Treaty of Cambridge.” It ordered equal access to public accommodations in Cambridge in return for a one-year moratorium on demonstrations.

Richardson was a signatory to the treaty, but she had never agreed to end the demonstrations. It was only the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that began to resolve issues at the local level.

She was one of the nation's leading female civil rights' activists and inspired younger activists who went on to protest racial inequality in the late 1960s and into the 1970s.

She is survived by her daughters, Donna Orange and Tamara Richardson, and granddaughters Young and Michelle Price.


Saturday, December 12, 2020

Medgar Evers home established as national historic monument

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt has announced the establishment of the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument in Jackson, Mississippi as the 423rd unit of the National Park System. The monument was authorized by the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (P.L. 116-9), which was signed by President Trump on March 12, 2019.

Acquired by the National Park Service (NPS) by way of conveyance from Tougaloo College on June 18, 2020, the new monument commemorates the legacies of two civil rights activists who, from their modest, 3-bedroom ranch home, devoted their lives to ending racial injustice and improving the quality of life for African Americans.

“It is an honor to establish the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “Medgar Evers was a true American hero who fought the Nazis at Normandy and fought racism with his wife Myrlie on the home front. It is our solemn responsibility as caretakers of America’s national treasures to tell the whole story of America’s heritage for the benefit of present and future generations. The life works of these great Americans helped shape our nation in making the United States a more perfect union, and for that, we should all be grateful.”

"We are so pleased that the National Park Service has made our family home in Jackson, MS, a National Monument. Our parents sought justice and equality for all Mississippians and knew such change locally would impact globally. Living a life of service, our parents didn't make sacrifices for accolades or awards. Our father fought for his country during World War II, and our mother equally served on the battlefields here in America. The battle continues to ensure that all Americans deserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” said Reena and James Van Evers, the two surviving children of Medgar and Myrlie Evers. “We are delighted that our house, always enclosed in love and respect, is nestled in a community that provides hope and opportunity. It's still serving as a reminder of our divided past and an educational tool to bring knowledge, excellence, and positive participation to all who visit to study icons in American history: our parents, Medgar and Myrlie Evers."

“It is a privilege to join Secretary Bernhardt in announcing the addition of the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument as the 423rd park to join the National Park System,” said Margaret Everson, Counselor to the Secretary, exercising the delegated authority of the National Park Service Director. “President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt have made enormous contributions to our efforts in the National Park Service to more fully tell the story of America's Civil Rights movement. The addition of this site is a fitting tribute to these two influential civil rights activists who devoted their lives to the cause of equality.”

“The Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home serves as a permanent reminder of the legacy of the Evers family, whose contributions advanced the cause of justice in our nation,” said U.S. Senator Roger Wicker. “I was proud to champion legislation with Representative Bennie Thompson and Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith to designate this historic site as a national monument and preserve it for future generations. I appreciate President Trump, the National Park Service, and the Department of the Interior for their work to make this designation a reality.”

“The national monument designation represents a great honor for the Evers family and their sacrifices and accomplishments for the cause of civil rights. This new national site will also stand in recognition of the overall pursuit of equality and justice in Mississippi and our nation,” said U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. “I am proud to have worked with Senator Wicker and Congressman Thompson to secure this designation.”

“I, like many others, was inspired by the magnitude of determination Mr. Evers showed by dedicating himself to others and fighting against adversity,” said U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson. “The designation of his home is an everlasting tribute to his legacy. The importance of protecting the heritage and important artifacts for the enjoyment of all, and historical understanding, cannot be overstated. As many members of communities, their existence contributes to local economies directly and indirectly. I am honored that the legacy of an icon in American history, Medgar Wiley Evers will forever be preserved. Mr. Evers was an inspiration to all Americans by dedicating his life to others and fighting against racism and discrimination.”

“The Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home designation as a national monument and its management by the National Park Service is another significant and historic milestone in Tougaloo College’s history. We are honored to partner with the National Park Service to advance the legacy of Medgar and Myrlie Evers and preserve their home, both of which are significant to the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. The monument will be important to the study and understanding of the civil rights struggle. We are excited about the college’s continued role in developing interpretative and educational programming for the monument to introduce students to Medgar Evers’ work and inspire them to learn more. This is indeed a great day in the history of Tougaloo College, the state of Mississippi and America,” said Tougaloo College President Carmen J. Walters.

The newly acquired property will be managed and operated by the National Park Service. While the home is not currently open to public tours, in the coming months the National Park Service will work with partners and the community to develop plans to accommodate visitors. The national monument consists of an approximately 0.15-acre parcel of land and the Evers’ home.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Barack Obama statement on the passing of civil rights leader Rev.Joseph Lowery

The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who was often called the “dean” of the America's civil rights movement, died Friday at the age of 98.

In 1957, as racial tensions rose across the United States, Lowery helped start the Southern Christian Leadership Conference civil rights organization with King. Their work helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which President Lyndon Johnson signed. Lowery later served as the SCLC's president for more than two decades.

Former President Barack Obama released the following statement via Twitter on Lowery's passing:

Rev. Joseph Lowery was a giant who let so many of us stand on his shoulders. With boundless generosity, patience, and moral courage, he encouraged a new generation of activists and leaders. Michelle and I remember him fondly today, and our love and prayers are with his family.

What a joy it was to watch him pray and preach. I took heart in him saying, “We ain’t going back. We’ve come too far, marched too long, prayed too hard, wept too bitterly, bled too profusely, and died too young to let anybody turn back the clock on our journey to justice.”

We are grateful for what he did for this country. He carried the baton longer and surer than almost anybody. It falls to the rest of us now to pick it up and never stop moving forward until we finish what he started—that journey to justice.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Before there was Rosa Parks, there was Claudette Colvin

Most people think of Rosa Parks as the first person to refuse to give up their seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. There were actually several women who came before her; one of whom was Claudette Colvin.

It was March 2, 1955, when the fifteen-year-old schoolgirl refused to move to the back of the bus, nine months before Rosa Parks’ stand that launched the Montgomery bus boycott. Claudette had been studying Black leaders like Harriet Tubman in her segregated school, those conversations had led to discussions around the current day Jim Crow laws they were all experiencing. When the bus driver ordered Claudette to get up, she refused, “It felt like Sojourner Truth was on one side pushing me down, and Harriet Tubman was on the other side of me pushing me down. I couldn't get up."

Claudette Colvin’s stand didn’t stop there. Arrested and thrown in jail, she was one of four women who challenged the segregation law in court. If Browder v. Gayle became the court case that successfully overturned bus segregation laws in both Montgomery and Alabama, why has Claudette’s story been largely forgotten? At the time, the NAACP and other Black organizations felt Rosa Parks made a better icon for the movement than a teenager. As an adult with the right look, Rosa Parks was also the secretary of the NAACP, and was both well-known and respected – people would associate her with the middle class and that would attract support for the cause. But the struggle to end segregation was often fought by young people, more than half of which were women.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Watch Barack Obama and John Lewis discuss Martin Luther King's legacy

To honor the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s death, President Obama and Congressman John Lewis participated in a My Brother’s Keeper Alliance roundtable with students from Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Washington, D.C. President Obama, Congressman Lewis, and the students discussed Dr. King’s legacy and how his mission remains relevant in today’s world.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Barack Obama statement on this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday

Former, and the last real President of the United States Barack Obama released the following statement via Twitter celebrating the Martin Luther King Holiday:

Dr. King was 26 when the Montgomery bus boycott began. He started small, rallying others who believed their efforts mattered, pressing on through challenges and doubts to change our world for the better. A permanent inspiration for the rest of us to keep pushing towards justice.

Transcript: Martin Luther King Jr. The Drum Major Instinct sermon

On this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech will be replayed and quoted often. It should be as it is a great speech, but to me, a sermon King gave at Ebenezer Baptist Church on February 4, 1968, The Drum Major Instinct is right up there with that speech. The transcript is below. George L. Cook III African American Reports.

This morning I would like to use as a subject from which to preach: "The Drum Major Instinct." "The Drum Major Instinct." And our text for the morning is taken from a very familiar passage in the tenth chapter as recorded by Saint Mark. Beginning with the thirty-fifth verse of that chapter, we read these words:

"And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came unto him saying, ‘Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.’ And he said unto them, ‘What would ye that I should do for you?’ And they said unto him, ‘Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.’ But Jesus said unto them, ‘Ye know not what ye ask: Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ And they said unto him, ‘We can.’ And Jesus said unto them, ‘Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of, and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.’" And then Jesus goes on toward the end of that passage to say, "But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your servant: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all."

The setting is clear. James and John are making a specific request of the master. They had dreamed, as most of the Hebrews dreamed, of a coming king of Israel who would set Jerusalem free and establish his kingdom on Mount Zion, and in righteousness rule the world. And they thought of Jesus as this kind of king. And they were thinking of that day when Jesus would reign supreme as this new king of Israel. And they were saying, "Now when you establish your kingdom, let one of us sit on the right hand and the other on the left hand of your throne."

Now very quickly, we would automatically condemn James and John, and we would say they were selfish. Why would they make such a selfish request? But before we condemn them too quickly, let us look calmly and honestly at ourselves, and we will discover that we too have those same basic desires for recognition, for importance. That same desire for attention, that same desire to be first. Of course, the other disciples got mad with James and John, and you could understand why, but we must understand that we have some of the same James and John qualities. And there is deep down within all of us an instinct. It's a kind of drum major instinct—a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first. And it is something that runs the whole gamut of life.

And so before we condemn them, let us see that we all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. Alfred Adler, the great psychoanalyst, contends that this is the dominant impulse. Sigmund Freud used to contend that sex was the dominant impulse, and Adler came with a new argument saying that this quest for recognition, this desire for attention, this desire for distinction is the basic impulse, the basic drive of human life, this drum major instinct.

And you know, we begin early to ask life to put us first. Our first cry as a baby was a bid for attention. And all through childhood the drum major impulse or instinct is a major obsession. Children ask life to grant them first place. They are a little bundle of ego. And they have innately the drum major instinct.

Now in adult life, we still have it, and we really never get by it. We like to do something good. And you know, we like to be praised for it. Now if you don't believe that, you just go on living life, and you will discover very soon that you like to be praised. Everybody likes it, as a matter of fact. And somehow this warm glow we feel when we are praised or when our name is in print is something of the vitamin A to our ego. Nobody is unhappy when they are praised, even if they know they don't deserve it and even if they don't believe it. The only unhappy people about praise is when that praise is going too much toward somebody else. But everybody likes to be praised because of this real drum major instinct.

...Do you know that a lot of the race problem grows out of the drum major instinct? A need that some people have to feel superior. A need that some people have to feel that they are first, and to feel that their white skin ordained them to be first. And they have said over and over again in ways that we see with our own eyes. In fact, not too long ago, a man down in Mississippi said that God was a charter member of the White Citizens Council. And so God being the charter member means that everybody who's in that has a kind of divinity, a kind of superiority. And think of what has happened in history as a result of this perverted use of the drum major instinct. It has led to the most tragic prejudice, the most tragic expressions of man's inhumanity to man.

....And not only does this thing go into the racial struggle, it goes into the struggle between nations. And I would submit to you this morning that what is wrong in the world today is that the nations of the world are engaged in a bitter, colossal contest for supremacy. And if something doesn't happen to stop this trend, I'm sorely afraid that we won't be here to talk about Jesus Christ and about God and about brotherhood too many more years. If somebody doesn't bring an end to this suicidal thrust that we see in the world today, none of us are going to be around, because somebody's going to make the mistake through our senseless blunderings of dropping a nuclear bomb somewhere. And then another one is going to drop. And don't let anybody fool you, this can happen within a matter of seconds. They have twenty-megaton bombs in Russia right now that can destroy a city as big as New York in three seconds, with everybody wiped away, and every building. And we can do the same thing to Russia and China.

But this is why we are drifting. And we are drifting there because nations are caught up with the drum major instinct. "I must be first." "I must be supreme." "Our nation must rule the world." And I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I'm going to continue to say it to America, because I love this country too much to see the drift that it has taken.

God didn't call America to do what she's doing in the world now. God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in that war. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation.

But God has a way of even putting nations in their place. The God that I worship has a way of saying, "Don't play with me." He has a way of saying, as the God of the Old Testament used to say to the Hebrews, "Don’t play with me, Israel. Don't play with me, Babylon. Be still and know that I'm God. And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power." And that can happen to America. Every now and then I go back and read Gibbons' Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. And when I come and look at America, I say to myself, the parallels are frightening. And we have perverted the drum major instinct.

But let me rush on to my conclusion, because I want you to see what Jesus was really saying. What was the answer that Jesus gave these men? It's very interesting. One would have thought that Jesus would have condemned them. One would have thought that Jesus would have said, "You are out of your place. You are selfish. Why would you raise such a question?"

But that isn't what Jesus did; he did something altogether different. He said in substance, "Oh, I see, you want to be first. You want to be great. You want to be important. You want to be significant. Well, you ought to be. If you're going to be my disciple, you must be." But he reordered priorities. And he said, "Yes, don't give up this instinct. It's a good instinct if you use it right. It's a good instinct if you don't distort it and pervert it. Don't give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity. That is what I want you to do."

And he transformed the situation by giving a new definition of greatness. And you know how he said it? He said, "Now brethren, I can't give you greatness. And really, I can't make you first." This is what Jesus said to James and John. "You must earn it. True greatness comes not by favoritism, but by fitness. And the right hand and the left are not mine to give, they belong to those who are prepared."

And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness.
And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.

......Every now and then I guess we all think realistically about that day when we will be victimized with what is life's final common denominator—that something that we call death. We all think about it. And every now and then I think about my own death and I think about my own funeral. And I don't think of it in a morbid sense. And every now and then I ask myself, "What is it that I would want said?" And I leave the word to you this morning.

If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. (Yes) And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize—that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards—that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.

I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.

I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question.

I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry.

And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.

I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison.

I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that's all I want to say.

If I can help somebody as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody with a word or song,
If I can show somebody he's traveling wrong,
Then my living will not be in vain.

If I can do my duty as a Christian ought,
If I can bring salvation to a world once wrought,
If I can spread the message as the master taught,
Then my living will not be in vain.

Yes, Jesus, I want to be on your right or your left side, not for any selfish reason. I want to be on your right or your left side, not in terms of some political kingdom or ambition. But I just want to be there in love and in justice and in truth......

[and in commitment to others, so that we can make of this old world a new world.]

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Must Read: My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King & Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds

The life story of Coretta Scott King―wife of Martin Luther King Jr., founder of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (The King Center), and singular twentieth-century American civil and human rights activist―as told fully for the first time, toward the end of her life, to Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds.

Born in 1927 to daringly enterprising parents in the Deep South, Coretta Scott had always felt called to a special purpose. While enrolled as one of the first black scholarship students recruited to Antioch College, she became politically and socially active and committed to the peace movement. As a graduate student at the New England Conservatory of Music, determined to pursue her own career as a concert singer, she met Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister insistent that his wife stay home with the children. But in love and devoted to shared Christian beliefs as well as shared racial and economic justice goals, she married Dr. King, and events promptly thrust her into a maelstrom of history throughout which she was a strategic partner, a standard bearer, and so much more.

As a widow and single mother of four, she worked tirelessly to found and develop The King Center as a citadel for world peace, lobbied for fifteen years for the US national holiday in honor of her husband, championed for women's, workers’ and gay rights and was a powerful international voice for nonviolence, freedom and human dignity.

Coretta’s is a love story, a family saga, and the memoir of an extraordinary black woman in twentieth-century America, a brave leader who, in the face of terrorism and violent hatred, stood committed, proud, forgiving, nonviolent, and hopeful every day of her life.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Congressman John Lewis wins National Book Award

Congressman John Lewis can now add another accolade to his long and distinguished civil rights/political career. He has won a National Book Award.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) won the Young People’s Literature award with his co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell for “March: Book Three.” The widely celebrated graphic novel recounts Lewis’s experience during the civil rights movement.

Lewis told the ecstatic crowd, “Some of you know I grew up in rural Alabama — very, very poor with very few books in our home.” Forcing back tears, he recalled walking to a local public library with his siblings to get a library card and being turned away because the library was for whites only. [SOURCE]

Other winners were:

Colson Whithead: Fiction: “The Underground Railroad”

Ibram X. Kendi: Non Fiction: “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America”

Daniel Borzutzky Poetry: “The Performance of Becoming Human.”


Monday, August 15, 2016

Martin Luther King Jr.'s children end Nobel medal dispute

Martin Luther King Jr.'s heirs have agreed to end their legal fight over who owns the slain civil rights leader's 1964 Nobel Peace Prize medal, according to a court document filed on Monday, but did not disclose if the item will be sold.

A trial to settle the years-long dispute over the medal had been set to start in Atlanta on Monday. It would have pitted King's two sons against his surviving daughter, who were at odds over whether to sell the medal.

The three siblings serve as directors of a corporation formed to manage the estate of King, who had no will when he was assassinated in 1968 by a white supremacist in Memphis, Tennessee.

Martin Luther King III and Dexter King voted in January 2014 to sell the medal and a Bible their father carried during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Bernice King objected to a sale, calling the heirlooms "sacred" to the family.

Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney had ordered the items to be kept in a court-controlled safe deposit box pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

The judge on Monday signed an order in which the parties asked for the suit to be dismissed and agreed the keys to the box should be given to Martin Luther King III, who serves as chairman of the estate board.

Read more: Martin Luther King Jr.'s heirs end Nobel medal dispute

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Bible belongs to estate, judge says

The Bible that Martin Luther King Jr. carried during the civil rights movement in the 1960s belongs to his estate which voted in 2014 to sell the heirloom against the wishes of his daughter, said a court ruling that could now lead to its sale.

A trial was still scheduled to begin on August 15 to settle the question of who owns the slain civil rights leader's 1964 Nobel Peace Prize medal, which the estate also voted to sell, according to court records.

The estate is controlled by King's three surviving children, Bernice and her two brothers, Dexter and Martin Luther King III.

Read more: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Bible belongs to estate, judge says

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Wichita sit-in site will get memorial

The site of an important civil rights sit-in in 1958 in Wichita will be getting a memorial for the first time.

Young black protesters sat at the lunch counter in the Dockum Drug Store in July 1958. After three weeks of sit-ins, the drug store agreed to serve the black students at the counter, the Wichita Eagle reports. It is considered one of the first successful lunch counter sit-ins in the nation that eventually helped lead to desegregation.

On Thursday, two participants in the sit-ins, Joan Williams and Galyn Vesey, attended a ceremony where the Kansas Health Foundation presented a $50,000 grant to the Kansas African American Museum and Ambassador Hotel for the memorial project. The Dockum Drug Store lunch counter stood in what is now Siena Steakhouse in the hotel.

“In the face of threats, in the face of name-calling and hate, they stayed strong,” said Steve Coen, president and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation. Coen said that the foundation began discussing funding a memorial last fall.

Organizers have not determined what form the memorial will take, or what it will include. The memorial may include an indoor public exhibit on the second floor of the Ambassador Hotel and an outdoor recognition of the sit-in site with a plaque or statue. Tad Stricker, general manager for Ambassador Hotel Collection, says the hotel no longer has the original lunch counter and believes that it was removed during a remodel of the building in the 1970s.

According to Stricker, the hotel, which celebrated its 90th anniversary in May, has wanted to honor the sit-in since the hotel opened in January 2013. Mark McCormick, executive director of the Kansas African American Museum, said that he wants the public to help provide ideas for the memorial project and offer input about how the historical moment should be represented.