THE DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., THAT HAS BEEN LOST IN HISTORY
By Fahim A. Knight-El
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a special man and leader who in the 1950s and 1960s took up a social cause that would change how the United States of America would view and treat black people as so-called citizens of this nation—he had a low tolerance level for oppression and injustice and became convicted to work on behalf of black people to bring about social change by using Civil Rights as the vehicle to dismantle historical systems of racism, discrimination, bigotry, and injustice that were rooted and steeped in the principles of Jim Crow. It was his quest and yearning for freedom that allowed him to galvanize a movement, which these freedoms permitted us to breakdown public accommodation barriers by dismantling racist and white supremacy based Jim Crow laws such as Plessy versus Ferguson (separate but equal clause) 1896 in which the United States Supreme Court overturned with the coming about of the Brown versus Board of Education Decision (declared separate but equal as being unconstitutional) Topeka, Kansas 1954. This U.S. Supreme Court decision ushered in the Civil Rights movement, which eventually led to the desegregation of the South. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used his strategy of civil disobedience to agitate the white power structure, which eventually forced the U.S. Congress to passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act, the U.S. Government was attempting to legislate public discrimination by outlawing 'white' and 'colored' access to public facilities. It led to marches, protest, sit-ins, boycotts, etc., across the deep south to obtain voting access, equality of opportunity to employment and having access to participatory levels of societal inclusion that would not be factored in based on race and skin color.
But it would be in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1961, where four black college students from North Carolina A&T State University were involved in a sit-in protest at Woolworth's lunch countertop and they requested to be served (ignoring the white only signs) and refused to give up their seats to white customers; this event would be one of the historical events that gained momentum amongst young black college students that propelled them to find and defined the role they would play in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Which would lead to altering America's political, economic and social structure and it would be their activism that assisted in dismantling a system that was built on the foundation of white supremacy. The Civil Rights movement was essentially about inclusion and public accommodation and a quest for civil liberties.
King was willing to contest, violate laws and worked to change long standing Jim Crow laws that had become the norm, but was rooted in prejudices, racism, bigotry and discrimination. He knew that he could not stop fighting and struggling and going to jail and even risking his life, because to have stopped, it would have been a betrayal to the lives of Emmitt Till (1941-1955) and Medgar Evers (1925-1963) two fallen heroes and others who dared to confront vicious racist in the deep south and loss their lives. Yet, many of our Civil Rights leaders and proponents have intentionally overlooked and have not given an objective, unbiased and critical assessment of the pros and cons of segregation versus integration relative to where we are in space and time (what did we as so-called African Americans gain by becoming integrated and/or what did we lose do to abandoning segregation?) I admired Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. and I consider myself only as a student relative to reviewing his work and legacy in which to write and interpreted, and having the scholarly opportunity to objectively assess his ideals and legacy from a historical revisionist perspective; it gives me an advantage to delve into the man and his leadership philosophy and yet I am far enough removed to detach myself from this recent American and black history occurrence.
His courage, tenacity and determination to commit his life to struggle (I believe he was destined to do what he did long before his introduction to the philosophy and opinions of Mahatma Gandhi of India or learning about Voltaire and Friedrich Nietzsche at Boston University). King was called to preach and assume leadership of the legendary Dexter Avenue Baptist Church by the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and they picked King to be the face and voice of the movement in Montgomery; King also would be replacing a fiery community activist and former pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church named Vernon Johns. It was already coded in Dr. King's DNA that he would be a drummer major for justice, I read his letter from the "Birmingham Jail' (his conviction towards truth and his determination to alter social change and not allow prison to serve as a deterrent to justice) and I wept because Dr. King like the Biblical Prophets of old had transcended into a space that had always been reserved for those special and unique human spirits who were willing to give of themselves something greater than being satisfied with the appeasements of what status quo had prescribed for them. Dr. King would prove to be such a man—these type human beings only comes about once in a lifetime as messengers, prophets, and leaders who were not motivated by materialism and ego driven, but they had a deeper conviction to change the world by being actively concerned and engaged in struggles to create equitable playing fields for the 'have nots' and become the voice for the voiceless.
Dr. King was not engaged in the Civil Rights movement because he was working towards receiving the Nobel Peace Prize (1964) and international recognition, his mission was tired to service and sacrifice. They have always systematically packaged Dr. King and his message in this neatly wrapped "I have a Dream" speech given in 1963 (right away a beautiful speech and words) that possessed universal implications, the humanity of the spiritual lexicon and him being a spiritual man and theologian, he had away of delivering a message from that old biblical church tradition, but he had the equal ability to give sermons and messages that resonated with black laypersons, as well as to middle class black intellectuals. Yet, they have systematically suspended Dr. King's legacy in a historical time capsule and his evolutionary philosophical ideals relegated just to the March on Washington speech; this has been done systematically to keep him safe in the minds of those who have elevated him to sainthood and not give them the King who had transitioned into becoming militant and radical in his worldview in 1966-1968—surely they have considered this King to be dangerous and, therefore students and others only get a small window of Dr. King's philosophy.
They did not want us to know and embrace the King after he begin to expand his analysis far beyond the theories of the traditional Civil Rights agenda and paradigm and was beginning to understand the credibility in the Marxists analysis (King was evolving to become a Socialist), delving into the economic and political theories of Karl Marx who stood as one of the 19th century premier economic determinist. King was also beginning to see how class and race served as twin towers and barriers and were antagonistic contradictions that created a class of petite-Bourgeoisie (Elitist) and the lumpenproletariat (the poor working class who are the masses). This reality led the good doctor to question wealth disparity and he understood that not only were black Americans the victims of oppression, and racism, and classism, but the systemic affects were of international implications—King had made a transition that Reverend Ralph Abernathy, Reverend James Bevel, and Reverend Andrew Young did not understand and many of his close comrades Roy Wilkins and the other "Big Six" civil rights leaders disagreed with Dr. King's transition.
King had moved far beyond the ideology of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), they had become politically stagnated and were fearful that Dr. King would lead them into uncharted political waters and they wanted him to remain committed to Civil Rights and not to connect the Civil Rights struggle with the international struggle of the African National Congress (ANC) that was taking place in South Africa against Apartheid, or connecting with the Vietnamese people of southeastern Asia whom Ho Chi Minh had inspired to fight U. S. imperialism and defeated the U.S. in the Vietnam conflict and/or linked up with the Palestinian liberation struggle against Zionism or connect with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the people of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland who were in a long standing religious and ethnic protracted war that involved succession, British domination, Catholicism and Protestants conflicts and that ultimately IRA struggle evolved around their quest for sovereignty. Dr. King no longer viewed human history from the vanish point of being isolated and disconnected (he was starting to see history as being cyclical), but also started to see and recognized the long arm tentacles of those who carried out global oppression, colonialism and imperialism and the oppression of humanity were interconnected to the same systems of power apparatus that were denying blacks human rights in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, etc.
Surely King's political growth would not only proved threatening to Negro leaders, but it would prove even more threatening to the United States Government who too desired to keep Dr. King relegated to focusing on national politics (Civil Rights) and not international politics. Minister Malcolm in 1961, already knew the next step to our collective justice which would have been our fight for Human Rights to be taking to the United Nations, which would involved presenting an international legal argument that our historical claims as war crime victims were legitimate –the charges of genocidal acts for 310 years of Chattel slavery this alone constituted war crimes against humanity. King's international motives and political objectives put him on a collision course with the United States Government and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in which he was placed high on the government’s radar screen and J. Edgar Hoover made King a premier target of the U.S. counter-intelligence program known as Cointelpro where Hoover used every dirty trick as tactics and government strategies to besmirch and discredit and character assassinate Civil Rights leaders and Black Power leaders as well. Hoover said he feared a black leader that had the power to unify and electrify the black masses and he saw King as having that potential on moving black people towards unity and this type potential of organization threatened Hoover who saw our unity as a national security priority.
Hoover illegally wiretapped Dr. King's phone and eavesdropped on some of King's most intimate conversations were being recorded and every move he made was being monitored by FBI agents. Hoover had listened into King's private conversations that involved extramarital curricular activities with women other than his wife Coretta Scott King and Hoover threatened to make Dr. King's domestic life public, if he did not stop agitating the system. King did not capitulate and told Hoover and his agents to go on and do what they had to do, but he said I got to keep on doing what I have been ordained and commission to do by God. The FBI director also sent agent provocateurs to internally disrupt SCLC. James Earl Ray did not pull the trigger that killed Dr. King, Ray was a mere patsy, King was assassinated by the agents of the U.S. Government no different than President John F. Kennedy, Minister Malcolm X (the Nation of Islam assassination team that was responsible for murdering Minister Malcolm X that were assembled out of Temple #25 Newark, New Jersey worked on behalf of the U.S. Government; I do not believe that Elijah Muhammad had anything to do with the murder of Minister Malcolm X) and former U.S. Attorney General and Senator Robert Kennedy were all assassinated by the United States Government and all other black progressive organizations became government targets of U.S. Government scrutiny.
For example, the U.S. Government was behind the internal feud between Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, they worked day and night to separate Malcolm X from his teacher, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad (the Freedom of Information Act 1972) there was evidence that Hoover and the FBI continued to instigate the feud between Muhammad and his student Malcolm X—there was even proof that Malcolm X wanted to come back to the Nation of Islam. Stokley Carmichael (Kwame Ture), H. Rap Brown (Jamil Al-Amin), Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis, George Jackson, etc., and the Republic of New Africa all were on the Cointelpro hit list. The Government derailed King's movement and the Civil Rights movement due his assassination in 1968 and although some of his surrogates attempted to replace this icon, the movement lost its mass appeal and influence after King was assassinated.
King’s political growth started to give him broad based insight into the national and international struggle, which became in his life transformative at best and it created a spirit in him to consider other strategies and tactics to speak in solidarity with oppressed people from around the world. King had grown to understand what the great theologian Howard Thurman (1900-1981) wrote about in his book titled, Jesus and the Disinherited. He was quickly learning that his social Gospel had to expand to include an analysis of linking the U.S. struggle to all of the Disinherited and oppressed of the planet who were in a quest for freedom, justice and equality. Jesus the son of Yosef and the Christ (Yeshusa Ben Yosef) that would have been Jesus' Hebrew name took on Pilate and the Roman Government. So I believe, Dr. King had many biblical and theological revolutionaries to emulate and mirror, which to interpret and to draw upon their philosophical ideals and apply them in a modern context. Thus, all the prophets of old were in a war with the spiritual leaders and the governmental hierarchy of their day; fighting to free the captives and challenging the governments to be better stewards on behalf of the least of these—the poor and oppressed.
King took on racist white supremacists such as Bull Conner of Alabama and Governor George Wallace of Mississippi, which he had moved beyond fear and started to view life and death as being synonymous (Dr. King had accepted the biblical parable 'Ye do I walk in shadow of death, thou art fear no evil' God is with me). He looked beyond the dogs, lynchings, church bombings and racially inspired murders and said I will stand up against one of the most powerful governments in the world and speak on behalf of the disenfranchised and those who yearned to breathe free, his life was a testimony of speaking truth to power. King had become much bigger than the Pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama and he had moved to the left of his father the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. who pastored one of the oldest black influential churches called Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. King probably was also being nudged by some of the young activist such as Stokley Carmichael (Kwame Ture) who helped King desegregate the South, but some of the young activist were growing tired of King's nonviolent strategy when they were being bitten by dogs, spit in the face and were forced to confront some vicious racist in the deep south unarmed. Carmichael and some of his young comrades were beginning to hear and listen to Minister Malcolm X a fiery Black Nationalist minister of the Nation of Islam under Elijah Muhammad. It would be Minister Malcolm X who perhaps was one of the most articulate black power spokesmen of the 20th century, it was his book recorded to the journalist Alex Haley The Autobiography of Malcolm X that would forever changed my life.
Carmichael and others broke away from Dr. King's movement and founded the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a militant and radicalized student movement that had chapters and ties to Historical Black Universities and Colleges (HBCUs) such as Shaw University, Fisk University, Howard University, etc. I believe these students pushed King because simultaneously the Black Power movement was taking shape and having tremendous influence on young black people's thinking. Yet, King refused to totally move away from civil disobedience and continued to march and fight for integration.
He would later meet Minister Malcolm X after Minister Malcolm separated himself from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad; I think the meeting may have been brief and with mutual respect, it perhaps was not a meeting of the ideological minds and though both men were quite familiar with each others leadership model—they never had the opportunity to bridge the ideological gaps. I would later be exposed to another one of Dr. King's works in which this book would forever change how I had previously viewed Dr. King in my past assessment, it was titled, The Trumpet of Conscience, in which each read paragraph caused me to put the book down in order to make sure that I was actually reading the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and not Malcolm X (I could not tell the difference between the two men during this reading; King's ideals mirrored the militant and radical ideals of Malcolm X) because part of this small book, he was given a critical analysis of United States Foreign policy relative to the war in Vietnam and why the U.S. arm forces should not have been there killing and murdering these innocent peasant rice farmers (who fought against U.S. imperialism and showed great military resolved in fighting a guerilla war) and dropping agent orange and napalm on these innocent South Eastern Asians who dared to fight back against imperialism.
I had previously viewed Dr. King as an agent provocateur and Uncle Tom who had sold out black people and as a younger man, it was difficult for me receive King's universal message and felt the same exact way about Booker T. Washington until one day I became stilled and I reread from Up From Slavery and from that day forward I would never again refer to Washington and his work of building Tuskegee Institute as being an Uncle Tom and reactionary. So this is how I will celebrate Dr. King’s birthday on January 15, by looking back and drawing inspiration from his body of work and recommit myself to the struggle for justice and human rights. If King was alive today, I believe that he would still be engaged in transforming society by preaching and advocating a social Gospel. So many of us who attend these annual Dr. Martin Luther King celebrations are just window dressing and have lost the vision and will to challenge injustice that is running rampant in America in 2017.
Fahim A. Knight-El Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in Durham, NC; our mission is to inform African Americans and all people of goodwill, of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolism and reinterpreted the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlightened world will be better prepared to throw off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight-El can be reached at email@example.com.