Yesterday, I wrote about the Institute on the Constitution’s distortion of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work and mission. The IOTC accuses those who cast King, Jr. as a civil rights champion of revising history. I addressed the basic problems in their arguments yesterday. Each remaining day this week, I will post a link to another speech or article from King, Jr. which makes his position clear. Today, I link to the “Give Us the Ballot” Address Delivered May 17, 1957 at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington, D.C. Clearly, the right to vote is a function of government.
Mr. Chairman, distinguished platform associates, fellow Americans: Three years ago the Supreme Court of this nation rendered in simple, eloquent, and unequivocal language a decision which will long be stenciled on the mental sheets of succeeding generations. For all men of goodwill, this May seventeenth decision came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of human captivity. It came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of disinherited people throughout the world who had dared only to dream of freedom.
Unfortunately, this noble and sublime decision has not gone without opposition. This opposition has often risen to ominous proportions. Many states have risen up in open defiance. The legislative halls of the South ring loud with such words as “interposition” and “nullification.”
But even more, all types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters. The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition. And so our most urgent request to the president of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote. (Yes)
Give us the ballot, and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights.
Who needs to step up and enforce those rights?
First, there is need for strong, aggressive leadership from the federal government. So far, only the judicial branch of the government has evinced this quality of leadership. If the executive and legislative branches of the government were as concerned about the protection of our citizenship rights as the federal courts have been, then the transition from a segregated to an integrated society would be infinitely smoother. But we so often look to Washington in vain for this concern. In the midst of the tragic breakdown of law and order, the executive branch of the government is all too silent and apathetic. In the midst of the desperate need for civil rights legislation, the legislative branch of the government is all too stagnant and hypocritical.
This dearth of positive leadership from the federal government is not confined to one particular political party. Both political parties have betrayed the cause of justice. (Oh yes) The Democrats have betrayed it by capitulating to the prejudices and undemocratic practices of the southern Dixiecrats. The Republicans have betrayed it by capitulating to the blatant hypocrisy of right wing, reactionary northerners. These men so often have a high blood pressure of words and an anemia of deeds. [laughter]
Read the entire speech here.
If a representative of the IOTC would like to rebut these posts, I will be glad to allow space to do it.