Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2022 – When Dr. King Spoke to the APA

To remember Dr. King, I want to focus on his visit to the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in 1967. He was invited to speak to a division of APA – Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues – by Kenneth Clark, the first Black president of the APA.

According to Thomas Pettigrew, president of SPSSI at the time, the majority of the APA board did not want King to speak, saying his invitation was “too political” and warning that psychologists would not be interested in what he had to say. However, over 5,000 people showed up forcing the organizers to secure the largest meeting room in the venue.

The title of his speech was, “The Role of the Behavioral Scientist in the Civil Rights Movement.” Below are some excerpts:

For social scientists, the opportunity to serve in a life‐giving purpose is a humanist challenge of rare distinction. Negroes too are eager for a rendezvous with truth and discovery. We are aware that social scientists, unlike some of their colleagues in the physical sciences, have been spared the grim feelings of guilt that attended the invention of nuclear weapons of destruction. Social scientists, in the main, are fortunate to be able to extirpate evil, not to invent it.

If the Negro needs social science for direction and for self‐understanding, the White society is in even more urgent need. White America needs to understand that it is poisoned to its soul by racism and the understanding needs to be carefully documented and consequently more difficult to reject. The present crisis arises because, although it is historically imperative that our society take the next step to equality, we find ourselves psychologically and socially imprisoned. All too many White Americans are horrified not with conditions of Negro life but with the product of these conditions—the Negro himself.

White America is seeking to keep the walls of segregation substantially intact while the evolution of society and the Negro’s desperation is causing them to crumble. The White majority, unprepared and unwilling to accept radical structural change, is resisting and producing chaos while complaining that if there were no chaos orderly change would come.

Negroes want the social scientist to address the White community and “tell it like it is.” White America has an appalling lack of knowledge concerning the reality of Negro life. One reason some advances were made in the South during the past decade was the discovery by northern Whites of the brutal facts of southern segregated life. It was the Negro who educated the nation by dramatizing the evils through nonviolent protest. The social scientist played little or no role in disclosing truth. The Negro action movement with raw courage did it virtually alone. When the majority of the country could not live with the extremes of brutality they witnessed, political remedies were enacted and customs were altered.

In 2018, the Journal of Social Issues revisited the speech with a special issue titled, “Tell It Like It Is”: Commemorating the 5oth Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Call to Behavioral Scientists.” Former  SPSSI president, Thomas Pettigrew contributed a piece summarizing his assessment of how social psychologists have answered Dr. King’s call to “tell it like it is.” He wrote, “Summing up all the papers, we can only give a mixed answer to the key question as to whether we have answered Dr. King’s 1967 call. ”

Pettigrew continued:

In general, SPSSI and social psychology have done reasonably well in researching much of what Dr. King called for a half century ago. But the hard truth is that we have failed to communicate our findings sufficiently to the public; thus, the full meaning of this large body of work has been effectively resisted by many white Americans…

National surveys provide a glimpse of the extent of our failure to communicate our findings to the American public. Recent Pew Research Center surveys show only 36% of White Americans think racial discrimination is involved in Blacks having “…a harder time getting ahead than Whites,” only 22% believe that Blacks “are treated less fairly in the workplace,” while 38% believe that the United States “…has made the changes needed to give [B]lacks equal rights with [W]hites.”

Generally, the development of critical race theory is dated after the assassination of King. However, one can see in his 1967 remarks the seeds of some of CRT’s points. King very specifically referred to “radical structural change” (systemic change) that was needed for Black Americans to achieve equity. King said white Americans were “poisoned” by racism and called on social scientists to document this. Now, social scientists are condemned by critics of CRT when they document and call out the poison and say exactly what King said in 1967. The bitter and discouraging irony is that many of these critics invoke decontextualized King quotes they like in order to criticize CRT and tell us King would also reject CRT. The APA address calls that project into question.

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. – Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Dated April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King wrote a letter from jail in Birmingham during the non-violent campaign there. In the letter, he defended the strategy of non-violence used in the Birmingham campaign.
One of the striking elements of the letter is King’s disappointment with the white clergy in the South. Here is a key passage:

Currently, white and black evangelicals are divided in obvious ways as we observe another MLK, Jr Day. For instance, African American Baptist churches are leaving the Southern Baptist Convention as white leaders there take aim at Critical Race Theory while yawning at Christian nationalism. White evangelicals as a group find themselves in much the same place as when King, Jr. wrote in 1963. I long for a change. I long for an end to concern for ideological purity and a striving for relational purity.

Martin Luther King Day 2020 – I Have a Dream Speech

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I link to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered August 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C. during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

 

For a transcript of the speech, you can consult the National Archives at this link.  It is fascinating to examine the draft of the speech. In particular, the phrase “I have a dream today” isn’t in the draft. He improvised the phrase.  He had used it before but it wasn’t in the prepared remarks. In the moment, inspiration came to him and he took the speech to another level. See this interview with Clarence Jones for more on that story.

Did John MacArthur Visit the Lorraine Motel in the Wake of the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.?

On several occasions, Rev. MacArthur has claimed he visited the crime scene where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead on April 4, 1968. This issue has taken on new urgency with the publication of an investigative report in NOQ Reports written by Paige Rogers.

Over several decades, MacArthur has described hearing about the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr while being in Jackson, MS. In essence, he has said he was in the Jackson NAACP office of Charles Evers, brother of civil rights martyr Medgar Evers when a man entered the office and said King had been shot. At that point, several of the men including John Perkins and MacArthur traveled to Memphis to see the crime scene. MacArthur claims the scene wasn’t monitored and the men were able to inspect the King’s blood stains at the Lorraine Motel and examine the bathroom from where James Earl Ray fired the fatal shots.

In Rogers article, Charles Evers is quoted saying he was in his car when he received word of the shooting. In the first edition of a book where he gives an account of the event, he says he heard of the shooting on the radio. In subsequent accounts, he said he got a call on his car phone. In any case, he was not in his office in Jackson.

However, I have found evidence that supports MacArthur’s contention that he was with Perkins. In John Perkins’ 1993 book, Beyond Charity, Perkins wrote the following:

While this passage doesn’t place MacArthur and Perkins in Evers’ office (and a later account from Perkins doesn’t mention Evers), it does place them together. This information was not in Rogers’ article.

A more important issue to me is whether or not Perkins and MacArthur went to Memphis that night (or at any time) and examined the crime scene. MacArthur has repeatedly said he did in the wake of the shooting even saying the security was lax which allowed them to go to the place where King was killed.

This seems unlikely since a curfew had been imposed and reportedly security was tight at the Lorraine Motel according to available police records. The Rogers’ article did an admirable job of bringing this information together.

I have emailed and messaged John Perkins via social media to ask him about his recollections of this night. He has yet to answer. In 2018, he told an interviewer that he was informed via the radio and community members after preaching. There was no mention of MacArthur, Evers or the NAACP office. I have been unable to find any mention in any of his books of a trip to the Lorraine Motel that night.

According to John Perkins, John MacArthur was in MS with him when MLK, Jr. was killed. I also believe that Evers was in his car when he heard about the death of King. I can understand how memory can reconstruct certain elements of an event. However, the trip to Memphis is another matter.

I would really like to hear from John Perkins about what happened after he heard the news. The logistics of that night and distance between Jackson and Memphis make it seem improbable that MacArthur’s detailed accounts are accurate as described. I can’t judge the situation beyond that and am certainly not willing to say anything more with certainty without hearing from Perkins.

(Information above without links is derived from Rogers’ article. Consult that article for more on the police reports surrounding the aftermath of the King shooting.)

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. – I Have a Dream – March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I link to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered August 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C. during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

I showed this today in one of my classes and was moved as I always am when I listen to it.  Be inspired.

For a transcript of the speech, you can consult the National Archives at this link.  It is fascinating to examine the draft of the speech. In particular, the phrase “I have a dream today” isn’t in the draft. He improvised the phrase.  He had used it before but it wasn’t in the prepared remarks. In the moment, inspiration came to him and he took the speech to another level. See this interview with Clarence Jones for more on that story.

I Have a Dream Speech – Martin Luther King, Jr.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I link to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered August 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C. during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Be inspired.

For a transcript of the speech, you can consult the National Archives at this link.  It is fascinating to examine the draft of the speech. In particular, the phrase “I have a dream today” isn’t in the draft. He improvised the phrase.  He had used it before but it wasn’t in the prepared remarks. In the moment, inspiration came to him and he took the speech to another level. See this interview with Clarence Jones for more on that story.

Martin Luther King, Jr. – Letter from Birmingham Jail

Martin_Luther_King_Jr_NYWTS_4Dated April 16, 1963, Martin Luther King wrote a letter from jail in Birmingham during the non-violent campaign there. In the letter, he defended the strategy of non-violence used in the Birmingham campaign.
One of the striking elements of the letter is King’s disappointment with the white clergy in the South. If I could paraphrase King for today, I might ask the Trump evangelical advisory board, “Who is your God? Where are your voices of support when the president said fine people rallied with Nazis and white supremacists?”
Birmingham Jail MLK
Today, Donald Trump disbanded his group of CEO business advisors because many of them resigned over his remarks yesterday about Charlottesville. Not one of the evangelical advisory board resigned, nor did any of them condemn the remarks.  Is this how it is going to be? Is silence in the face of evil how evangelicals of this age will be remembered?
 

Response to IOTC – Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Speech: Our God is Marching On

On Monday,  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 day this week, I will post a link to another speech or article from King, Jr. which makes his position clear. Yesterday, I posted segments of his speech titled “Give Us the Ballot.” Today, I am posting a speech delivered in Montgomery, AL on March 25, 1965 titled “Our God is Marching On.”
King marched for racial equality but he did not believe such an outcome would happen with laws requiring equal treatment alone. He also asked the federal government for assistance with housing, jobs and income. King Jr. did not limit his mission to “God-given rights.” Agree or disagree, the IOTC assertion that King, Jr. sought only God-given rights (by their definition) is betrayed by his frequent calls for government intervention in housing, and poverty.
King, Jr. said:

Let us therefore continue our triumphant march (Uh huh) to the realization of the American dream. (Yes, sir) Let us march on segregated housing (Yes, sir) until every ghetto or social and economic depression dissolves, and Negroes and whites live side by side in decent, safe, and sanitary housing. (Yes, sir) Let us march on segregated schools (Let us march, Tell it) until every vestige of segregated and inferior education becomes a thing of the past, and Negroes and whites study side-by-side in the socially-healing context of the classroom.

Let us march on poverty (Let us march) until no American parent has to skip a meal so that their children may eat. (Yes, sir) March on poverty (Let us march) until no starved man walks the streets of our cities and towns (Yes, sir) in search of jobs that do not exist. (Yes, sir) Let us march on poverty (Let us march) until wrinkled stomachs in Mississippi are filled, (That’s right) and the idle industries of Appalachia are realized and revitalized, and broken lives in sweltering ghettos are mended and remolded.

That King was a champion of civil rights is beyond dispute.

Now it is not an accident that one of the great marches of American history should terminate in Montgomery, Alabama. (Yes, sir) Just ten years ago, in this very city, a new philosophy was born of the Negro struggle. Montgomery was the first city in the South in which the entire Negro community united and squarely faced its age-old oppressors. (Yes, sir. Well) Out of this struggle, more than bus [de]segregation was won; a new idea, more powerful than guns or clubs was born. Negroes took it and carried it across the South in epic battles (Yes, sir. Speak) that electrified the nation (Well) and the world.
Yet, strangely, the climactic conflicts always were fought and won on Alabama soil. After Montgomery’s, heroic confrontations loomed up in Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, and elsewhere. But not until the colossus of segregation was challenged in Birmingham did the conscience of America begin to bleed. White America was profoundly aroused by Birmingham because it witnessed the whole community of Negroes facing terror and brutality with majestic scorn and heroic courage. And from the wells of this democratic spirit, the nation finally forced Congress (Well) to write legislation (Yes, sir) in the hope that it would eradicate the stain of Birmingham. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave Negroes some part of their rightful dignity, (Speak, sir) but without the vote it was dignity without strength.

Others knew him as a “civil rights agitator:”

My people, my people, listen. (Yes, sir) The battle is in our hands. (Yes, sir) The battle is in our hands in Mississippi and Alabama and all over the United States. (Yes, sir) I know there is a cry today in Alabama, (Uh huh) we see it in numerous editorials: “When will Martin Luther King, SCLC, SNCC, and all of these civil rights agitators and all of the white clergymen and labor leaders and students and others get out of our community and let Alabama return to normalcy?”

Read the entire speech here.

IOTC: Power Struggle in the League of the South? Or Cynical Attempt to Exploit Martin Luther King, Jr.?

The League of the South as a group is not celebrating Martin Luther King Day. On the League of the South Facebook page, League president Michael Hill is celebrating Confederate heroes today:

In Memoriam . . .
As we Southern Nationalist mark the birthdays of two of our great military heroes–Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson–let us not be content to merely remember. Rather, let us emulate them and continue the honorable cause that motivated these two noble Southern men–the survival, well being, and independence of the Southern people.
Note: If you wish to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. please go elsewhere. He is not one of us. And besides, who can honor a communist, womanizer, and plagiarist?–Michael Hill

In a mind-bending inconsistency, Hill tells readers who honor King, Jr. “to go elsewhere.” Yet, on the board of his organization, the League of the South, is one who has at least pretended to honor King — Michael Peroutka. In the video below, Peroutka speaks in glowing terms of King’s call for the equality.
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZpHPwpm8l8[/youtube]
In the video, Peroutka errs dramatically by saying King did not call for civil rights but, nonetheless, he gives tribute to King, Jr. and his “I Have a Dream” speech. According to League president Hill, Peroutka should go elsewhere.  Is this inconsistency an indication of a power struggle in the League? Or is Peroutka’s video, and Hill’s silence about it, just a cynical effort to appeal to multiple audiences?
I think the answer to the second question is yes. My opinion is that the Institute on the Constitution (which is simply Peroutka’s law firm) is masquerading as a pro-American, and pro-Constitution organization. Recently, Peroutka told Steve Deace that civil rights laws are not laws and should not have been passed. On the IOTC website is an article justifying racial discrimination, and this one calling Confederate troops, “the American forces” who fought for freedom and “an American way of life.” Peroutka supports the League’s secessionist aims, and pledged the resources of the IOTC and his family to the League’s efforts.
I don’t know what Peroutka’s motives are for invoking King, but there is nothing consistent or particularly noble about it. If Peroutka really wants to give tribute to King and his work, then he should publicly denounce the League and as Michael Hill advised – “go elsewhere.”