Monday, January 15, 2018

Happy Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

The July 10, 1966, march to City Hall
from Soldier Field.
 (Chicago Tribune
 historical photo)
Today, on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I thought I would post a short passage from one of Rev. King's most controversial speeches, which was the centerpiece of one of his most difficult campaigns, the Chicago Freedom Movement, in 1966. Not only did Dr. King remark on the virulence of the racism and white resistance he encountered, but at the time of his death three years later, it probably appeared to many people that the campaign had failed.

Dr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King had visited Chicago and some of its suburban towns several times over the years, and in 1966 they even moved to Chicago to demonstrate the disparate conditions Black people were enduring under the tenure of Mayor Richard J. Daley. As part of the Chicago Freedom Movement, Dr. King urged Black voters to come out in droves and challenge the Democratic machine, controlled by Richard J. Daley. He decried white supremacy and Northern racism. He urged challenges to the Chicago power structure, better schools, housing, representation in government, everything. He also espoused Black pride and support for Black businesses, though he also criticized the nascent Black Power movement. Much like his namesake, Dr. King even presented his demands in person at City Hall, first by taping them to one of the outer doors, and then the following day in person to Mayor Daley, who was enraged by the campaign.

In the long run, despite the problems Black Chicagoans still face, things did change for the better from the status quo just over 50 years, and for lifelong and longtime Black Chicagoans now in their 70s and 80s, the changes were visible and measurable. Here are a few articles about the struggles Dr. King faced, his actions during that tough summer and year, and some of the changes that did happen. Also, I've posted an image from the speech he gave (readers can find the entire speech at the King Center's site), in which he uses the phrase "the fierce urgency of now." It is one of his memorable lines, and as applicable today as then or ever. (I'd also note that, in light of the ongoing crises Puerto Rico faces, it is notable that he mentions Puerto Ricans and the discrimination they face in Chicago in the speech's final paragraph.)

Chicago Tribune: "50 Years Ago Today: MLK Jr.'s speech at Soldier's Field, march to City Hall with demands for Daley"

Chicago Tribune: "Martin Luther King in Chicago"

WGNTV: "Web Extras: Martin Luther King and the 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement"

Chicago Magazine: "The Longest March"

From Dr. King's Chicago Freedom
Movement Speech (courtesy of the King Center)

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