Martin Luther King Jr. did not come out of nowhere
By Víctor Bremson
Martin Luther King Jr. just doesn’t appear magically and call a bus boycott in Montgomery Alabama in 1955… A lot happened first. Like Moses, King was called to free the slaves but in King’s case we know that he was not alone. Many people came before him and supported him on this journey.
We need to remember that King is just 25 years old when he becomes the Pastor of the Dexter Avenue Church in Montgomery, Alabama. The US Supreme Court has recently ruled that racial segregation is unconstitutional and just several months after his arrival Rosa Parks is arrested because she refuses to give up her seat to a white man. And the story begins, or did it? First of all, Rosa Parks was not simply an innocent woman who got tired of the treatment of African Americans in Alabama and she was not the first to protest the treatment on buses. In fact Rosa Parks was the secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP and had attended training as a civil rights activist. She was very aware of what her protest would create. It was to be a legal test case of segregation. King was not seriously involved in this strategy.
Secondly there was much preparation for the coming of King by key leaders, newspapers and organizing groups… People needed to be prepared to hear the message when it arrived. The movement had in face started many years before.
Three really important things happened in the US that prepared African Americans for the arrival of a King like leader.
1. African American leaders like Howard Thurman and others visited Gandhi in India and reported back in various ways. Gandhi was considered Christ liked by many African American observers and the idea became central that such a leader was needed in the United States. It became clear that the leader would need to be a Christian since the African-American experience with Christianity was so strong.
2. African-American newspapers arose in major cities and they began reporting the struggle for all to read. The newspapers wrote a lot about what was happening in India and debated the merits of a leaders such as Gandhi in the United States and the role of Black Nationalism.
3. A whole host of civil rights leaders had emerged that paved the way for what was to come. These leaders were union organizers, lawyers, teachers, writers and black nationalists.
The pump had been primed.
In the book Raising Up A Prophet, The African American Encounter With Gandhi, Sudershan Kapur made the following statement.
“ Thus, the soil which had been prepared and nurtured for a generation and more by some of the key African-American leaders was ready not only to receive the seed of non-violence but also to bear fruit as never before. This happened when the man, the moment, and message came together and became one. The man was Martin Luther King, Jr. and it happened even though King had no great experience in handling nonviolent tactics, even though he was not a confirmed believer in non-violence, totally at the time the boycott began.”
And the young preacher is asked to lead the Boycott of the Montgomery Bus System and now the story begins.
This article is an introduction to a course that the author is teaching entitled Slavery, Suffrage and Civil Rights at the Instituto Allende’s Lifelong Learning Program that begins on February March 19. Information at http://instituto-allende.edu.mx/lifelonglearning
Victor Bremson was a corporate business consultant who retired and attended the University of Creation Spirituality where he obtained a Doctor of Ministry Degree. He regularly visits San Miguel De Allende and teaches similar courses in Seattle.