MLK was not always popular!

Let us recall that Martin Luther King was not always the nearly-sainted public figure he is today. The FBI bugged his phones because that agency concentrated on combatting what it saw as subversion by left-wing and civil rights groups (and ignored organized crime until forced to by the Kennedy brothers, if The Irishman is correct).

When King spoke against the American war in Vietnam and against segregation and discrimination in Northern states, he drew a lot of sharp attacks, even from the NYT, as Zaid Jilani writes at The Intercept:

‘The New York Times editorial board lambasted King for linking the war in Vietnam to the struggles of civil rights and poverty alleviation in the United States, saying it was “too facile a connection” and that he was doing a “disservice” to both causes. It concluded that there “are no simple answers to the war in Vietnam or to racial injustice in this country.” The Washington Post editorial board said King had “diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country and his people.” A political cartoon in the Kansas City Star depicted the civil rights movement as a young black girl crying and begging for her drunk father King, who is consuming the contents of a bottle labeled “Anti-Vietnam.”

‘In all, 168 newspapers denounced him the next day. Johnson ended his formal relationship with King. “What is that goddamned nigger preacher doing to me?” Johnson reportedly remarked after the Riverside speech. “We gave him the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we gave him the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we gave him the war on poverty. What more does he want?”

‘The African-American establishment, fearful of Johnson’s reaction, also distanced itself from King.

‘The NAACP under the leadership of Roy Wilkins refused to oppose the war and explicitly condemned the effort to link the peace and civil rights movements. Whitney Young, the leader of the National Urban League, warned that “Johnson needs a consensus. If we are not with him on Vietnam, then he is not going to be with us on civil rights.” Jackie Robinson, the celebrated African-American baseball player and civil rights advocate, wrote to Johnson two weeks after King’s speech to distance himself from the civil rights leader: “While I am certain your faith has been shaken by demonstrations against the Viet Nam war, I hope the actions of any one individual does not make you feel as Vice President Humphrey does, that Dr. King’s stand will hurt the civil rights movement. It would not be fair to the thousands of our Negro fighting men who are giving their lives because they believe, in most instances, that our Viet Nam stand is just.” Many donors to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference wrote to King announcing they were pulling their support.

(I remember having arguments with some of my elementary, JHS, and even HS classmates who held sentiments like these, way back when…

Published in: on January 19, 2020 at 11:51 am  Comments (1)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2020/01/19/mlk-was-not-always-popular/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. […] and retired D.C. teacher G. F. Brandenburg reminds us that Dr. King was not always popular. White racists in the south and the north hated his advocacy for equal rights for black people. […]

    Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: