Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Confederate Flags Placed Outside MLK’s Atlanta Church

REUTERS / Brian Snyder / RNS

A Confederate battle flag flies at the grave of L.S. Axson, a soldier in the Confederate States Army in the U.S. Civil War, in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina on June 22, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS / Brian Snyder / RNS

Four Confederate flags were placed outside of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s church here July 30. Authorities said they are looking for two white men who were caught on surveillance video.

Authorities have images of the men placing the flags outside Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, said Atlanta Police Chief George Turner.

Local authorities are working with federal authorities and have not determined what charges might be levied, he said. They have not ruled out a hate crime, Turner said. An officer from the Atlanta FBI’s joint terrorism task force was on the scene “to better determine if any specific threats were received” and to provide support to Atlanta police, FBI Special Agent Steve Emmett said in an email.

Why Malcolm X’s Image as a Separatist Lives On, 50 Years after His Death

Photo via RNS

Photo via RNS

Rodnell Collins stood next to his uncle, Malcolm X, as the latter stared thoughtfully at Plymouth Rock during a visit to Massachusetts when Collins was a child.

It wasn’t until years later that Collins, the son of Malcolm’s sister, Ella Little Collins, would learn what his uncle was thinking: “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. The rock was landed on us.”

Malcolm X, the African-American nationalist leader and onetime minister of the Nation of Islam who was assassinated 50 years ago Feb. 21, inspired countless people with the frank and uncompromising way he spoke about race relations in America. And much of what he said about the experiences of black Americans remains true today, experts say.

Yet, while other civil rights leaders of the 1950s and ’60s are more broadly celebrated as American heroes, the fire with which Malcolm X spoke still overpowers the words he was saying.

The Unfinished Business of Selma

Terry W Ryder / Shutterstock.com

Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., site of Bloody Sunday. Terry W Ryder / Shutterstock.com

The journey to end systems of injustice begins with a single step. This theme resonates throughout the recently released film Selma, which recounts the events leading up to the famous Selma-to-Montgomery march. Led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this march catalyzed the full enfranchisement of people of color through the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Voting Rights Act is considered to be one of the most successful achievements of the civil rights movement. But 50 years later, the residue of Jim Crow laws that banned people of color from voting lingers today in a new, subtle form: disenfranchisement laws for people with felony convictions.

Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, examines how these laws strip minority communities of their voice in the public sphere because of the disproportionately high percentage of racial minorities “swept into” America’s mass incarceration system.

Is Nonviolence a Solution to All the World’s Conflicts?

Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian political liberator, was assassinated in 1948. Photo via RNS.

Mention the concept of “nonviolent resistance” and two names immediately come to mind: Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian leader who led his nation to independence from British colonial rule, and Martin Luther King Jr., who led the struggle for civil rights in America. Tragically, both champions of nonviolence were assassinated: Gandhi in 1948 and King 20 years later. Today many people throughout the world revere both advocates of nonviolence.

While Gandhi and King were largely successful in their efforts, the question remains whether nonviolent resistance is always the most effective strategy in the face of radical evil, injustice, and aggression. After all, there remains a thin line between nonviolence and martyrdom.

Professor Charles DiSalvo of West Virginia University has recently published “M.K. Gandhi, Attorney at Law: The Man Before the Mahatma,” an excellent study of Gandhi’s 20 years as a young attorney in South Africa where he faced anti-Indian stereotyping and bigotry.

Interestingly, Gandhi’s two closest friends were Jews he knew in Durban and Johannesburg. But despite Gandhi’s personal friendships and his commitment to freedom and security for his own people, he was indifferent, at best, or naive, about the Nazi persecution of Jews.

A Nonviolent Uprising

Ferguson protests, via Light Brigading / Flickr.com

Dr. King said: a “riot is the language of the unheard.”

What happens when folks do not feel like their voices are being heard?

They shout louder.

Rioting is what almost happened in Ferguson, and all of us who live in fragile neighborhoods with a backdrop of deep racial injustice need to pay attention.

In Ferguson, a close-knit community was devastated by yet another injustice. They wanted to be heard. But as peaceful marches began, they were met with unprecedented force.

Tears were met with teargas.

It was as if authorities were putting their hands up over their ears. So the people shouted louder – and the world began to pay attention.

At a fragile moment when emotions were running high, the people of Ferguson had to choose between rioting and nonviolent direct action in the streets. A very small group (many of them arguably out-of-state activists) resorted to some forms of property damage. And it caught the media’s attention.

Some might say it hijacked the headlines.

But that is not how I will remember Ferguson.

Choosing Freedom

A United Nation. Image courtesy VectorShots/shutterstock.com.

A United Nation. Image courtesy VectorShots/shutterstock.com.

Listening to several Fourth of July discussions last week, I was struck by how many people think of freedom as the ability to do whatever they want. They think there should be few, if any, restrictions on what they choose to do or what they want to own.    

In Remembrance of Dr. Vincent G. Harding

Vincent Harding with Sojourners Senior Associate Editor Rose Marie Berger

It is with deep sadness that we mourn the passing of well-known historian and scholar Dr. Vincent Gordon Harding, who died earlier this week at the age of 82. Harding, author of many books including Hope and History and There is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America, was a contributing editor for Sojourners magazine and a dear friend to the Sojourners community.

“This is a great loss for our movement and the world and for all of us here at Sojourners,” says Sojourners President Jim Wallis. “We are poorer for his passing and richer for having known him.”

A leading figure in the civil rights movement, Harding served as a speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and helped write, among others, the seminal speech “Beyond Vietnam.” Harding was the first director of the Martin Luther King Memorial Center in Atlanta, and cofounder and chair of The Veterans of Hope Project—which documents and promotes democracy, reconciliation, and nonviolence—at Illiff School of Theology in Denver, where Harding taught for more than 20 years and served as Professor Emeritus of Religion and Social Transformation.

Since the early 1980s, Sojourners has worked with Harding to encourage and equip leaders in the faith-based movement for social justice. From his earliest writings about democracy and racial justice to his last Sojourners magazine article “To Redeem the Soul of America” (April 2013), Harding remained a steadfast activist and ally in the struggle for freedom.

In remembrance of Harding’s legacy, we offer this roundup of his writings.

‘Do Not Grow Weary of Lose Heart’ (Sojourners, March 2012)
What does it take to sustain the struggle for justice over the long haul?

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., Atomazul / Shutterstock.co

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., Atomazul / Shutterstock.com

Week after bloody week, the chart of killings lengthens. And in Afghanistan, while war rages, a million children are estimated to suffer from acute malnourishment as the country faces a worsening hunger crisis.

Around this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we can and should remember the dream Dr. King announced before the Lincoln Memorial, the dream he did so much to accomplish, remembering his call (as the King Center asks) for nonviolent solutions to desperate concerns of discrimination and inequality within the U.S. But we shouldn't let ourselves forget the full extent of Dr. King's vision, the urgent tasks he urgently set us to fulfill on his behalf, so many of them left unfinished nearly 46 years after he was taken from us. 

Millennial Generation: The Word Made Flesh

Photo by franckreporter / Vetta collection / Getty Images

Photo by franckreporter / Vetta collection / Getty Images

My biracial niece, Hannah, and I were talking about Martin Luther King, Jr., and what she had learned about him in school. She was only in second grade then. She was piled in the back seat of the minivan, along with my kids Caitlin and Cameron, and their cousin Austin. We were on our annual spring break escapade to the Travis County fair, Children’s museum, San Antonio Zoo, and every place in between. I asked her about what Martin Luther King did.  ...

Hannah and myriad others like them in the Millennial generation, embody Dr. King’s original vision. The very seed of the dream has germinated. They carry it in their DNA, literally. In fact, they are the living, breathing incarnation of interracial harmony. Come to think of it, no one wants to choke on a seed. We prefer the fruit. In the same way, we expect words to go beyond pie-in-the-sky imagination. We want them to be fleshed out into reality.