The push to create a national holiday to honor Martin Luther King began in 1968 not long after his assassination. It would take a petition of over 3 million signatures and 20 years to become a reality on paper* and another 14 years before all 50 states would honor the day in the year 2000.
To mark the day at blue cheddar, I’ll share this 25 minutes of essential viewing.
On March 28, 1965, MLK was a guest on NBC’s Meet the Press – the reporters being in New York and him in San Francisco. You’ll see in this video MLK facing off against those who are struggling to understand him. It makes him seem more like you and I than the thundering speeches do. It also shows us how a man can eloquently and thoughtfully address even insulting questions.
The journalists are interrogating in tone yet maintain enough dignity to avoid interrupting and sneering – the stuff Fox News panelists would do to MLK if they had their chance.
On practicing civil disobedience from the 9 minute and 39 second mark:
“I think we all have moral obligations to obey just laws. On the other hand I think we have a moral obligation to disobey unjust laws because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.
I think the distinction here is that when one breaks the law that conscience tells him is unjust, he must do it openly, he must do it cheerfully, he must do it lovingly, he must do it civilly – not uncivilly – he must do it with the willingness to accept the penalty. Any man who breaks the law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community on the injustice of the law is at that moment expressing the highest respect for the law.”
Here’s a cheat sheet of paraphrased questions from the video:
Harry S. Truman called the march from Selma, Alabama “silly”. Was the march from Selma worth the cost of 2 lives and $300,000 in law enforcement?
Was it really necessary to march given you were likely to get the Voting Rights Bill anyway?
Do you think there should be a respite from demonstrations in Alabama now?
Do you see no end to demonstrations in Alabama or elsewhere in the country?
Would you list for us the barriars that you believe must be destroyed before you will stop demonstrating?
You led the 2nd march on Montomery in defiance of a court injunction. Was that in keeping with the spirit of non-violence? Can you explain your defiance of the court order that day?
One man’s conscience is set in fact above the conscience of society which has invoked the law – how are we to enforce the law?
Do you distinguish between statutory laws and the law as promulgated by a court?
Would you regard an order of the Supreme Court to be an unjust law to be disobeyed?
Has the Supreme Court been unjust in cases in our history when it has upheld segregation?
You have recommended a nationwide work stoppage to keep the plight of the “Alabama Negro” on the mind of the country. Can you give us details from this plan?
Have communists infiltrated the civil rights movement?
The AP reported that a picture taken of you at a Tennessee interracial is plastered all over billboards with the caption “Martin Luther King at a communist training school”. Was that a communist training school? And can you tell us what you were doing there?
How deeply do you fear the eruption of Negro violence in the pursuit of Negro rights?
*Here’s what happened to the bill to form MLK day when it finally got to the U.S. Senate: “In an opposition campaign led primarily by Republican Senators John P. East and Jesse Helms of North Carolina, some attempted to emphasize King’s associations with communists and his alleged sexual dalliances as reasons not to honor him with a federal holiday. As part of his efforts, on Oct. 3, 1983, Helms read a paper on the Senate floor, written by an aide to Senator East, called “Martin Luther King Jr.: Political Activities and Associations” and also provided a 300-page supplemental document to the members of the Senate detailing King’s communist connections. Some Senators expressed outrage over Helms’ actions, including New York’s Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who threw the document to he ground, stomped on it and deemed it a “packet of filth.”
source: A Brief History Of Martin Luther King Jr. Day