Thursday, February 8, 2024

the last book I ever read (King: A Life by Jonathan Eig, excerpt eight)

from King: A Life by Jonathan Eig:

A month later, on June 18, 1957, the U.S. House of Representatives passed what would eventually become the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first significant legislation to address the rights of Black Americans since 1875. It created the Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Justice Department and authorized the U.S. attorney general to seek federal court injunctions to protect voting rights.

American Negroes, King told the graduating class at Kentucky State College that month, were “traveling toward the promised land of social integration, of freedom and justice.”

King reminded audiences that he was a religious leader, not an essayist or politician, and he seldom hesitated to chastise those who, in his mind, failed to live up to high moral and ethical standards. In April 1956, he published an article in Liberation magazine (ghostwritten by Rustin) that attacked so-called liberal whites, including the Mississippi novelist William Faulkner, who had urged Negroes to slow down their revolution or else risk a violent response. “It is hardly a moral act,” read the article, “to encourage others patiently to accept injustice which he himself does not endure … We southern Negroes believe that it is essential to defend the right to equality now. From this position we will not and cannot retreat.”

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