Martin Luther King, Jr. at the 1963 March on Washington
Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law. It was a culminating moment in the civil rights movement, a movement that, as author and legal scholar Sheryll Cashin noted in her recent New York Times editorial, far from being isolated to southern black activists, involved an extensive and well-coordinated “grass-roots mobilization [that] was multiracial, from the integrated legion of Freedom Riders, to the young activists in the Freedom Summer in Mississippi, to the more than 250,000 demonstrators in the March on Washington, a quarter of whom were white.” The story of the act’s eventual success is the story of our nation passing through a moral gauntlet. That, fifty years later, we remain uncertain about how best to address the legacy of those racial divisions that first sparked the movement is a testament to how deep the fissures ran. And how brave and dedicated the movement’s heroes were—Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Bob Moses, and others—men and women whose names have entered the lingua franca of American history, synonymous with freedom, righteousness, and moral certitude. As Dr. King says in his classic narrative Why We Can’t Wait, “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to work to be co-workers with God.”To celebrate their struggles, and the efforts of all those “co-workers with God” who sacrificed so much to lay the groundwork for the passing of the Civil Rights Act, we’ve put together a list of essential books that we hope will empower the next generation for another fifty years and beyond.
Today's excerpt is from Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. According to Dr. King, this memoir is “the chronicle of 50,000 Negroes who took to heart the principles of nonviolence, who learned to fight for their rights with the weapon of love, and who in the process, acquired a new estimate of their own human worth.’’
In Stride Toward Freedom, King delineates racial conditions in Montgomery before, during, and after the bus boycott which lasted from December 15, 1955 until December 21, 1956. He discusses the origin and significance of the boycott, the roles that residents, civic and church leaders, and community organizations played in organizing and sustaining the movement, and the reactions of Montgomery’s white community. An unparalleled historical account, Dr. King also shares the intellectual influences of thinkers like Hegel, Marx, Thoreau, and especially Gandhi.
This account of the first successful large-scale application of nonviolent resistance in America is comprehensive, revelatory and intimate. It traces the phenomenal journey of a community, and shows how the twenty-eight year old Dr. King, with his conviction of equality and nonviolence, helped transformed the nation—and the world.
The excerpt posted here today recounts the events surrounding the arrest of Rosa Parks.
On this day honoring the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we here at Beacon Press are especially proud of The King Legacy Series, an historic partnership with the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. to bring out new editions of King's previously published work as well as new books based on the writing in King's archives.
The King Legacy Series website has many resources available, including teachers guides and biographies of King and the scholars involved with the series. In addition, we include here some links to excerpts from the books as well as audio and video that celebrates the man and his writing.
SCRIBD Excerpts of titles in The King Legacy Series
Photo credit: King speaking during “phase one” of the civil rights movement at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, sometime before Ku Klux Klan members bombed it on September 15, 1963. (Joe Chapman)