When Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. went to jail to focus national attention on the injustice of segregation, he was stung by criticism from Christian clergy who feared upsetting the status quo and urged “moderation,” prompting his historic rejoinder from the Birmingham jail, as Rev. Howard Bess recalls.
Even after the Emancipation Proclamation freed African-American slaves in the Confederacy on Jan. 1, 1863, racial bias was common even far from the rebellious South. Later that year, blacks fought to get access to horse-drawn streetcars in San Francisco, writes William Loren Katz.
In life, Martin Luther King Jr. was often demeaned for his radical vision of peace and justice – and not just by crude racists and warmongers but by well-spoken members of the elite. Then, in death, King became a national icon but with his sharpest criticisms dulled down or forgotten, writes Gary G. Kohls.
Despite attempts in the right-wing media to smear 17-year-old Trayvon Martin with references to minor school disciplinary problems, the overall reaction across the United States has been outrage over his slaying and the lack of an arrest, what Sherwood Ross calls a positive change in a nation with a long history of racism.