I thought I’d use this day to read more Martin Luther King speeches, look at some things that aren’t so commonly read. Quotes are one thing, but it is nice to read the wholeness of something. The Give Us the Ballot speech has some complexities. It has an optimism towards voting rights that could be read as too optimistic, or a provide a profound reason why voter suppression is so savage and severe. To get the vote turns out to be more complex than saying folks have a thing, there’s a whole lot of machinery of government and culture that can work to support or suppress true democracy.
The Give Us the Ballot speech is probably not quoted as much because it has an uncomplicated anti-communism statement from someone who had a complicated relationship with the term and faced savage investigation because of the term. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute has some interesting analysis about that.
This quote touches so powerfully on a need, still owing, over 50 years later. And when I read the final paragraph of this speech I am reminded about how so many Black voters in the USA are to be thanked for helping get Trump out of Office and changing the balance of power in the Senate. Martin Luther King’s praise seems quite fitting when he speaks of the good that can come from Black voters:
Keep moving amid every mountain of opposition. (Yes sir, Yeah) If you will do that with dignity (Say it), when the history books are written in the future, the historians will have to look back and say, “There lived a great people. (Yes sir, Yes) A people with ‘fleecy locks and black complexion,’ but a people who injected new meaning into the veins of civilization (Yes); a people which stood up with dignity and honor and saved Western civilization in her darkest hour (Yes); a people that gave new integrity and a new dimension of love to our civilization.”
[We are] pleading with the president and members of Congress to provide a strong, moral, and courageous leadership for a situation that cannot permanently be evaded.. civil rights issue is not an ephemeral, evanescent domestic issue that can be kicked about by reactionary guardians of the status quo.
Thanks to all my patrons and a special big extra thanks to Kate Webb, Erik Owomoyela and Sandra M. Odell.