I'm reading the MLK Jr autobiography and remain more in awe of his intellect and compassion than ever before. A few selections from his first 30 years:

"My mother confronted the age-old problem of the Negro parent in America: how to explain discrimination and segregation to a small child. She taught me that I should feel a sense of 'somebodiness' but that on the other hand I had to go out and face a system that stared me in the face every day saying you are 'less than,' you are 'not equal to.' She told me about slavery and how it ended with the Civil War. She tried to explain the divided system of the South - the segregated schools, restaurants, theaters, housing' the white and colored signs on drinking fountains, waiting rooms, lavatories - as a social condition rather than a natural order. She made it clear that she opposed the system and that I must never allow it to make me feel inferior. Then she said the words that almost every Negro hears before he can yet understand the injustice that makes them necessary: 'You are as good as anyone.'"

"It has been my conviction....that any religion that professes concern for the souls of men and is not equally concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion only waiting for the day to be buried. It well has been said: 'A religion that ends with the individual, ends.'"

"True pacifism is not unrealistic submission to evil power . . . It is rather a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love, in that faith that it is better to be the recipient of violence than the inflictor of it, since the latter only multiplies the existence of violence and bitterness in the universe, while the former may develop a sense of shame in the opponent, and thereby bring about a transformation and change of heart." [SJS: This really puts a lot of faith in people to feel shame when they are doing something wrong/evil, but I guess that is the Christian in him, who has such faith in all humans . . . ]

[Describing the bus boycott]: "During the rush hours the sidewalks were crowed with laborers and domestic workers trudging patiently to their jobs ad home again, sometimes as much as twelve miles. They knew why they walked, and the knowledge was evident in the way they carried themselves. And as I watched them, I knew that there is nothing more majestic than the determined courage of individuals willing to suffer and sacrifice for their freedom and dignity."

Image: MLK Jr. in jail, Birmingham Alabama.

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