Page 5, 3rd December 1982

3rd December 1982
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Page 5, 3rd December 1982 — The man whose dream transformed the world
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Locations: Memphis, Montgomery

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The man whose dream transformed the world

Let the Trumpet Sound by Stephen B. Oates (Search Press £12.50).

ON DECEMBER 1, 1955, a black lady in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to obey a bus driver who ordered her to give up her seat so that a white man could sit down.

She was arrested for violating the city segregation code. The incident precipitated a series of boycotts and marches and pushed Martin Luther King, the 26-year-old local Baptist minister, to the forefront of the American civil rights movement.

The rest is history, and that history is now vividly recounted in this new biography which is extensively researched and fully documented. The author has used the storytelling technique, capturing the passion and the drama of King's life as well as the spirit of the turbulent times in which he lived.

I was pained and ashamed when the book reminded me that in our enlightened century a South African style discrimination against the blacks existed in a nation founded on the Declaration of Independence with its famous preamble that all men are created equal.

Four score and seven years later Abraham Lincoln, the greatest American President, speaking at Gettysburg, had rededicated the nation to the same principle and signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing Negro slaves everywhere in the Union.

The book shows how the black people of America realised that to be free did not mean to be equal, and how Martin Luther King changed the course of race relations in the United States and the world.

He had to fight against enormous odds: deeply rooted segregation in the South; a more subtle, insidious discrimination in the North; a sinister FBI smear campaign against him; envy and rivalry among the civil rights leaders themselves; a vacillating John Kennedy; a vindictive Lyndon Johnson; and many others.

As the story progresses through protest marches, police brutalities, Ku Klux Klan cruelties, black miltant riots, what is most striking is King's unwavering adherence to the principle of non-violence.

For, despite his weakness for posh hotels, his love of good food, and his succumbance to women, he was a great admirer of Gandhi whose tactics he adopted in his civil rights struggle with telling effect.

Non-violence, born not out of cowardice but out of courage and out of love for his fellow human beings, was the secret of his success and ultimately of his greatness. And, like many other great men, he had to pay the price exacted by our cruel century.

On April 4, 1968, he was shot dead on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Andrew Young had run up to the balcony and was groping for King's pulse, sobbing, "Oh my God, my God, it's all over." "No, it's not over," Ralph Abernathy raged in tears. "Don't you ever say that."

Thomas Kala




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