Monday, January 20, 2020

Memories of MLKing

This article documents an April 1961 speech by Martin Luther King at Cornell University's Bailey Hall. From there I found this:

  •  On April 14, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Cornell University's Bailey Hall, calling for continued action to obtain Black Americans' full participation in society, North and South, and asking for funds to aid the effort.  2,500+ people attended, and the Ithaca community raised $6,000 for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's efforts in the South. Here is a quote from his speech as reported by the Ithaca Journal:

    "Some people say 'Slow up, adopt a policy of moderation', but we cannot afford to slow up. There are too many people in this nation today without the rights this government has guaranteed them. ... It is not enough to decry a Negro being lynched in the South. You must rise up when a Negro is not permitted to live in a neighborhood, join a club, or a fraternity or sorority."
The articles note an overflow crowd in Bailey, and that money was raised for the SCLC.

I was one of those attending.  My most vivid memory of it was that King was preceded by another speaker.  I don't know who it was, perhaps Rev. Lowrey who's described as appealing for contributions after the speech.  The Sun, at least, got his name wrong, I think.--the Rev. Joseph Lowery was one of the founders of the SCLC.  For many years I suspected King of being rather ruthless.  Why?  Because the initial speaker was very disappointing, so there was a big contrast when King came on with his very polished speaking. King by himself would have been outstanding, following the initial speaker gave the audience an emotional "arc" (at least for me, but I suspect my emotions were respective of a good number of the audience).. 

That contrast has been my strongest memory, overshadowing King's message. (IIRC he was preaching to an audience who was anxious to be converted.) But today I finally researched it, with the results above, and I conclude I've been unfair to King.  If it was Lowery who spoke, then he and King were among the founders of the SCLC and if this was a fundraising trip then it made sense for Lowery to speak just as an organizational prerogative..  The contrast  between the two may well have been accidental, not intentional.

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