Tag Archives: Martin Luther King Jr

Subversive Historian – 08/28/09

The March on Washington

Back in the day on August 28th, 1963, hundreds of thousands of people participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Black union leader A Phillip Randolph first proposed the idea for a mass convergence on the nation’s capital. With organizational help from various civil rights groups, the planned demonstration faced disagreements from parties involved as to its stated objective. Some groups wanted to focus on black poverty while others wanted to show public support for the Kennedy administration’s proposed civil rights legislation. When the march finally took place, John Lewis of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee had to tone down the criticisms he levied against President Kennedy. The demonstration would later culminate on the steps of the Lincoln memorial with Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I have a dream,” speech.

The following year, the Civil Rights Act would be passed into law due in part to that massive show of support for the civil rights movement during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.


Subversive Historian – 07/23/09

Thoreau’s Night in Jail

Back in the day on June 23th, 1846, philosopher poet Henry David Thoreau spent the night in jail for refusing to pay his poll taxes. The acclaimed author of “Walden” did so in protest of the U.S. – Mexican War which had started months earlier. As an opponent of slavery, which many abolitionists saw as a motivation to instigate the conflict, Thoreau felt that the war was a comparable evil. After his detainment in a Concord, Massachusetts jail, Thoreau reflected upon his experience in the highly influential essay originally titled “Resistance to Civil Government,” but known to the world forever more as “Civil Disobedience.” In the tome against complacency, he writes “under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also in prison.” The essay served as inspiration for many troublemakers through history such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

For Thoreau actions and keen insight in defiance against the war, your subversive historian is posthumously awarding him as an ‘honorary Mexican.’

Subversive Historian – 07/10/09

The Chicago Freedom Movement

Back in the day on July 10th, 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on behalf of the Chicago Freedom Movement. An estimated 60,000 people gathered at the big rally in Solider Park to hear the Civil Rights leader speak alongside musicians such as Mahalia Jackson and Stevie Wonder who were also present. As the most ambitious campaign for civil rights in the North, the movement brought together the Southern Christian Leadership of the South, with Chicago’s Coordinating Council of Community Organizations. Together they forged a vision to end slums in the city while promoting racial equality in the realms of housing, education and employment. After King concluded his speech at Soldier Field, he, like his namesake before him, posted demands on the doors of power. Addressed to real estate brokers, local politicians, and banks, among others, the list called for nondiscriminatory policies to be publicly stated.

After the Soldier Field rally, the movement organized open housing marches through all-white neighborhoods. During those tense moments, King, a veteran target of racism, described the moments as hateful and hostile on a scale he had never seen before…

From the Governator’s Desk

{The Governator will be making cuts more brutal than in this infamous shed scene starring Schwarzenegger as “Commando”}

With most of the budget-related measures on California’s special election ballot defeated on Tuesday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Democratic colleagues in the legislature are stating that deep cuts will have to follow. The projected shortfall for the state is listed 21.3 billion dollars and newspapers like the Los Angeles Times are describing Sacramento’s way forward through budget cuts as “brutal,” “annihilating,” and “painful.”

Of course, those who are sure to be on the chopping block most prominently are education, and services for the most needy among us. Local governments, public safety and other necessities in the state will inevitably feel the painful pinch from this fallout as well. It’s a time where the Governor may make good on all his scare-tactics from his worst-case scenario budget plan announced ahead of Tuesday’s special election. And it’s definitely a time like this when the wisdom of Peter Miguel Camejo is most acutely missed.

Camejo always promoted independent thinking concerning the governance of the state in his previous bids for the office. His pragmatic solutions were more aligned with Martin Luther King Jr’s “revolution of values,” than the false choices presented to voters this past Tuesday. It is most certainly understood that the deficit California is facing is particularly astounding. However, in just the smallest example, how can we justify continuing failed systems in these dire times like the death penalty, which apart from being flawed in many regards, would save the state 100 million dollars annually if it were to be abolished? Or how can we continue to have a classist tax structure favoring the wealthy elites? Talk about a real tax revolt!

This and other “unfavored truths” are rarely raised before the media and rarely are ever put before the voters on special elections…

Subversive Historian – 04/06/09

{Little Bobby Hutton: Seated on the right  wearing glasses}

The Murder of Little Bobby Hutton

Back in the day on April 6th 1968, Black Panther Party member Little Bobby Hutton was murdered by the Oakland Police. Coming just two days after civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was slain, Hutton, who was the first person to join the Panthers at the age of 16 in 1966, sadly also became the party’s first member to be killed by law enforcement. On that fateful night, eight members of the Black Panthers, including David Hilliard and Eldridge Cleaver, were driving in two cars when they were pulled over by the Oakland Police Department. An ambush by the police ensued as Hutton and Cleaver took to the basement of a house that was fired upon until they surrendered. Accounts of what happened next continue to be disputed. However, whether Hutton was shot and killed as he left the house or after he was taken in custody, the fact remains he was unarmed and murdered.

After the shootout, one black youth would later write “Is this justice?” on the wall of the house where Hutton was killed.

MLK JR Day on the Eve of Obama

As we celebrate the 80th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday today, it comes on the eve of the inauguration of the first African-American President of the United States. Every year, scholars of the civil rights movement decry the simplification of King’s politics into a soundbite from his “I Have a Dream Speech.” This year, there exists the new dynamic of simplification in which the media would like to reduce and conflate Martin Luther King Jr’s dream with Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency. Of course, the oval office will be desegregated from the historical vestiges of its obscene exclusivity of white privilege tomorrow and that could not have happened without the movement King helped lead. Tomorrow’s inauguration, thus, should be given its full due with that in mind. However, today’s holiday, must be given its full due as well.  Martin Luther King Jr. was a proponent of racial desegregation, but for him, the process wasn’t to be divorced from the ‘revolution of values,’ that rightly accompanied it.

As such, if we are to assess Obama’s stated policy positions against the rubric of King’s revolution of values, we must understand that the great reverend’s question “How long?” still applies. The answer to King’s rhetorical question will be “not long,” if we keep the spirit of the struggle for his vision alive beyond January 20th, 2009.  Indeed, Obama will need to be reminded that King’s revolution of values included his statement saying, “A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro…” King used a singular noun as representative of the people. Tomorrow does not ‘cash the promissory note’ as the people, must get to the promised land of justice and not just the oval office. Indeed, King’s statement is to the left of Obama’s notion of racial uplift by default of his general policies. No, this society must do something special, something more.

Lastly, for Presidents, the oval office has sometimes been the seat of an interesting paradox. For progressive evaluators, the domestic presidential policies of measured populism – whether it be Teddy Roosevelt’s monopoly busting or LBJ’s Great society – have always been mired by the consistency of the imperial throne. That is most certainly the case of Roosevelt’s racist wars as well as LBJ’s wanton killing campaign in Vietnam. King’s revolution of values did not suffer from this paradox and understood that domestic and foreign policy were intertwined. For him there existed a triple evil of militarism, racism and economic exploitation that were interrelated.

Will the Obama presidency suffer from the expectations of the imperial throne? Will its parameters bind him to the triple evils? In the most challenging aspect of King’s revolution of values, the reverend said a year before his death that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” As Paul Street has noted, a report by Morgan Stanley after Obama’s electoral victory stated “As we understand it, Obama has been advised and agrees that there is no peace dividend. In addition, we believe, based on discussions with industry sources, that Obama has agreed not to cut the defense budget at least until the first 18 months of his term as the national security situation becomes better understood.” Of course, a cut that would only be considered after another year and a half of spiritual death would have to set a significant precedent if it in any way attempts to be aligned with King’s vision of reversing our ‘perverted national priorities.” Translation: Don’t hold your breath.

King was a prophetic social movement leader emboldened by his Christian religious sensibilities. Tomorrow, Obama will assume the office that has been occupied by Constantinian Christians carrying out the tasks of empire. The contradictions between King and Obama must not be obfuscated. They will arise. Will a movement, steeped in the lessons of King’s revolution of values, also arise? How long? Not long!

Subversive Historian – 01/05/09

The Indictment of Dr. Benjamin Spock

Forty-one years ago on this day in people’s history, Dr. Benjamin Spock alongside four others was indicted for conspiring to violate the Selective Services Act of 1948. On January 5th, 1968, the influential pediatrician and author of the best-selling book “Baby and Child Care” was incredulously charged with aiding and abetting draft resisters. As a pacifist opposed to the Vietnam war, Spock’s activist activities, including speeches he delivered, were held up as supposed evidence of his crime. As such many saw the indictment as the first wave of a coming repression against domestic dissidents opposed to the war machine. Spock found support among many including the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. who offered a statement of complicity with him and the others indicted. The American Ethical Union also authored a statement deploring the indictment stating “In our adherence to democracy, as the most equitable political form of government, we oppose repression of discouragement of the exercise of freedom of speech and of the right to dissent.” As it turned out, Spock was found guilty only to have his conviction overturned, however, on appeal.

Conservatives reviled the good doctor’s child rearing philosophies and it’s easy to see why as Spock himself said, “I was proud of the youths who opposed the war in Vietnam because they were my babies.”