On Monday, America will hypocritically celebrate the January 15, 1929 birth of Martin Luther King Jr., the man it murdered on April 4, 1968. I say “murdered” because, in a 1999 wrongful death lawsuit filed in Tennessee by Coretta Scott King against Loyd Jowers and several others, her lawyer presented 70 witnesses and 4,000 pages of transcripts that implicated not only Jowers (who owned a restaurant near the Lorraine Hotel where the assassination took place) but also the FBI, the CIA, the U.S. Army, and the Memphis Police Department. The jury ruled in favor of King’s widow by finding that Jowers “participated in a conspiracy to do harm to... King...” and that “government agencies were parties to this conspiracy.”
More details about this conspiracy will be revealed in a future column. Today’s column will focus on the little known radicalism of Martin and its similarity to the well known radicalism of Malcolm X. Here are ten facts you didn’t know about these two revolutionaries.
1. Martin & Malcolm: The Black Men America Loved To Hate- Despite the alleged celebratory nature of Martin’s birthday, people would be shocked to know that in the last Gallup Poll regarding him, which was in August 1966, Martin had an unfavorability rating of 63 percent in this country. The only person with a higher negative result in the U.S. was “Evil Empire” Soviet Union Premiere Nikita Khrushchev. Wow! And although there was no poll for Malcolm, I would reasonably assume, among white folks at least, it would have been 99 percent. So “What about the 1979 U.S. Postal Service stamp in King’s honor and the 1999 stamp in Malcolm’s honor?” you might ask. My answer is obvious: America prefers outspoken Black leaders dead rather than alive.
2. Nonviolence Doesn’t Mean Suicide- After Martin’s house was firebombed during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955-56, he applied for a concealed carry gun permit. In fact, his colleague Glen Smiley described King’s house, where several of King’s aides were staying at times, as an “arsenal.” Furthermore, journalist William Worthy, who covered stories regarding Martin’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, reported that when he attempted to sit in a chair in Martin’s living room, he almost sat directly on top of a “loaded gun.” This kinda reminds you of that famous 1964 Life Magazine photo of Malcolm standing by a window in his home holding an M1 Carbine rifle. Apart from that, I have a question for you. Was it Martin or Malcolm who said, “The principle of self-defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has (properly) never been condemned...” because people have a natural need to avoid harm to themselves and their families. If you guessed Malcolm, you were wrong. Martin said it in 1959.
3. COINTELPRO Victims- After Martin’s powerful 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote an internal memo stating Martin was “influencing great masses of Negroes... (and) we must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous Negro of the future in this nation....” In addition, Hoover sent sex audiotapes to Coretta in an attempt to cause a publicly embarrassing divorce. And he had letters mailed to Martin to try to persuade him to commit suicide. Hoover also assigned his New York office to “do something about Malcolm X,” which led to him being followed everywhere.
4. No Prosperity Gospel, Only Justice Gospel- Along with the Nobel Peace Prize he won in 1964, Martin received $54,123. Instead of enriching himself, he donated the entire amount to civil rights organizations. And when he was killed four years later, he had no financial assets, despite having been an ordained pastor of a church, having written five books, and having done hundreds of speaking engagements. Malcolm died poor, too. But both men were rich in what really mattered: consciousness, spirit, and activism.
5. Murdered Parents- Martin’s mother Alberta Williams King in 1974 was shot to death in an Atlanta church while playing the piano. Malcolm’s father in 1931 was murdered by the KKK in Lansing, Mich.
6. Bright Students- As a result of Martin’s academic prowess, he skipped the ninth and eleventh grades, graduated Morehouse College in 1948 at age 19, was elected student body president, and earned the role of class valedictorian at Crozer Theological Seminary after which he received a Ph.D. at age 25 from Boston University. And it’s interesting to note that after graduating from college, he had serious doubts about Christianity and the Bible, so much so that he had told his father that he didn’t want to become a minister. Instead, he wanted to become a lawyer. Although Malcolm never attended college, he spoke eloquently and intellectually at many Ivy League universities. And as a student at the lily-white Mason Junior High School in Lansing, he had the highest grade point average and was elected class president. Malcolm had done so well that he told his English teacher, Mr. Ostrowski, that he wanted to become a lawyer. But the teacher told him that was “no role for a nigger” and that he should pursue a trade instead. Not long afterward, Malcolm dropped out of school and began a life of street crime.
7. Prison Industrial Complex Is Nothing New- Martin was jailed 29 times from 1956-1966. And Malcolm obviously was no stranger to incarceration.
8. Fake Christians- Martin told Alex Haley in a 1965 Playboy magazine interview that “The white church ... has greatly disappointed me.” Malcolm told Haley in the autobiography published in that same year, “If the so-called Christianity now being practiced in America displays the best that Christianity has to offer, no one in his right mind should need any much greater proof that very close at hand is the end of Christianity.”
9. Black Pride- Martin in 1966 said, “Black power... is a reaction to the reluctance of ... (whites) to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality.” Malcolm a year earlier said Black people will use “Black power” to get justice “by any means necessary.”
10. Too Young To Die- Martin was only 39 when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968 and so was Malcolm when he was assassinated on February 21, 1965.