Lots of interesting discussion on the radicalism of MLK from Kai Wright. . .
The bloom started to wear off King’s media rose when he turned his attention to Northern racism. The central defense Southern segregationists offered when thrust on the national stage was that their Jim Crow was no more of a brute than the North’s. King agreed, and in announcing his organization’s move into Chicago, he called the North’s urban ghettos “a system of internal colonialism not unlike the exploitation of the Congo by Belgium.” And he named names, pointing to racist unions as one of a dozen institutions conspiring to strip-mine black communities. So much for “inspirational.” But then, like now, nobody wanted to hear such talk — only the black press paid any attention.
[David] Brooks writes, “If Barack Obama’s presidential campaign represents anything, it is the triumph of King’s early-60s style of activism over the angry and reckless late-60s style.” Weasel words. King became angry.
Forty years ago today, the most significant martyrdom of America’s 20th century took place. Just a few days ago I was discussing King with some of my colleagues, most of whom are black and all of whom were alive then while I was years from being born. We talked about how King called the nation to account and how I, at least, had never really appreciated the significance of his turn towards opposing the war in Vietnam. It risked his difficult but productive relationship with LBJ and, indeed, the whole mindset that sought racial justice and progress at home but not past the water’s edge. But the logic of it, ultimately, was irresistable: if civil rights and human dignity for African Americans, then why not for the colonized people of the world?
King had been reluctant to involve himself in the sanitation workers’ labor grievances in Memphis. He was planning the campaign of his life and was frazzled beyond recognition. He’d first thought of the idea in the autumn after the agonizing 1966 Chicago campaign: a general strike of the poor in the nation’s capital. “We ought to come in mule carts, in old trucks, any kind of transportation people can get their hands on. People ought to come to Washington, sit down if necessary in the middle of the street and say, ‘We are here; we are poor; we don’t have any money; you have made us this way; you keep us down this way; and we’ve come to stay until you do something about it.”
Related to Perlstein’s account: from the Chicago Reporter‘s Kelly Virella:
Of the 97 of 139 municipalities that experienced job growth in the Chicago region between 1991 and 2007, only five were more than 30 percent black in 2007. Those cities are South Holland, Calumet City, Broadview, Forest Park and North Chicago.
Of the 42 cities that experienced job loss during the same time period, nine —more than 20 percent—were more than 30 percent black.