I posted this awhile back, but I thought I’d repost it because it’s trenchant. Conventional wisdom: fear it, or at least think twice about it.

To get a sense of what establishment Chicago thought of King during his sojourn in the city in 1966, I read through a bunch of Chicago Tribune unsigned editorials from the year. Taken together they’re a remarkable historical record documenting the city’s fear of the civil rights movement. Some excerpts:

“Useful Work for the Rev. Martin Luther” (Feb. 15)

We read that the Rev. Martin Luther King, apostolic delegate of the Southern Christian Leadership conference to benighted Chicago, is shifting part of his emphasis from slums to job discrimination. . . .

We don’t know if the Rev. Mr. King reads anything except his own fulminations, but it might improve his understanding if he took a look at a recent report by Assistant Secretary of Commerce Andrew Brimmer. . . .

He says the unemployment rate of less than 2 per cent for married Negro men with a settled domestic climate is the same as for white men similarly blessed. The operative words are “married . . . with a settled domestic climate [ellipses theirs].

We should think that Mr. Brimmer’s statement might suggest some useful works to occupy the Rev. Mr. King’s energies. He should to to work to promote family stability among those of his race. He should preach that broken homes and single women, either deserted or unmarried, on ADC rolls stand in the way of Negro economic improvement. He should realize that conditions do not arise as a result of white malice or discrimination, but are occasioned by the acts of omission or commission by Negroes themselves.

“Where Inflamatory Words Take Us” (Jul. 30)

When the Rev. Martin Luther King said that Chicago invited rioting by ignoring and downgrading the “nonviolent” civil rights movement, he engaged in his usual prattle about the “white power structure” and “power elite.” Riots, he said, helped whites relieve their guilt feelings because the Negroes can be blamed for lawlessness. As one who as contended that “unjust laws” can be broken with impunity, King, as Mayor Daley has remarked, has made his own contribution to incendiarism. But he does not hold himself at fault: it’s all the blame of the “power structure.”

“Patience at an End” (Aug. 5; emphasis mine)

We believe that the vast body of Chicagoans, white and Negro, has come to the end of its patience with tumult and violence in the streets, and that it will support any necessary action to see that lawlessness is banished.

As a first step, police have in custody a 15-year-old charged with aggravated battery in the assault on the firemen. We believe that the courts should impose the stiffest penalty that the law allows in order to warn street corner gangs that from now on they are not going to be let off with kid-glove treatment.

The same treatment should be accorded the imported prophets of “nonviolence” who are seeking to incite trouble with marches into white neighborhoods. The Rev. Martin Luther King of Atlanta is expected to lead another of these forays into the Gage Park area, where whites were baited into a near-riot last week-end which resulted in injuries to some 50 persons, a score of whom were policemen, and a dozen cars were burned.

It would be well to advise King in advance that if he manages to produce a similar result he and his lieutenants can expect to find themselves in the lockup. King profited from a sojourn of this kind in the south by writing a so-called “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” . . . 

“Why Must We Put Up With Daily Brawls?” (Aug. 9)

The “civil rights” marchers are only hurting themselves and their cause. Chicago is retrogressing to the condition of a frontier town in early days, where shots are fired in the air and challenges to combat are hurled. The town marshals are busier than in a TV western.

Why are they making phony civil rights marches? All for what? Simply because a lot of misguided people are induced to slog down sidewalks in quiet communities at the behest of King, Raby, Bevel, and the rest of the crop of paid professional agitators. What do these agitators think they are accomplishing? “I have to do this–to expose myself–to bring this hate into the open,” King says self-righteously. Who gave him the commission, and what is the result except to inflate his vanity?

The time has come when the great body of fine and decent Negro Chicagoans ought to take action to get King off their backs. They have found homes here, and opportunities seldom found in southern states. Their incomes have enormously improved. They have the impartial protection of the law, and they are accustomed to peace and order. They are contributing to Chicago, not trying to tear Chicago down.


Sunday’s march was thru the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood, a community of modest but good homes. Families ordinarily would be enjoying the chance to sit on the front porch reading the paper, to sprinkle their lawns and work in their gardens, or go to the park or beach. Instead, they are confronted by a shuffling procession of strangers carrying signs and posing as martyrs. The spectacle is repulsive to right-thinking people.

“The Sabotage of Chicago” (Aug. 18; watch for the rather stunning interpretation of anti-criminal syndicate laws at the end, it’s pretty audacious. Emphases mine.)

It is not enough that Martin Luther King and his “nonviolent” marchers have brought violence, resentment, and global notoriety to Chicago. On top of all this, according to Police Supt. O.W. Wilson, they are largely to blame for a 25 percent increase in the city’s crime rate.

The police feel obligated to protect them. It has been their deliberate tactic to disperse the police force so that it is spread too thin to be effective anywhere. . . .

With the police thus tied up, it is natural that professional criminals and hoodlums should take advantage of the the opportunity to prey upon the public in their own manner. Nor is it irrelevant to note that there were 72 murders in Chicago in July–an all time high for any month. . . . 

Obviously, the police can’t do their regular job properly, as the mayor said, “when they have to guess where the next marches will be held.” If Supt. Wilson knew what was planned, he could cancel days off and augment his force by 1,600 men. But still there is no money to pay for overtime and the days off would have to be paid back later. The protection gap would remain. . . .

Why the need for surprise? The only reason for the demonstrators to hamper the police is to create the disorder and publicity which the marchers apparently think will help their cause. King himself said, upon being struck by a rock, that he had to march in order “to bring this hate into the open. . . .”

Chicago has already paid too high a price for this deliberate campaign of sabotage. Causing violence to achieve political ends is criminal syndicalism, a statutory crime in many states [I mean, damn. –Ed.]. There are other laws, in addition, against inciting violence. If the marchers keep up their sabotage, it will be time to indict the whole lot of them.

“Peace, At Last?” (Aug. 27, written with no apparent sense of irony)

Further demonstrations in Chicago neighborhoods by the Rev. Martin Luther King’s Freedom Movement have been called off and the scheduled march into suburban Cicero has been “deferred.”

This good news was announced yesterday after a conference of business, labor, government, and religious leaders reached an agreement on a program to make progress toward fair housing opportunities for people of all races in the Chicago area. We congratulate the members of this conference, who have worked many hours for this peaceful solution. . . .

This peaceful, orderly approach has much more chance of success than a continuation of the demonstrations.