Faith of a mustard seed

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

Dr. King had already been assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee, on 4 April 1968 when this article appeared. The worst period of racial rioting in U.S. history erupted. This article prophesied that these riots would occur because “America is reaping the harvest of hate and shame planted through generations of educational denial, political disfranchisement and economic exploitation of its black population.”

“The policy of the federal government is to play russian roulette with riots; it is prepared to gamble with another summer of disaster. Despite two consecutive summers of violence, not a single basic cause of riots has been corrected. All of the misery that stoked the flames of rage and rebellion remains undiminished. With unemployment, intolerable housing and discriminatory education a scourge in Negro ghettos, Congress and the administration still tinker with trivial, halfhearted measures.

…Nonviolence was a creative doctrine in the South because it checkmated the rabid segregationists who were thirsting for an opportunity to physically crush Negroes. …This is the reason there were less loss of life in ten years of southern protest than in ten days of northern riots. …Today, the northern cities have taken on the conditions we faced in the South. Police national guard and other armed bodies are feverishly preparing for repression. …For us in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, violence is not only morally repugnant, it is pragmatically barren. …We cannot condone either riots or the equivalent evil of passivity.

…We are taking action after sober reflection. We have learned from bitter experience that our government does not correct a race problem until it is confronted directly and dramatically. …In the earlier Alabama actions, we set no time limits. We simply said we were going to struggle there until we got a response from the nation on the issues involved. We are saying the same thing about Washington. …Just as we dealt with the social problem of segregation through massive demonstrations, …we are now trying to deal with the economic problems— the right to live, to have a job and income— through massive protest. It will be a Selma-like movement on economic issues.

…A nationwide nonviolent movement is very important. We know from past experience that Congress and the president won’t do anything until you develop a movement around which people of goodwill can find a way to put pressure on them, because it really means breaking that coalition in Congress. It’s still a coalition-dominated, rural-dominated, basically southern Congress. There are Southerners there with committee chairmanships, and they are going to stand in the way of progress as long as they can. They get enough right-wing midwestern or northern Republicans to go along with them. …And we are honest enough to feel that we aren’t going to get any instantaneous results from Congress, knowing its recalcitrant nature on this issue and knowing that so many resources and energies are being used in Vietnam rather than on the domestic situation.

We call our demonstration a campaign for jobs and income because we feel that the economic question is the most crucial that black people and poor people generally, are confronting. …When you have mass unemployment in the Negro community, it’s called a social problem; when you have mass unemployment in the white community, it’s called a depression…”

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