After another weekend of violence in Montgomery, including a failed attempt to bomb King’s home with twelve sticks of dynamite, King declares to his Dexter congregation on 27 January that their city is “dangerous to live in—it’s no longer safe.”1 For the first time he talks about experiencing a “divine” presence a year before, when God gave him the courage he needed to face escalating threats of violence.2 A Montgomery Advertiser article the next day included these quotations from King’s sermon.3
After describing the vision to his almost-filled church a few hours after a dynamite bundle failed to explode on his porch when his family was not at home, King said in prayer:
“I realize that there were moments I wanted to give up (leadership of the pro-integration movement) and I was afraid but You gave me a vision in the kitchen of my home and I am thankful for it.”
The 28-year-old Baptist minister said in his sermon that after Montgomery Negroes began a 381-day bus boycott on Dec. 5, 1955, “I went to bed many nights scared to death” by threats against himself and his family.
“Early on a sleepless morning in January, 1956,” King said, “rationality left me.” Then, “almost out of nowhere I heard a voice that morning saying to me:
“Preach the Gospel, stand up for the truth, stand up for righteousness.”
King went on, “Since that morning I can stand up without fear. So I’m not afraid of anybody this morning.
“Tell Montgomery they can keep shooting and I’m going to stand up to them; tell Montgomery they can keep bombing and I’m going to stand up to them.
“If I had to die tomorrow morning I would die happy, because I’ve been to the mountain top and I’ve seen the promised land and it’s going to be here in Montgomery. The old Montgomery is passing away and segregation is dying,” King declared.
1. “‘Montgomery Dangerous’ Negro Warns After Week-End of Violence,” New York Post, 28 January 1957.
2. King, Stride Toward Freedom, pp. 134-135; see also the discussion of his spiritual crisis of January 1956 in Papers 3:9-10.
3.A second Advertiser article dealing with the bombing attempt provided additional quotations from King’s sermon: “When men sink that low (bombing churches) they become dangerous . . . victims of mental illness. They wouldn’t hesitate to kill.’ King told his congregation that Negroes must continue a policy of non-violence ‘because our oppressors control the police, the National Guard even, and if they send a federal government in here, that will be white folks, too.’ King told the group ‘Let us not get our guns because that will not solve our problems. Through our suffering, we are going to transform the hearts of those who are cowardly enough to throw bombs and shoot pistols’” (“‘Dud’ Spares King’s Home; Another Hit,” Montgomery Advertiser, 28 January 1957).
Montgomery Advertiser, 28 January 1957.