In one of his first speeches in the North since the beginning of the boycott, King addressed an enthusiastic capacity crowd of 2,500 at Concord Baptist Church in Brooklyn. Sponsored by the Brooklyn chapter of the National Association of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, the 25 March mass meeting featured brief remarks by a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi, and the president of the city council. In his speech King noted his long friendship with a leader of Brooklyn’s religious community: ‘I'm glad to see Rev. Sandy Ray out there,” he said. “You know, for years he was ‘Uncle Sandy’ to me. In fact, I did not know he was not related to me by blood until I was 12 years old.” 1 (Ray was a college friend of King, Sr.’s, and pastor of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Cornerstone Baptist Church.) King also argued against William Faulkner’s admonition that integrationists “stop now for a moment.” 2 “We can’t slow up,” he declared, “and have our dignity and self-respect.” At the end of the meeting Rev. Gardner Taylor, pastor of the church, asked for the collection, which “was taken up in waste baskets, cake boxes, cartons, cooking utensils, and other containers,” yielding more than $4,000 for the MIA.3
Here are some quotable quotes from the address delivered by Rev. Martin Luther King in Brooklyn Sunday:
“I do not come here with a message of bitterness, hate or despair.” “I come with a message of love and a message of hope.”4
“Press on and keep pressing. If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk— “CRAWL.”
“We can’t slow up.” “We can’t slow up and have our dignity and self respect. “We can’t slow up because of our love for democracy and our love for America. Someone should tell Faulkner that the vast majority of the people on this globe are colored.”
“In our generation something has happened to the Negro. He has decided to reevaluate himself and he is coming to see that he is somebody.
“He has come to realize that every man, from a bass black to a treble white is significant on God’s keyboard.”
“There comes a time when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of frustration. Today’s expression in Montgomery is the expression of 50,000 people who are tired of being pushed around.”
“Yes, there are tensions in the South. But the tension we experience there is due to the revolutionary reevaluation of the Negro by himself.
“You can’t understand the Montgomery situation unless you understand that the Negro has a new sense of dignity, a new realization of his own worth.”5
“Dixie has a heart all right. But it’s having a little heart trouble right now.”
“Montgomery is known as the Cradle of the Confederacy. It has been a quiet cradle for a long, long time, but now the cradle is rocking.”
1. Cholly Herndon, “Sidelights of a ‘Kingly’ Meeting in Brooklyn,” New York Amsterdam News, 31 March 1956.
2. William Faulkner, “A Letter to the North,” Life, 5 March 1956, pp. 51-52.
3. Stanley Rowland, Jr., ‘‘2,500 Here Hail Boycott Leader,” New York Times, 26 March 1956.
4. Another reporter noted that King quoted Jesus, “I come not to bring peace but a sword,” explaining that “the sword was one of nonviolent revolt against ‘narrow and oppressive traditions.’ . . . ‘We will not resort to violence, we will not degrade ourselves with hatred. We will return good for evil, we will love our enemies—not the way you love your wife, but the mighty, transcendent, God-given love for our brother men, white and dark. Christ showed us the way and Gandhi in India showed it could work’” (ibid.).
5. King continued: “We in Montgomery have discovered a method that can be used by the Negroes in their fight for political and economical equality. . . . We fight injustice with passive resistance. And it works. . . . The little brown man in India—Mohandas Gandhi—used it to topple the British military machine. Gandhi was able to break loose from the political and economical domination by the British and brought the British Empire to its knees. Let’s now use this method in the United States” (“King Speaks at Big Rally in Brooklyn,” Montgomery Advertiser, 26 March 1956).
New York Amsterdam News, 31 March 1956.