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Martin Luther King, Jr. - Threats/attacks against

White Citizens' Councils (WCC)

In response to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision ending school segregation, white segregationists throughout the South created the White Citizens’ Councils (WCC). These local groups typically drew a more middle and upper class membership than the Ku Klux Klan and, in addition to using violence and intimidation to counter civil rights goals, they sought to economically and socially oppress blacks. Martin Luther King faced WCC attacks as soon as the Montgomery bus boycott began and was a target of these groups throughout his career.

Powell, Adam Clayton, Jr.

As a minister and congressman, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., was a prominent and controversial figure in the struggle for civil rights. Although Powell and Martin Luther King were initially supportive of one another’s work, King lost trust in Powell in 1960, after the congressman threatened to lie to the press about King’s friendship with his advisor Bayard Rustin. Despite their differences the two continued to publicly cooperate for several years; however, their relationship further eroded when Powell publicly renounced nonviolence in 1968.

New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254

The events that led to the 1964 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision confirming freedom of the press under the First Amendment in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan began in March 1960, after Martin Luther King’s supporters published a fundraising appeal on the civil rights leader’s behalf. The appeal was in response to King’s arrest on perjury charges, and so incensed Alabama officials that they brought suit against several black ministers whose names appeared on the advertisement.

Levison, Stanley David

In 1956 Stanley Levison, a Jewish attorney from New York, began raising funds to support the Montgomery bus boycott and became acquainted with Martin Luther King, Jr. The two men developed a close relationship in which Levison not only advised King, but also aided him with the day-to-day administrative demands of the movement. In 1963, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used King’s relationship with Levison, who they believed to be a Communist functionary, to justify surveillance of King.

"I've Been to the Mountaintop"

“We’ve got some difficult days ahead,” Martin Luther King, Jr., told an overflowing crowd in Memphis, Tennessee, on 3 April 1968, where the city’s sanitation workers were striking. “But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop … I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land” (King, “I’ve Been,” 222–223). Less than 24 hours after these prophetic words, King was assassinated by James Earl Ray.

Draft of Chapter XIII, "Our God is Able"

King reminds his readers that “God is able to subdue all the powers of evil” and that “evil does not have the final word.” As examples of this, King discusses the disintegration of colonialism in Africa and Asia and the slow but sure decline of legal segregation in this country, noting that they “represent the passing of a system that was born in injustice, nurtured in inequality and raised in exploitation.” He recounts a transformative experience from the bus boycott during a night when, he admits, “I was ready to give up.” As King prayed for guidance, he heard “the qui

Curry, Izola Ware

On 20 September 1958, Izola Ware Curry, a 42-year-old mentally disturbed woman, stabbed Martin Luther King, Jr., while he signed copies of his book, Stride Toward Freedom, at Blumstein’s Department Store in Harlem, New York. Curry approached King with a seven-inch steel letter opener and drove the blade into the upper left side of his chest. King was rushed to Harlem Hospital, where he underwent more than two hours of surgery to repair the wound. Doctors operating on the 29-year-old civil rights leader said: “Had Dr. King sneezed or coughed, the weapon would have penetrated the aorta.... He was just a sneeze away from death” (Papers 4:499n).

Davis, Benjamin Jefferson, Jr.

Benjamin J. Davis, Jr., was chairman of the New York State district of the Communist Party and an acquaintance of Martin Luther King, Jr. King and Davis were both from prominent Atlanta families, and despite their ideological differences, their relationship was characterized by a great degree of mutual respect. In a letter to Davis, King once wrote: “Your words are always encouraging, and although we do not share the political views I find a deeper unity of spirit with you that is after all the important thing” (Papers 5:442).


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