It will be a rare confluence of the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Junior, nostalgia and jazz when Martin Luther King III comes to India Saturday to retrace the “pilgrimage” of his father 50 years ago.
The trip by Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of Martin Luther King Jr and Coretta Scott King, will be bristling with historical memories as he begins his India visit from New Delhi and goes to landmarks his father visited from Feb 10 to March 10, 1959.
Mahatma Gandhi, who inspired King Junior and his civil rights movement, will be an invisible presence that will accompany King III and his team wherever they go to India.
A team of African-American legislators that includes US House Representative John Lewis will also be in India at the same time and will accompany King III to various places associated with the historic 1959 journey.
The US House of Representatives Wednesday passed a resolution recognising Mahatma Gandhi’s influence on Martin Luther King Jr and commemorating the golden jubilee anniversary of the American civil rights leader’s visit to India in 1959.
“The trip to India impacted Dr King in a profound way, and inspired him to use non-violence as an instrument of social change to end segregation and racial discrimination in America throughout the rest of his work during the Civil Rights Movement,” says the resolution.
In a radio address to India in 1959, King had said: “The spirit of Gandhi is so much stronger today than some people believe.”
That statement is as true today as it was 50 years ago, said Jim McDermott, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, speaking on the resolution in the House of Representatives.
“We think that the spirit of Gandhi is much stronger today than some people believe. Today we no longer have a choice between violence and non-violence; it is either non-violence, or non-existence,” Martin Luther King Jr had said.
On this historic occasion when Martin Luther King's epic struggle for civil rights in America has come to fruition in the Barack Obama's entry into the White House truly exemplifying Abraham Lincoln's peroration at Gettysburgh: "Government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth", I would like to publish here my article :
Martin Luther King: Nobel Prize Winner
Published in The Indian Express dated.10.12.1964:
The Nobel Prize of 1964 will be presented to Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr.; the U.S. civil rights leader, on December 10 at Oslo University, Stockholm in the presence of Norwegian King Olaf V.
It is not customary for the Nobel Committee to give reason for its choice. However, it is understood that the Negro clergyman was cited for his leadership of the racial desegregation movements in the United States that led to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964
This peace award is worth about 38,235 dollars. Dr.King is the second American Negro and 14th U.S.citizen to win the Nobel Peace Prize since it was first awarded in 1901. Dr. Ralph Bunche, an United Nations official; was the first American Negro to win this award in 1950. The first American to achieve this honour was President Theodore Roosevelt. He got the Peace Prize in 1906 for his successful efforts to end the Russo-Japanese war in 1904-1905.
Born in 1929, Dr.King a Baptist Minister in Montgomery, Alabama, is an ardent believer in the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. Dr. King was greatly influenced by the Gandhian doctrine of satyagraha and he adopted the technique of non-violent struggle in the civil rights movement led by him culminating in the famous “ Freedom March “ to Washington in August 1963.
“This “Freedom March” was the largest peaceful mass demonstration in American history in which more than 200,000 Negroes and whites gathered together before the Liucoln Memortial in Washington to focus national attention on the urgency of the civil rights problem. Dr.King addressed the vast congregation.
“I have a dream,” Dr.King told the gathering. “deeply rooted in the American Dream, I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed… that all men are created equal.”
“We (Negroes) must rise,” added Dr.King. “to the majestic heights meeting physical force with soul force.” This was a clear enunciation of the Gandhian technique of satyagraha.
In his Gandhi Memorial Lecture delivered at the Harvard University in 1963. Dr.King gave a candid interpretation of the non-violent philosophy as under stood by him. “Both violence and non-violence agree,” Dr.King said, “that suffering can be a powerful social force, but the difference is that violence says that suffering is a powerful social force when you inflict the suffering on another, but non-violence says that suffering is a powerful social force when you allow suffering and pain and violence to be inflicted on yourself.”
How did the method come to be applied? It is a dramatic story. In 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks, a Negro seamstress of Montgomery. Alabama let off unwittingly the spark of the Negro civil disobedience movement. This is how it happened.
Mrs. Rosa Parks while on a bus ride was asked to give her seat to a white person. This she had done before, but this time she suddenly decided not to acquiesce in it. She said, “No, I’m sorry.” The driver threatened to call the police, but Mrs.Parks said, “Then you just call them.” She was arrested.
The next day the local Negro religious leaders called on their brethren to boycott the city buses. The successful boycott marked the beginning of a crusade. At the helm of the movement was the Negro preacher, Reverend Dr.Martin Luther King. He began to convert his congregation to the method of civic disobedience.
“Now let’s practice it again.” Dr.King said to his congregation, “I’m a white man and I insult you, I shove you, maybe I hit you. What do you do?”
“I keep my temper,” came the unanimous answer, “I do not budge. I do not strike back I turn the other cheek. “This catechism launched the American Negro on to a glorious and honourable way to freedom. From then on he did not look back in doubt.
It was unprecedented. The white opponents of the desegregationist movement came to respect the Negroes after this incident. “We didn’t know, “ they said, “the Negroes had the stuff to do what they’ve just done. We never thought we’d come to respect them, but we have.”
Dr.King has generated an enlightened spirit in the Negro struggle for desegregation. A powerful speaker he has been ceaselessly articulate in arousing the world opinion against racial prejudice. “I am still convinced.” Dr.King says, “that there is a great power in non-violence and we must be willing to follow this way…. Until we have been able to bring an end to the tragedy of segregation and move on towards it desegregated and finally an integrated society.”
It is an inspiring faith a dedication and a promise and may yet work wonders.