April 4, 2003

The unknown Luther King

35 years later.

Martin Luther King, the leader of peace, the most lucid of all the fighters for the freedom of african americans and preacher of fraternity among peoples, died on April 4, 1968, in the city of Memphis, as a result of the wounds inflicted by James Earl Ray’s gun shots.

He was born on 15 January 1929, in the city of Atlanta, state of Georgia; the son of Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and of Alberta Williams.

After succesfully pursuing his studies, he received in 1965 a Ph.D. in Systematic Teology, from Harvard University. During his lifetime, he was awarded more than twenty honorary Ph.D. degrees from as many american universities.

At the age of 19, he was ordained Minister of Christian Faith at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. From 1954 until 1959 he served as pastor at the ”Dexter Avenue” Church in Montgomery, Alabama. From 1960 until his death he was co-pastor, together with his father, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Thanks to King’s relentless actions, the blacks in the USA could secure the civil rights that had been denied to them, together with a sense of dignity and respect, both as individuals and as a people.

The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation remembers Martin Luther King by quoting one of his most memorable condemnations of hatred, disguised in this case as a form of opposition to the existence of national State.

In the article ”Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend”, published on the Saturday Review, Nr. XLVII, (August 1967), we read:

”. . . You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, that you are merely ‘Anti-Zionist.’ And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God’s green earth: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews–this is God’s own truth.”

”Antisemitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently Anti- Semitic, and ever will be so.”

”Why is this? You know that Zionism is nothing less than the dream and ideal of the Jewish people returning to live in their own land. The Jewish people, the Scriptures tell us, once enjoyed a flourishing Commonwealth in the Holy Land. From this they were expelled by the Roman tyrant, the same Romans who cruelly murdered Our Lord. Driven from their homeland, their nation in ashes, forced to wander the globe, the Jewish people time and again suffered the lash of whichever tyrant happened to rule over them.”

”The Negro people, my friend, know what it is to suffer the torment of tyranny under rulers not of our choosing. Our brothers in Africa have begged, pleaded, requested–DEMANDED the recognition and realization of our inborn right to live in peace under our own sovereignty in our own country.”

”The antisemite rejoices at any opportunity to vent his malice. The times have made it unpopular, in the West, to proclaim openly a hatred of the Jews. This being the case, the antisemite must constantly seek new forms and forums for his poison. How he must revel in the new masquerade! He does not hate the Jews, he is just ‘Anti-Zionist’!”

Earlier, on August 28, 1963, a crowd of more than 250,000 people had gathered in Washington, D.C. and marched to the Capitol Building to support the passing of laws that guaranteed every American equal civil rights. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was at the front of the ”March on Washington.”

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that day, Dr. King delivered a speech that was later entitled ”I Have a Dream.” The March was one of the largest gatherings of black and white people that the United States’ capital had ever seen… and no violence occurred.

The speech concluded as follows:

”I have a dream today” … ”When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of that old Negro spiritual, ”Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, we are free at last!”

* Baruch Tenembaum is Founder of The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation