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Peace Matters






About King

Quotations on:
- Racialism
- Poverty
- Religion and the church
- War and Peace
- Civil Disobedience
- The movement & Black Power
- Violence & Nonviolence
- Through other people's eyes
- Speech


Audio tape of King's speeches is available

All the quotations, text of the speech and other material about King is available as an illustrated pdf fille.


on racialism

For years now I have heard the word 'Wait!'. It rings in the ears of every Negro with piercing familiarity.

Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts to say, 'Wait!'. But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill you lack brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society;...when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year old son who is asking 'Daddy, why do white people treat coloured people so mean?'; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading 'white' and 'coloured'; when your first name becomes 'Nigger', and your middle name becomes 'boy' (however old you are) and your last name becomes 'John', and your wife and mother are never given the respected title 'Mrs'; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of 'nobodiness' - then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. (B)

Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles over racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or to feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it. (B)

(Montgomery's) economic life was heavily influenced by the presence of the Maxwell and Gunter Air Force bases. According to the annual report of the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, these two bases channelled a total of $58 million into Montgomery's business economy during 1955. One in every fourteen employed civilians in Montgomery worked at these bases, and approximately one in every seven families was an air force family, either civilian or military. Four thousand families living outside base reservations occupied homes in the city. Yet ironically, although the bases, which contributed so much to the economic life of the community, were fully integrated, the city around them adhered to a rigorous pattern of racial segregation. One could not help wishing that the vast economic power of the federal agencies was being used for the good of race relations in Montgomery. Modern Montgomery is a prominent market for cotton, livestock, yellow pine, and hardwood lumber, and is one of the nation's important centres for the manufacture of commercial fertiliser. It has the largest cattle market east of Fort Worth, Texas, and south of the Ohio River, marketing approximately $30 million worth of cattle annually. But there is a dearth of heavy industry. This lack of industry is one of the reasons why so many Negroes go into domestic service: 63% of the women workers in Montgomery are domestics, and 48% of the men are labourers or domestic workers. It is also probably one of the factors in the appalling gap between the living conditions of the whites and the Negroes. In 1950 the median income for the approximately 70,000 white people of Montgomery was $1,730, compared with $970 for the 50,000 Negroes. 94% of the white families in Montgomery have flush toilets inside their homes, while only 31% of the Negro families enjoy such facilities. Aside, then, from the problem of segregation itself, with its effects on every aspect of Negro life, it was clear that Montgomery's Negroes were also the victims of severe economic deprivation.

The two communities moved, as it were, along separate channels. The schools of course were segregated; and the United States Supreme Court decision on school integration, handed down in May 1954, appeared to have no effect on Montgomery's determination to keep them that way. If a white man and a Negro wanted to ride in a taxi together, they could not have done so, since by law white operators served white passengers exclusively and Negroes rode in a separate system confined to them. True, Negroes and whites met as employers and employees, and they rode to work together at either end of the same buses, with a sharp line of segregation between the two groups. They used the same shopping centres, though Negroes were sometimes forced to wait until all the white had been served, and they were seldom given the dignity of courtesy titles. In several sections of town, Negro and white residential neighbourhoods adjoined, and in others they interlocked like the fingers of two hands. But each section turned its back on its neighbour and faced into its own community for its social and cultural life.

There were no integrated professional organisations of physicians, lawyers, teachers and so forth; and even when such professionals shared membership in national organisations, they went their separate ways at home. No inter-racial ministerial alliance existed in Montgomery. There was no local Urban League to bring Negro and white together on an inter-racial board, and the active membership of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was entirely Negro. The largest institution of higher learning in Montgomery was the all-Negro Alabama State College, mainly devoted to teacher training, with a faculty of almost 200 and a student body of approximately 2,000. Although the faculty had included such nationally known figures as Horace Mann Bond and Charles H Thompson, and the college still exerted a lively cultural influence on both city and state, it drew few local white visitors to its handsome campus. In fact, the local chapter of the Alabama Council on Human Relations alone in Montgomery brought the two races together in mutual efforts to solve shared problems.

Alabama law and its administration had combined to keep Negro voting down to a minimum. By 1940 there were not more than 2,000 Negro voters in all Alabama. Today the number is closer to 50,000 but although this represents progress, it is still less than 10% of all Negroes of voting age in the state. By 1954 there were some 30,000 Negroes on voting age in Montgomery County, but only a few more than 2,000 were registered. This low figure was in part the result of the Negroes' own lack of interest or persistence in surmounting the barriers erected against them; but the barriers were themselves formidable. Alabama law gives the registrars wide discretionary powers. At the registration office are separate lines and separate tables for voters according to race. The registrars servicing Negro lines move at a noticeably leisurely pace, so that of fifty Negroes in line, as few as fifteen may be reached by the end of the day. All voters are required to fill out a long questionnaire as a test of eligibility. Often Negroes fill out the questionnaire at several different times before they have been informed that they have done so successfully. In the light of these facts it was not surprising to find that there was no Negro in public office in either the city of the county of Montgomery. (A)

The City Commission, and we know our people are with us in this determination, will not yield one inch, but will do all in its power to oppose the integration of the Negro race with the white race in Montgomery, and will forever stand like a rock against social equality, inter-marriage, and mixing of the races under God's creation and plan. (From an official statement of the City Commission.) (A)

Even when blacks and whites die together in the cause of justice, the death of the white person gets more attention and concern than the death of the black person. Stokely (Carmichael) and his colleagues from SNCC were with us in Alabama when Jimmy Lee Jackson, a brave young Negro man, was killed and when James Reeb, a committed Unitarian white minister, was fatally clubbed to the ground. They remembered how President Johnson sent flowers to the gallant Mrs Reeb, and in his eloquent 'We Shall Overcome' speech paused to mention that one person, James Reeb, had already died in the struggle. Somehow the President forgot to mention Jimmy, who died first. The parents and sister of Jimmy received no flowers from the President. The students felt this keenly. Not that they felt that they death of James Reeb was less than tragic, but because they felt that the failure to mention Jimmy Jackson only reinforced the impression that to white Americans the life of a Negro is insignificant and meaningless. (C)


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