Ghosts of ’68 in Election 2016

Michael Winship | Moyers & Company | Reader Supported News | May 16, 2016

Longtime observers of American politics have noted striking parallels between the unpredictable wartime election of 1968 and the bizarre presidential contest of 2016, another time of war and distress, as Michael Winship recalls.


atching the mad, mad, mad, mad world that is the 2016 presidential campaign, I was trying to remember a presidential campaign that was as jaw-dropping, at least in my lifetime, and easily settled on 1968.

For those too young to remember, imagine: As fighting in Vietnam rages on and the Tet Offensive makes us all too aware of the futility of our Southeast Asian military fiasco, Minnesota Sen. Eugene McCarthy decides to run as an antiwar candidate against incumbent President Lyndon Johnson.

Supported by an army of “Clean for Gene” college students knocking on doors and making phone calls, McCarthy does surprisingly well, and then New York Sen. Robert Kennedy gets into the race, too. Johnson makes a surprise announcement that he will not seek a second term in the White House and McCarthy and Kennedy duke it out in the primaries.

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I Feel a Political Revolution Coming

Erica Garner. (photo: Mike McGregor/The Observer)
Erica Garner. (photo: Mike McGregor/The Observer)


Erica Garner | Reader Supported News | April 19, 2016

our years ago, if you had asked me who I would vote for in this presidential election, I would have said Hillary Clinton. However, in the last four years, my views of Hillary have changed and as I dig into her past and notice inconsistencies. She has been flip-flopping her whole life, and while changing opinions isn’t a crime, someone who is running for the presidency should have unwavering consistency in backing up campaign promises.

When it comes to lifelong proof that one’s words matches his intentions, it’s evident that Bernie Sanders is the best choice to serve as the next president of the United States — especially for African Americans. I think, when given the facts and the political histories of the Democratic candidates, that every activist in this new modern day civil rights movement — whether Black Lives Matter or otherwise — will feel the same amount of passion I have for Bernie Sanders.

The past couple of years have been horrible on this whole nation, particularly as it relates to race. Tragedy after tragedy, death after death. My dad (Eric Garner) in Staten Island, Mike Brown in Ferguson, Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Raynette Turner in Mount Vernon — the list grows daily. However, these conditions are nothing new. People like Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Marcus Garvey put their bodies and lives on the line to stand up and send a message that we are human beings, and should be respected as such. And it was Sanders — not Clinton — who put his body on the line with us.

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In Praise of Discomfort: Learning From Dr. King and Confronting Pinkwashing

Stefanie Fox | Truthout | January 22, 2016

Artwork depicting how Pinkwashing decontextualizes Jewish Israeli gay rights from the reality of Israeli Apartheid, made for Dean Spade's film Pinkwashing Exposed: Seattle Fights Back. (Image: Micah Bazant)Artwork depicting how “pinkwashing” decontextualizes Jewish Israeli gay rights from the reality of Israeli apartheid, made for Dean Spade’s film Pinkwashing Exposed: Seattle Fights Back. (Image: Micah Bazant)


Only 26 percent of white Americans supported Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1966. As a white Jewish American, I try to hold on to that truth more tightly even than the sepia-toned memory of Abraham Joshua Heschel at King’s side. What can I learn, what can I use, in organizing for justice today, with the knowledge of how rare white solidarity with the Black-led struggle for freedom was and is. As a white Jew, it feels critical to interrogate where and how King’s adversaries and their legacy might be alive today in our world, in our movements, in ourselves.

King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail is a touchstone for me in facing this question. In it, he writes:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action.”

It gives us a chance to question: Where am I behaving like the white moderate who King so brilliantly takes to task? Where is my community choosing comfort over the urgent need for action? Where do we want negative peace? Where do we question the tactics of the oppressed in their struggles for freedom?

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Would Martin Luther King have supported same-sex marriage equality?

Rev Irene Monroe | Gay Star News | January 15, 2016

Martin Luther King Day reminds me how Alabama has always been a troubling state when it comes to upholding the civil rights of its denizens.

Martin Luther King’s civil rights activism began in the unwelcoming ‘Heart of Dixie’ in 1955 when on a cold December evening Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat to a white passenger, birthing the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

The boycott was the first of what would be many historic marches and protests that would catapult King onto a national stage. His acts of civil disobedience in the 1950s and 1960s help elevate the country’s moral consciousness as Alabama struggled with hers.

Sadly, in 2016 Alabama is still struggling.

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When Oppression Is the Status Quo, Disruption Is a Moral Duty

Demonstrators protest in front of the police station in Ferguson, Missouri. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest in front of the police station in Ferguson, Missouri. (photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)


Bree Newsome | The Root | Reader Supported News | August 8, 2015

History teaches us that legislative action rarely happens without organized protest. This is why the Black Lives Matter movement is so essential today.


hen rights are consistently denied, a cause should be pressed in the courts and in negotiations among local leaders, and not in the streets.” —Alabama clergymen’s letter to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. April 12, 1963

“You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. … It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.” —From Letter From a Birmingham Jail, by Martin Luther King Jr., April 16, 1963

I visited the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site for the first time two weekends ago while in Atlanta for a wedding. I sat in the pews of the original Ebenezer Baptist Church listening to recordings of King speaking on racial and economic injustice, words just as applicable to the present moment as they were 50 years ago.

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A history of surveillance: Rep. John Lewis reads his own FBI file to make a point about government spying


Mugshot of civil rights pioneer John Lewis


 | Raw Story | May 16, 2015

This morning, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) posted a photo to his Facebook page of him reading the FBI file on the activism of the civil rights-era Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which he was part of.

Below the photo, he wrote, “Reading the FBI file on SCLC & myself, I am more convinced than ever that we cannot allow government surveillance.”

Recall that the federal government heavily monitored and infiltrated civil rights and antiwar organizations in the 50s and 60s – the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. himself was wiretapped by the Democratic administrations of Kennedy and Johnson. Earlier this week Lewis voted against the USA Freedom Act, which many have criticized as doing little to actually rein in NSA abuses.


The Dance of Liberals and Radicals

(AP Photo)

U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, right, talks with civil rights leaders in his White House office in Washington, D.C., January 18, 1964. The movement leaders, from left, are, Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); James Farmer, national director of the Committee on Racial Equality; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Whitney Young, executive director of the Urban League.


Robert Kuttner | Huffington Post | The American Prospect | March 17, 2015

March 15 was the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson’s best speech, his “We Shall Overcome” address applying the final round of pressure on Congress to enact the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Much of the speech invoked the bravery, dignity and historical rightness of Martin Luther King, Jr., and his fellow movement activists.

All of which puts me in mind of the complex relationship between liberals and radicals.

History shows that liberals need radicals. We need radicals because drastic change against entrenched evil and concentrated power requires personal bravery to the point of obsession. It requires a radical sensibility to look beyond today’s limits and imagine what seems sheer impossibility within the current social order. And sometimes it’s necessary to break the law to redeem the Constitution.

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Selma Protester Explains Why He Was Never Afraid

Elizabeth Warren with Rep. John Lewis. (photo: Elizabeth Warren's blog)
Elizabeth Warren with Rep. John Lewis. (photo: Elizabeth Warren’s blog)

Elizabeth Warren | Elizabeth Warren’s blog | Reader Supported News | March 11, 2015

esterday morning, the church service at First Baptist in Montgomery started the way so many church services start – with warm hellos and plenty of donuts and coffee in the church basement.

But then I met an elderly man who told me he had been in that basement for 11 hours in May of 1961, along with hundreds of people, while a mob outside tried to burn down the church.

This was Dr. Ralph Abernathy’s church, the Brick-a-Day Church. It had been a center for civil rights organizing, and a sanctuary for Freedom Riders and others in the movement who were under attack.

The elderly man described the calls from the church phone, placed by Dr. King to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, asking for help. He said that at first Kennedy had promised to call out the National Guard, but the Guard was local, and many of those men were now part of the mob. The people trapped in the church needed the Army, and Kennedy promised to send it from a military base several hours away. So the man described what it was like to wait in the sweltering basement, listening to the mob outside.

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Thousands gather to commemorate Bloody Sunday anniversary

President Barack Obama speaks near the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Selma, Ala. This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday,' a civil rights march in which protestors were beaten, trampled and tear-gassed by police at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in Selma. (AP Photo/Bill Frakes)


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SELMA, Ala. (AP) — America’s racial history “still casts its long shadow upon us,” President Barack Obama said Saturday as he stood in solidarity and remembrance with civil rights activists whose beatings by police a half-century ago galvanized much of the nation against racial oppression and hastened passage of historic voting rights for minorities. Tens of thousands of people joined to commemorate the “Bloody Sunday” march of 1965 and take stock of the struggle for equality.

Under a bright sun, the first black U.S. president praised the figures of a civil rights era that he was too young to know but that helped him break the ultimate racial barrier in political history with his ascension to the highest office. He called them “warriors of justice” who pushed America closer to a more perfect union.

“So much of our turbulent history — the stain of slavery and anguish of civil war, the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow, the death of four little girls in Birmingham, and the dream of a Baptist preacher — met on this bridge,” Obama told the crowd before taking a symbolic walk across part of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the 1965 march erupted into police violence.

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Letter From a Birmingham Jail

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressing the crowd during the March on Washington in August 1963. (photo: Francis Miller/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressing the crowd during the March on Washington in August 1963. (photo: Francis Miller/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Martin Luther King | Reader Supported News | January 19, 2015

y Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

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