Shortly after the Supreme Court decision on Montgomery, NBC reporter Martin Agronsky sat down with Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. to discuss the Civil Rights movement and non-violent resistance.
Rise of Martin Luther King Jr.
LESTER HOLT reporting: Shortly after the Supreme Court decision on Montgomery, NBC reporter Martin Agronsky sat down with Dr. King.
Mr. MARTIN AGRONSKY: Dr. King, almost overnight you became an international figure as a result of the bus boycott here in Montgomery. And because you used in the movement, the passive word, “non-violent resistance”—why did you use this method, sir?
Dr. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.: We decided that the movement needed some discipline and dignity, and a boycott in and of itself would be a very dangerous thing if it didn’t have some guidance. And after thinking through this, the emphasis on Christian love came into being, along with the whole Gandhian technique of non-violent resistance.
Mr. CHARLES J. OGLETREE Jr., Harvard Law School: His view was that, “I’m always gonna turn the other cheek.” Indeed he did, because he wanted to set an example—that he had the moral high ground. They could beat him, they could arrest him, they could chant against him, they could spit on him, they could harass him—but they couldn’t take away his deep sense of morality. And the non-violent part is what changed America.
HOLT: But despite the gains, King knew that racial equality was still a dream deferred for most Black citizens. And in a prophetic interview with Frank McGee, he spoke of the sacrifices that lay ahead.
Dr. KING: I go on with the feeling that this is a righteous cause and that we will have to suffer in this cause and that physical death is the price that some must pay—it’s a price that I must pay—to free my children and the children of my brothers and sisters, and my white bothers from a prominent psychological death, then nothing can be more redemptive. I have always believed that unearned suffering is redemptive. And if a man has not discovered some things, so dear and so precious that he would die for it, then he doesn’t have much to live for.
HOLT: Dr. King’s use of non-violent protest would become the hallmark of the Civil Rights Movement. In the days to come, others would follow in his steps, to desegregate train stations, restaurants, and schools, even in the face of increasing hatred and violence.
Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. A Baptist minister and civil rights activist, he had an enormous impact on race relations in the United States. Through his activism, he played a key role in ending the segregation of African-American citizens in the South and the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. King was assassinated in April 1968 and continues to be remembered as one of the greatest African-American leaders in history.