The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update


February 13, 2013

Primus Mootry: Lincoln and Dr. King: Two giants of American history

Last Saturday my wife and I went to see Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” Devoid of the usual blood and gore, special effects and T&A, it is a cinematic masterpiece.

Viewers are drawn into the Lincoln character, beautifully portrayed by Daniel Day Lewis, and drawn into the war room from which he kept a “hands-on” grip on Civil War battles. We grow with him in understanding the essential immorality of slavery. We age with him in those last, terribly stressful months before a bullet ended his life.

We become a fly on the wall in the bedroom where he argued and agonized with his wife as they mourned the loss of their youngest son and chafed at the idea of their eldest joining Union troops on the battlefield. We are transfixed by the Congressional arm-twisting, back-room deals, and pro- and anti-slavery pontificating that eventually led to the passage of the 13th Amendment. It is well worth seeing.

It is especially worth seeing during Black History Month because it directly and indirectly addresses the complexities of black history in America and the simultaneous “separateness”and “oneness” of black history and American history. These are themes I addressed in last week’s articles, and I continue here.

This time, I share with you excerpts from another masterpiece on the subject written 100 years after the Civil War and the passage of the 13th Amendment, which guaranteed freedom to 4 million black slaves (not, as most assume, The Emancipation Proclamation). The piece I refer to is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham City Jail.”

A bit of background: Dr. King had been called to Birmingham by a non-violent civil rights group to help the cause.  uring one of the marches, he was jailed. A group of white ministers publicly criticized him for coming to Birmingham, calling him an outside agitator. The letter (which should be read in its entirety by those who have not already done so) was his response.

Since his jailers would not give him any paper to write on, his “open letter”was scribbled in the margins of a newspaper that had been left in his jail cell. Here are a few excerpts:

“My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in Birmingham City, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. ... But since I feel you are men of genuine goodwill and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.”

(He then gives his credentials as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, one of whose purposes was to respond to requests from affiliates such as the one in Birmingham. He also outlines the four steps of non-violent action: 1. collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive; 2. negotiation; 3. self-purification; and 4. direct action.)

The facts:

“Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of police brutality is known in every section of the country. Its unjust treatment of Negroes in the courts is a notorious reality. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any city in this nation.”

(He goes to step 2: negotiations have failed. Then, step 3: a lengthy explanation of Negro frustrations with attempts at negotiation and reconciliation; now, step 4: direct action and its direct relationship with the first three steps.)

The reason for action:

“My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without legal and nonviolent pressure. ... We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. ... Wait has almost always meant “never.”

In its fullness, this letter has been studied by hundreds of scholars, grammarians, theologians, philosophers and millions of students, as well. None, to my knowledge, has been able to find a single fault in it. It is a masterpiece I hope you will read.

I have run out of space to go further with this. But one must wonder: If these moral giants of American History — Lincoln and Dr. King — were alive today, what would they be thinking? What would they be saying? What would they be doing? And what we think of them?

Have a nice day.

Anderson resident Primus Mootry is a retired school teacher. His column appears Wednesdays.

Text Only
  • Maureen Hayden: 9/11 Commission chair scolds Congress for national security failures Retired Congressman Lee Hamilton has warned of the perils of political ideology, calling the body where he spent 34 years “noxiously partisan.” Now, he worries the divide is downright dangerous.

    July 27, 2014

  • Vaughan, Nancy mug [Duplicate] Nancy Vaughan: Fireworks and fireflies mean summer in full swing Hasn't July been a fabulous month? It began with multiple fireworks venues and parades and ends with fairs and football in full swing. We have been blessed with mild weather and if you haven't had to travel much outside of the county, roadwork has been minimal.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ken de la Bastide: City unions go without contracts for many years How Anderson deals with unions has changed dramatically over the years. In the past it would have been unheard of for union members to continue to work without a contract or an agreed upon deadline. But members of three unions that represent Anderson city employees have been working without a new contract agreement for up to seven years.

    July 26, 2014

  • Jim Bailey: Traveling by passenger train was a page from the past My wife doesn’t remember riding on a full-fledged passenger train as a baby. Our children have never ridden. It’s an experience rapidly going the way of the horse and buggy and the stagecoach throughout a nation now obsessed with jumbo jets and sport-utility vehicles.

    July 26, 2014

  • Howard Hewitt: When it comes to wines, small can be very good Repeating the familiar is an easy way to go through life as is taking the safe road. We all do that but find unexpected rewards when taking the path less traveled. That little bit of philosophy applies to visiting wine country.

    July 26, 2014

  • Maleah Stringer: Hats off to the staff at Animal Protection League I often talk about the wonderful volunteers and community support we have at the Animal Protection League. And that volunteers are every non-profits "life blood" this is true for the Animal Protection League as well.

    July 26, 2014

  • Clark, Big Joe mug 'Big Joe' Clark: Beat the market or meet your goals? True or not, my experience tells me that goals – especially when written down – undoubtedly serve as catalysts for success. However, danger arises when a goal does not properly focus on the long term result you expect.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Verna Davis: Seek peace by turning from evil and doing good There's something we all want: peace. World peace. Family peace. Personal peace. We yearn for peace, a feeling of freedom from commotion and antagonism, of harmony in our relationships, of lack of strife or dissension. What would we do to have peace in our lives?

    July 25, 2014

  • Jim Bailey: Now if Grace beats Bethel... Fans in the United States are just now waking up to the complexities of World Cup soccer, which is a lot more popular around the world than it is here.

    July 24, 2014

  • Stanczykiewicz, Bill [Duplicate] Bill Stanczykiewicz: The decline of youth sports leagues An important youth development activity is looking to end a losing streak. Participation in organized youth sports leagues for baseball, football, basketball and soccer declined by 4 percent between 2008-2012, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Front page

About 70 houses in the city will be demolished with a federal loan initiative administered by the state. How many more houses in the city do you think need to be razed?

At least 70 more
200 to 500 more
     View Results