Box 16, Folder 6, Document 79

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Eugene Patterson

MLK: Where
The Action Is?

WASHINGTON — The liberal Washington
§ Post said Thursday that many who have

. ras listened to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with
respect in the past ‘will never again accord him the same confi-
dence. He has diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his
country and to his people. And that is a great tragedy.” The At-
lanta Negro leader deliberately dumped a hod cf bricks on his
own head when he narrowed his base in the civil rights movement
to the confines of the Vietnam ‘‘peace movement.”

But the civil rights movement as it was practiced non-
violently under Dr. King was in trouble anyway. His demonstra-
tions had won their big battles. The antipovertv program he
advocated had been hiring the old militant leaders and moving
them off the streets and into offices where they were invited to
perform instead of protest. :

A fringe of “black power” advocates stole the stage. For all

their admirable goals of instilling pride of race in the Negro,

their technique was a dangerous reverse demogoguery and a
' ready resort to violence.

The riots that ensued were disastrous for the civil rights
movement. After each outburst of lawlessness and vandalism,
white support dwindled, anti-Negro enmities hardened, and civil
rights leaders struggled to minimize the damage with cooling-off
periods that broke the momentum of the movement. _

Then as the black power racists began expelling whites, who
used to make up a big contingent of the nonviolent demonstrations,
fe war in Vietnam gave these white youngsters somewhere else


The same university campuses that supplied manpower and
money for the civil rights movement are preoccupied almost ex-
clusively now with the peace-in-Vietnam protests. That’s where
the action is, all of a sudden, for the white kids who have been
told by Stokely Carmichael that the Negro doesn’t need them
any more.

Dr. King must have watched this breaking up of a rational
civil rights movement with deep dismay.

_ Without questioning his obviously deep-felt convictions about
Vietnam, one can see that he is now in position to salvage at
least some of the dissipated following of the civil rights move-
ment, assuming a drastically narrow base is better than no
base at all.

Yet there is disappointment among many who had hored
Dr. King would somehow overcome the obstacles and revitalize
a responsible movement within the civil rights arena itself, and
not follow the black power hotheads into the emotional tangle of
foreign policy. This he failed to do. It is probably right to call
it a tragedy. It now seems likely that the less spectacular but
harder working old organizations like the NAACP and the Urban
League will have to take up the burden of new responsibilities if
the civil rights cause is to have continuity hereafter.

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