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Monday, January 15, 2007

The Speech that launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott

There are words that inspire and then there are words that launch a movement.

These words are those spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as referenced in Ms. Bradley Jones' sermon, which launched the Montgomery Buss Boycott, which signaled the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.

They are written in the book PARTING THE WATERS by Taylor Branch.

"We are here this evening –for serious business. We are here in a general sense, because first and foremost -- we are American citizens – and we are determined to apply our citizenship –to the fullness of its means."

"But we are here in a specific sense – because of the bus situation in Montgomery. The situation is not at all new. The problem has existed over endless years. Just the other day – just last Thursday to be exact – one of the finest citizens in Montgomery – not one of the finest Negro citizens – but one of the finest citizens in Montgomery – was taken from a bus and carried to jail and arrested – because she refused to give up – to give her seat to a white person."

[Then King spoke of the law, saying that the arrest was doubtful even under the segregation ordinances, because reserved Negro and white bus sections were not specified in them.]

"The law has never been clarified at this point. And I think I speak with – with legal authority – not that I have any legal authority – but I think I speak with legal authority behind me – that the law – the ordinance – the city ordinance has never been totally clarified. And since it had to happen, I’m happy it happened to a person like Mrs. Parks, for nobody can doubt the boundless outreach of her integrity. Nobody can doubt the height of her character, nobody can doubt the depth of her Christian commitment. And just because she refused to get up, she was arrested."

"And you know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression."

"There comes a time when people get tired of being thrown across the abyss of humiliation, where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair."

"There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amidst the piercing chill of an Alpine November."

"There......…We are here – we are here because we are tired now."

"Now let us say that we are not here advocating violence. We have overcome that."

"I want it to be known throughout Montgomery and throughout this nation that we are Christian people. The only weapon that we have in our hands this evening is the weapon of protest."

"If we were incarcerated behind the iron curtains of a communistic nation – we couldn’t do this."

"If we were trapped in the dungeon of a totalitarian regime – we couldn’t do this."

"But the great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right. There will be no crosses burned at any bus stops in Montgomery. There will be no white persons pulled out of their homes and taken out on some distant road and murdered. There will be nobody among us who will stand up and defy the Constitution of this nation."

"My friends, I want it to be known – that we’re going to work with grim and bold determination – to gain justice on the buses in this city. And we are not wrong. We are not wrong in what we are doing."

"If we are wrong – the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong."

"If we are wrong – God Almighty is wrong!"

"If we are wrong – Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer and never came down to earth!"

"If we are wrong – justice is a lie."

"And we are determined here in Montgomery – to work and fight until justice runs down like water, and righteousness like a might stream!"

"And I want to tell you this evening that it is not enough for us to talk about love. Love is one of the pinnacle parts of the Christian faith. There is another side called justice. And justice is really love in calculation."

"Justice is love correcting that which would work against love."

"God is not just the God of love. He’s also the God that standeth before the nations and say, “Be still and know that I am God – and if you don’t obey Me I’m gonna break the backbone of your power – and cast you out of the arms of our international and national relationships."

"Standing beside love is always justice."

"Not only are we using the tools of persuasion – but we’ve got to use the tools of coercion."

"Behave so the sages of the future will look back at the Negroes of Montgomery and say they were a people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights."

"God grant that we will do it before it’s too late. As we proceed with our program – let us think on these things."

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