Friday, February 29, 2008

MLK and LBJ: a phone conversation

I found another great audio artifact at the website of the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs: an actual telephone conversation between the Rev. Martin Luther King and President Lyndon Johnson!

The phone call took place on January 15, 1965. Dr. King first congratulated the president on his State of the Union address. Then he made this appeal on behalf of civil rights leaders nationwide:

“We have a strong feeling that it would mean so much to the health of our whole democracy, to the Negro and to the nation to have a Negro in the Cabinet.”

MLK continued: “It would really be a great step forward for the nation, for the Negro, for our international image, and would do so much to give many people a lift who need a lift now. And I’m sure that it could give a new sense of dignity and self-respect to millions of Negroes....”

Click here to hear a 6½-minute excerpt from that call on my Vox blog. (Johnson’s voice is clear as a bell, but King’s end of the conversation is harder to hear.)

President Johnson agreed with King, and talked about his plan to create a Cabinet-level department for housing and urban affairs. (This came to pass later in 1965.) Johnson said he wanted to appoint Robert C. Weaver to head such a department.

Indeed, Weaver (pictured) became the first Secretary of Housing and Urban Development... and the first African American to serve in the U.S. Cabinet.


Render said...

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
". . . You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely 'anti-Zionist.' And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God's green earth: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews--this is God's own truth.
"Antisemitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently antisemitic, and ever will be so.

"Why is this? You know that Zionism is nothing less than the dream and ideal of the Jewish people returning to live in their own land. The Jewish people, the Scriptures tell us, once enjoyed a flourishing Commonwealth in the Holy Land. From this they were expelled by the Roman tyrant, the same Romans who cruelly murdered Our Lord. Driven from their homeland, their nation in ashes, forced to wander the globe, the Jewish people time and again suffered the lash of whichever tyrant happened to rule over them.

"The Negro people, my friend, know what it is to suffer the torment of tyranny under rulers not of our choosing. Our brothers in Africa have begged, pleaded, requested--DEMANDED the recognition and realization of our inborn right to live in peace under our own sovereignty in our own country.

"How easy it should be, for anyone who holds dear this inalienable right of all mankind, to understand and support the right of the Jewish People to live in their ancient Land of Israel. All men of good will exult in the fulfilment of God's promise, that his People should return in joy to rebuild their plundered land.

This is Zionism, nothing more, nothing less.

"And what is anti-Zionist? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the Globe. It is discrimination against Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it is antisemitism.

"The antisemite rejoices at any opportunity to vent his malice. The times have made it unpopular, in the West, to proclaim openly a hatred of the Jews. This being the case, the antisemite must constantly seek new forms and forums for his poison. How he must revel in the new masquerade! He does not hate the Jews, he is just 'anti-Zionist'!

"My friend, I do not accuse you of deliberate antisemitism. I know you feel, as I do, a deep love of truth and justice and a revulsion for racism, prejudice, and discrimination. But I know you have been misled--as others have been--into thinking you can be 'anti-Zionist' and yet remain true to these heartfelt principles that you and I share.

Let my words echo in the depths of your soul: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews--make no mistake about it."

From M.L. King Jr., "Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend," Saturday Review_XLVII (Aug. 1967), p. 76.
Reprinted in M.L. King Jr., "This I Believe: Selections from the Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."


Render said...


Render said...

A New Addition to Martin Luther King's Legacy...


Gioperation said...

let me ask you this...since this call took place on 1/15...who made it to whom...was the president calling to say happy birthday to MLK? said...

Hey there!! {waves}

This is quite interesting!!

Thanks for sharing!

By the way, send me an email so I can add your email address to the invited guest list of my blog!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!