Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King


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Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King


It is early months of 1963 in the southern city of Birmingham Alabama. A city that lies in civil unrest and bitterly divided. A city to which African Americans march, hold protests and sit-ins in an effort to gain equal rights. They are met with brutal opposition in the form of police officers, attack dogs and water hoses. During this time of utter chaos two separate civil rights leaders speak out on their beliefs. Reverend Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King both speak on the issues of violence, the media and the will of the Negro people as a whole in a effort to win support for the African American Community.

“I saw the system naked. I saw it without pose. I saw it face to face for all of its brutality and its ugliness, and the depth of its venom… I made a commitment to fight for the rest of my life. (Jackson 344)” Jesse Jackson saw fighting as “the only way they would listen (Jackson 2)”. Violence was something that Jackson felt came with the territory. For the people that were there to stop the marchers as Jackson felt “could not have cared less” for the lives of the African American marchers (Jackson 2). Martin Luther King on the other hand felt rather differently on the subject of violence. King felt that it was wrong to fight back for it was “wrong to use immoral acts to attain moral ends (King 9)” King felt that the opposition, those trying to oppress the black man were evil in their manner. He felt that by allowing his protestors to fight back against the dogs, water hoses and police officers he was allowing them to “stoop to their level of ignorance” something that he did not want to see happen (King 8). King felt that “there [was] no greater treason than to do the wrong deed for the right reason (King 8)”

The media is a point on to which both Jackson and King agree on. Jackson seemed to put it best in the lines “ You see the media has more power than the politicians who make laws, or the bankers who make money or the police who carry weapons. Because the media has the appraisal power and it determines the worth of things.” Jackson also felt that the media was important because it “embarrassed” white people to see the beating of a black man to the point of unconsciousness all because he was trying to obtain a seat at a white restaurant (Jackson 333).

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King felt too that the media was a great tool that if used properly would be a great asset to his cause. When letters were posted in the Birmingham Papers from clergymen in regard to King’s actions King responded in a manner that utilized the media. He responded in the editorial section of the same paper and defended himself against the comments that previously attacked him. Here he was able to speak freely about the injustice that his people were going though.

A final idea that both Jackson and Kind disagreed on was their feelings on the will of Negro people. Jackson felt that it was only “those who had the ambition of higher education and dreams” that desired change (Jackson 333). Jackson believed that the poor black man “accepted their places in the back of the bus, in the kitchen, on the welfare lines (Jackson 333). King did not feel this way. He felt that the desire of equality was something that all of the Negro people wanted. This point can be seen in the story of Janus Merediths. Merediths was a black man from the south who never saw life outside of the cotton plant in South Carolina. Yet when Meredith heard that he would have a chance to change the lives of his black children for the better, he was in Birmingham. Standing there with “sublime courage, the willingness to suffer and with amazing discipline in the midst of the most evil human provocation.(King 9)” It is through this depiction of the average black man Janus Meredith we understand that King thought that all black men wanted equal rights not just the educated negros.

Jackson and King were two separate men fighting for a common goal. Although many of feelings toward subjects like the media, violence and the will of the Negro people were not always the final goal was something that they agreed on unconditionally. Jackson and King were men that fought in words, in peaceful and violent protests and silence, all for a single goal, that all men regardless of race, be treated equally.


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