Segregation And Dr. King
Stride Toward Freedom, by Martin Luther King, Jr. (Harper, 1958, 230 pp., $2.95) is reviewed by E. Earle Ellis, Assistant Professor of New Testament, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.
For over a year Negroes of Montgomery, Alabama, boycotted city buses in an effort to change certain discriminatory practices against Negro passengers. This is the frankly partisan story of that boycott as told by its leader. Simply written, it reads—apart from its tragic implications—almost like an adventure story. The mounting tensions, climaxes, and the hero-villain contrasts are deftly woven into the story to present the author’s position in an effective and moving manner.
To end the boycott, the Negro leadership demanded (1) courteous treatment, (2) segregated seating—but strictly on a first-come, first-served basis (along with driver discourtesies this grievance, and not segregation per se, gave rise to the boycott), (3) employment of Negro drivers on predominantly Negro routes. It is not without irony that the rejection of these moderate proposals by the segregationist city fathers served to strengthen the contention that segregation cannot be equitably administered. “Even when we asked for justice within the segregation laws, the ‘powers that be’ were not willing to grant it. Justice and equality, I saw, would never come while segregation remained …” (p. 13). If the South is to get any relief from federal force bills, it will be only with the sympathy of fair-minded persons in the North and West. The conduct of the Montgomery authorities here did nothing to enhance the reputation of Southern leadership in the rest of the nation.
The story is not without its amusing aspects. The picture ...1
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