Monday, January 19, 2009

My Town Monday: Martin Luther King in Detroit

MLK's march in Detroit in 1963, a few months before the one in Washington, was mammoth due to UAW involvement. 200,000 people marched down Woodward Avenue (Detroit's main thoroughfare) led by King and Reuther. It ended at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit where King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream Speech" for the first time.

According to Dr. Steve Babson, labor historian, at Wayne State University "King planned the march in Detroit to test the waters for the upcoming march on Washington. They were hoping to get 250,000 to 300,000 people to march on Washington and wanted to see how many would show up in Detroit before planning the bigger march. They were surprised at the numbers they got. People came from all over the country."

Isn't it amazing and wonderful that one day before inaugurating our first African-American President, we celebrate the life of a man who inspired him and led the way.

Travis Erwin, the founder of MTM, is still recovered from his house fire. You can find other MTM posts at Sepiru Chris'

For the definitive work on Martin Luther King, Jr. and his place in US history, try Taylor Branch's two volume work PARTING THE WATERS. (This from my husband).


Dana King said...

I am your basic middle-aged white guy from Western Pennsylvania. I enthusiastically voted for Obama, and was glad to see him win for practical purposes. As a history buff, I also appreciated the historical significance in an intellectual way. I was happy, but not losing sleep over it.

There is a 21-year-old black man who delivers mail in my office. Every morning he and I discuss the events of the day. Being men, the "events of the day" usually have to do with sports. The day after election day we spoke briefly of the election, nothing serious. Who we voted for, maybe some things can get fixed now, the usual superficial "guys at work" topics.

At one point my friend got quiet, looked over my shoulder a bit, and said, "I can't believe a black man is going to be president," with a catch in his voice. He's 21, with no memory of segregation, Jim Crow, or Bull Connor. Seeing him made me think of what it must be like for someone my age (53) or older, who lived through the civil rights struggles of the 50s and 60s, to see such an event in their lifetime. (Unlike me, who was aware only from the news, and then only in passing due to my youth at the time.)

It gave me a new appreciation of what is, truly, a very good thing for all of us, regardless of how quickly the economy shapes up.

Todd Mason said...

Happy King Day! And Poe's birthday.

There was an attempt, by Sidney Lens and others, to draft Martin Luther King, Jr., to run in 1968 for the US presidency as the candidate of what became the People's Party, with Benjamin Spock as his running mate. Spock actually did run on that ticket in 1972.

While I suspect that had King agreed and survived long enough to do so, he might've come in fourth in '68...but who knows what might've happened subsequently. I'd certainly rather have had him around for years to come.

Sepiru Chris said...

Hello Pattinase,

As a Canadian, I never cease to be amazed at how big the racial divide appears to have been in American politics, and how big it may still be.

Even after living in the US, it still surprises me.

Thanks for this post on Martin Luther King Day, and of the preparatory role that Detroit had.

Also, thank you to both Dana King and Todd Mason for your comments. As commentators on Pattinase's blog, you enrich others understanding also. Thanks.

Pattinase, your post is up.

Oh, and Pattinase, I should note that Junosmom is also cohosting in Travis' absence.



Pattinase, any suggestions on really good biographies of Martin Luther King? Or any other commentators? Have you suggestions? They would be appreciated. Thank you.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Dana-That has happened to me several times and I burst out crying each one.
Todd-One of the most moving experiences of my life was going to Memphis and seeing the motel King was shot on the balcony in.
Chris-See addition for biography.

Sepiru Chris said...

Pattinase (and husband),

Thank you very much. I will order it.


Barrie said...

The timing (Obama's inauguration and MLK Day) is quite amazing. Good for my kids to be aware of this too.

Todd Mason said...

Well, Chris, consider the Francophones, the Anglophones, and the Mohawk and northern Nations, and the dynamic in Canada isn't so very different.

Todd Mason said...

And thanks for the kind word.

John McFetridge said...

Unfortunately the dynamic in Canada is a lot different - and often a lot worse.

It's not right to put Francophones on the list, really, that was the easiest "revolution" in history, but to this day the treatment of Native Canadians (not just Mohawks in the east, but even moreso the Natives of the west), the patronizing and racist "Indian Act," the whole concept of Indian "reserves" is almost completely ignored in the mainstream in Canada.

We started a "Truth and Reconciliation" trial last year (because we "sort of" think aparthied is a bad idea, but we still have it) but gave it so little authority to do anything that no one took it seriously and it disbanded.

The equivalent of Barak Obama in Canada would be a Native Canadian elected Prime Minister and we are a long, long way from that, even if Phil Fontaine considers a run and even if we just named a Native Canadian to the Senate.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I could see a Native American US President now. Especially if Bill Richards had behaved himself. Maybe the flagrancy of the discussion here produces movement. Whereas in Canada it's more a whispering discussion.

Todd Mason said...

And we have only one African-Am in our Senate, again.

And the racial divide here includes our own little native-nation "homeland"-stans. It's just that we have had individuals from so many groups to get kicked around (and even worse) down here.

Todd Mason said...

Actually, Bill Richardson should've livelied himself up a bit for a better shot, during the race...though he apparently indentifies as Hispanic, though presumably Mestizo Hispanic (and obviously a few Anglos in there with his name).

Charles Gramlich said...

Well, Obama is sure left with a hole to dig out of.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I can't imagine any shovel big enough either.

Sepiru Chris said...

Hi Todd,

I have done some First Nations litigation in Canada, and some overseas too.

There are parallels between Canada's various First Nations, and the African American experience, but there are also stark contrasts.

Conquest of indigenous land has a strong continental and British legal history, with interesting and unintended ramifications.

Canada's real challenges (ignoring historical inequities) came from a fractured treaty regime. Fractures and discontinuities allow lawyers like myself to find opportunities for redress.

The fractured treaty regime was due to fatigued negotiators, fatigued by the sheer reality of travel across Canada's vast breadth.

As negotiators moved westward they became tired, sloppy, and negligent. (Admittedly, this is a significant oversimplification...)

All this yields a different contextual outcome than peoples kidnapped, shipped across an ocean, and sold as slaves.

Also, the relative percentages of marginalized people affected in Canada and the USA are very different which yields differing dynamics and both different strategies and outcomes as possibilities.

The percentage of the African American population in the USA, compared to the First Nations population as a percentage of the whole in Canada, is remarkably different across these two great countries.

The poverty in Canada's various indigenous communities is as brutal as it can be in certain racial (and other) ghettos in the US, but the ability for indigenous peoples in Canada to conceive of making a political difference, through politics, is utterly dissimilar.

In Canada, changes are sought through the courts, including for political redress, which the courts, generally and rightly, eventually dismiss by requiring 'consultation' (which I put in modified parentheses because its meaning is legal and changing) or deciding legal issues, but not touching the political aspects.

Oops. My prolixity is showing.

I really meant to come back and thank Pattinase again for a really interesting, though brief, post that has me thinking.

And I also wanted to thank Pattinase' community for fostering further thought.

Thank you all.


PS Pattinase, there is no way I am commenting on your Spongebob post now because I fear I have said way too much already. Sorry for taking so much space.

John McFetridge said...

"I can't imagine any shovel big enough either."

At the risk of sounding trite and cliche, Patti, you need to imagine a few hundred million little shovels.

The history of the world shows that when faced with adversity the usual path is to fall to extremes; communism, fascism, dictator, or, to turn against one another and get all tribal.

Uniting people is the toughest thing in the world to do, but at least you seem to have a President who'd like to give that a try. Very, very rare.