Documents of American History II

1950s: Martin Luther King's ''Montgomery Story'' Address, 1955

Courtesy the King Center, Atlanta, Ga.

You can never understand Montgomery until you understand that there is a new Negro in the South with a new sense of dignity and destiny. For many years Negroes in Montgomery suffered injustices, indignities and insults on the buses. You know the story; it has been told many, many times. But 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 plunged across the abyss of exploitation, 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 in the piercing chill of an Alpine November. The story of Montgomery is the story of 50,000 Negroes who are tired of injustice and exploitation and who are willing to substitute tired feet for tired souls, to walk and walk and walk until the walls of injustice are crushed by the battering rams of historical necessity. This is the new Negro. We have come a long, way since 1619. We are willing to sacrifice and even suffer until the walls of injustice have crumbled. This is at bottom the meaning of the Montgomery Story. We must be willing and we must have the courage to stand up and protest for freedom. We must be willing to stand up and ~~~ passively resist segregation wherever we see it. Now we cannot use the ~~~ method of retaliatory violence. I would never advocate that. For violence in the final analysis creates more problems that it solves. It would be both immoral and impractical to try to solve our problems through violence. There is a ~~~ voice crying out through the vista of time saying that he who lives by the ~~~ sword shall perish by the sword. History is replete with the bleak bones of nations who have failed to listen to this voice. So we cannot do it ~~~ through violence; that's not the message. We must stand up non-violently and protest, using love as the regulating ideas. We must have love, compassion and understanding for those against whom we struggle, letting them know that as we seek to cast segregation and discrimination off of the face of the earth, we're not seeking to deceive or to humiliate them, but to ~~~ lift them to new levels of existence and to help them in the final analysis. We must help them to see that hate is as damaging a problem or more damaging to the hater than it is to the hated, so that our methods must be non-violent. We must be willing to love and not become bitter. We must pass on, we must continue to move on and to keep the ball of civil rights rolling to the end.

There are certain words in the technical vocabulary of every academic discipline that tend after a while to become stereotype and cliches, there is a word in modern psychology which is now probably more familiar than any other words in psychology. It is the word the maladjusted; it is the ringing cry of the new child, psychology-maladjusted. And as a minister seeing and counseling with people very day concerning their problems and their maladjustment's, I'm certainly concerned with those who are maladjusted, concerned to see everybody as adjusted as possible. But I want to leave this evening saying to you that there are some things in our social system that I'm proud to be maladjusted to, and I call upon you to be maladjusted to. I never intend to adjust myself to the viciousness of lynch mobs; I never intend to become adjusted to the evils of segregation and discrimination; I never intend to become adjusted to the tragic inequalities of the economic system which will take necessity from the masses to give luxury to the classes; I never intend to become adjusted to the insanity's of militarism, the self-defeating method of physical violence. There are some things that I never intend to become adjusted to, and I call upon you to continue to be maladjusted. History still has a choice place for the maladjusted. There is still a call for individuals to be maladjusted. The salvation of our ~~~ world lies in the hands of the maladjusted. I call upon you to be maladjusted, maladjusted as the prophet Amos who in the midst of the tragic inequalities of injustice in his day cried out in words that echoes across the generations: ''Let judgment run down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.'' As maladjusted as Lincoln who confronted a nation divided against itself and had the vision to see that the nation could not exist half free, and half slave. Maladjusted as the ~~~ hundreds and thousands ~~~ of Negroes, North and South who are determined now to stand up for freedom, willing to face possible violence and possible death, who are willing to stand up and sacrifice and struggle until segregation is a dead reality and until integration is a fact. Maladjusted as Jefferson who in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery cried out in words ?? of cosmic proportions: ''All men are created equal; they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'' I call upon you to ~~~ follow this maladjusted. It is through such as maladjustment that we will be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight ~~~ of man's inhumanity to man to the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom, equality and justice.

Last update: February 28th, 2003.