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|Bk. 1||A Mighty Stream: (1955-1957)||1|
|Bk. 2||Middle Passage: (1963-1966)||157|
|Bk. 3||Crossing to Jerusalem: (1967-1968)||295|
|Conclusion: Building the Beloved Community||457|
First Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama
January 30, 1956
"Onward Christian soldiers," the spirited assembly belted out, "marching as to war." The hymn had been written to inspire Union forces during the Civil War. Prayer followed, then another hymn, "Plant My Feet on Higher Ground." A short, somber minister rose to the pulpit for that evening's pep talk.
"Some of our good white citizens told me today that the relationships between white and colored used to be good," he said softly, "that the whites have never let us down and that the outsiders came in and upset this relationship. But I want you to know," his voice building volume, "that if M. L. King had never been born, this movement would have taken place. I just happened to be here.
"There comes a time," his words now a resonating shout, "when time itself is ready for change. That time has come in Montgomery and I had nothing to do with it.
"Our opponents -- I hate to think of our governmental officers as opponents, but they are -- have tried all sorts of things to break us, but we still hold steadfast. Their first strategy was to negotiate into a compromise and that failed. Secondly, they tried to conquer by dividing and that failed. Now they are trying to intimidate us by a get-tough policy and that's going to fail too, because a man's language is courage when his back is against the wall." The assembly erupted in thunderclaps.
"When we are right, we don't mind going to jail!" More ear-splitting applause. "If all I have to pay is going to jail a few times and getting about twenty threatening phone calls a day, I think that is a very small price to pay for what we are fighting for. We are a chain. We are linked together, and I cannot be what I ought to be unless you are what you ought to be." More thunderous clapping as he sat down.
Following him at the pulpit was Solomon S. Seay, former head of the national African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church.
"You know," Rev. Seay started out, "if a man doesn't want to sit besides me because I'm dirty, that's my fault. If he doesn't want to sit besides me because I'm loud, that's my fault too, but if he doesn't want to sit besides me because I'm black, that's not my fault because God made me black and my white brother is discriminating against God and His will. But even though they are, we must love them. We must love Mr. Sellers and Mr. Gayle for God said that we must love our enemies as ourselves. Let's not hate them, for with love in our hearts and God on our side, there are no forces in hell or on earth that can mow us down.
"I had a book which was so interesting," he continued, "that I gave it to the city officials to read. It's a book on great powers, the stories of men who ruled and conquered by force only to lose. Men like Alexander the Great, Napoleon and Hitler were discussed, men who lived by the sword. Their empires are no longer, but have perished.
"But there was a man who taught that love and faith could move mountains and more mountains. And unto this day that empire which was built by a man who said while dying on the cross, 'Forgive them O Lord, for they know not what they do.' That is the empire of Jesus Christ! He was asking forgiveness for the men who crucified him, drove nails through his hands and put thorns on his head. So we forgive Sellers and Gayle, but we do not give up."
Back at the King parsonage on South Jackson Street, a small one-story clapboard house, Coretta Scott King was watching television, still a novelty, in the front parlor, a church friend keeping her company. She heard the thud of something landing on the concrete porch and foot-steps scurrying away. Alert to what it might be, she grabbed her friend and they dashed to the back of the house, where tiny, two-month-old Yolanda was sleeping in her crib. Then came the explosion, the loudest noise she had ever heard. She held her screaming friend. The baby cried. The dynamite sticks had blown a hole in the concrete floor, wrecked porch columns and the front wall, and smashed several windows. It would have injured anyone sitting in the parlor. It would likely have killed Coretta King had she looked out the window to investigate the thud.
Over at First Baptist on the other side of the statehouse, Rev. King was supervising the collection. A member of his church walked briskly down the aisle and whispered to Rev. Ralph Abernathy, King's closest friend, whose church this was. Out of the corner of his eye King saw ministers conferring urgently. Agitated, he turned to Abernathy and asked what the hell was going on.
"Your house has been bombed."
He asked about his wife and baby.
"We are checking on that now."
He returned to the pulpit, told the people what happened. Several shouted out in shock and alarm. A few women screamed. King urged calm, which he somehow embodied, advising them to go home directly and hold to nonviolent principles.
"Let us keep moving," he said firmly but wearily, "with the faith that what we are doing is right, and with the even greater faith that God is with us in the struggle."
Staring straight ahead, he marched out of the church and drove home. The parsonage was surrounded by a furious sea of several hundred black people, who "came to do battle," Coretta King recalled. New waves were arriving every minute. Densely packed, they closed in around the house ...To the Mountaintop