A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780446678094
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 01/28/2002
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 278,286
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)

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December 5, 1955, was one of the memorable and inspiring days of my life. History records this day as the beginning of the modern Civil Rights Movement that transformed America and influenced freedom revolutions around the world.

I had been arrested four days earlier, on December 1, in my hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to get up and give my seat on a city bus to a white man, which was a much-resented customary practice at the time. Local black community leaders, the Reverend E. D. Nixon and attorney Fred Gray, asked me if I would be willing to make a test case out of my arrest, with the goal of ending segregation on Montgomery's buses, and I agreed to cooperate with them.

Mrs. Joanne Robinson and other local black women leaders of the Women's Political Council of our community met on the evening of my arrest and decided to call a boycott to begin on December 5, the day of my trial. I was found guilty of violating a segregation statute and given a suspended sentence, with a ten-dollar fine plus four dollars in court costs. This was in keeping with our legal strategy, so we could appeal and challenge the segregation law in a higher court.

A group of ministers met later in the afternoon of December 5 and formed a new organization, the Montgomery Improvement Association. An open meeting of the black community was called for that evening at the Holt Street Baptist Church. The ministers elected a young minister named Martin Luther King, Jr., whom I had met briefly a few months before, to serve as its first president and spokesman. Dr. King was chosen in part because he was relatively new to the community and so did not have any enemies. Also Dr. King had made a strong impression on Rufus Lewis, an influential member of our community who attended Dr. King's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. I had met Dr. King's wife, Coretta, and had attended concerts where she sang, but I didn't know she was his wife at the time.

By the time I arrived at the meeting, the church was so filled up that a crowd of hundreds spilled out into the street, and speakers had to be set up outside to accommodate everyone. The excitement around the church was electrifying, and I remember having a sense that something powerful was being born. I squeezed my way through the crowd to my seat on the platform, where a lively discussion about the boycott strategy was underway.

Then Dr. King was introduced to the audience and began to speak in the rich, poised baritone and learned eloquence that distinguished even this debut speech of his career as a civil rights leader. Later Dr. King would write that he normally took fifteen hours to prepare his sermons, but because of the hectic events of the day, he'd had only twenty minutes to prepare for "the most decisive speech of my life." He spent five minutes of his time worrying about it, and then wisely prayed to God for guidance.

His prayer must have been heard, because on that historic night, despite all of the pressure on him, Dr. King showed no trace of doubt or hesitancy. He spoke like a seasoned preacher and was frequently interrupted throughout his remarks by an energetic chorus of "Amen," "That's right," "Keep talkin'," and "Yes, Lord."

Dr. King recounted the abuses Montgomery's black citizens had experienced leading up to the boycott. He spoke about what had happened to me and why we must win this struggle. He told the crowd that our boycott was a patriotic protest, very much in the tradition of American democracy. He underscored the critical importance of honoring the principles of nonviolence and rooting our protest in the teachings of Jesus Christ, alongside our unshakable determination to win the boycott.

And then, as he concluded, he said the words that I will never forget, the prophetic words that, for me, still define the character of our nonviolent freedom movement: "When the history books are written in the future, somebody will have to say, 'There lived a race of people, a black people, fleecy locks and black complexion, a people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights. And thereby they injected a new meaning into the veins of history and of civilization.'"

Amid the thundering applause that met the conclusion of Dr. King's speech on that night, there was a sense that this speech had launched a brave new era. Dr. King had spelled it out with clarity and eloquence: This movement was not just about desegregating the buses, or even just the mistreatment of our people in Montgomery. This movement was about slaking the centuries-old thirst of a long-suffering people for freedom, dignity, and human rights. It was time to drink at the well.

In these pages we celebrate the wonderful oratory of one of America's greatest leaders. But let us remember that what gave his speeches and sermons legitimacy was that Dr. King didn't just talk the talk; he walked the walk from Montgomery to Memphis, enduring jails, beatings, abuse, threats, the bombing of his home, and the highest sacrifice a person can make for a righteous cause.

When I entered the courtroom that morning, I heard one of our supporters chanting, "They messed with the wrong one now." But when I headed home after Dr. King's speech I knew that we had found the right one to articulate our protest. As the weeks and months wore on, it became clear to me that we had found our Moses, and he would surely lead us to the promised land of liberty and justice for all.

ROSA LOUISE PARKS was a civil rights activist and local NAACP official in Montgomery, Alabama, for over a decade before her refusal to abide by segregated bus-seating practices on December 1, 1955, sparked the successful Montgomery bus boycott. Parks, facing the loss of her job and other forms of intimidation, left Montgomery for Detroit, Michigan, where she continued her political work and cofounded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.

Copyright (c) 2001 by The Heirs to the Estate of

Martin Luther King, Jr. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Address to the First Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) Mass Meeting1
The Birth of a New Nation13
Give Us the Ballot43
Address at the Freedom Rally in Cobo Hall57
I Have a Dream75
Eulogy for the Young Victims of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing89
Acceptance Address for the Nobel Peace Prize101
Address at the Conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March111
Beyond Vietnam133
Where Do We Go from Here?165
I've Been to the Mountaintop201

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Call to Conscience 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
knightchief123 More than 1 year ago
A Call to Conscience is a book made up of all spectacular speeches and sermons given by Dr. Martin Luther King complied all into one book. The speeches include " Address to the First Montgomery Improvement Association(MIA) Mass Meeting, "The Birth of a New Nation", "Give us the Ballot", I Have a Dream", "I've Been to the Mountaintop," and many others. In these many speeches, Martin Luther King paints a very vivid picture for how dark and twisted the time period in which he lived in, really was. He showed the true horrors of what life has been for black in the United States during the 1950's and 60's, and explained their everyday struggle to gain civil rights and to be treated like a human. In his first speech at the (MIA) Mass Meeting, he mentions, "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.... I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up.... I still believe that we shall overcome." In the novel, Dr. King tries to explain to the African American community that they should fight love with hate. Throughout the novel, Dr. King tries to get them, not to fight against each other in anger of their situation, but unite them in order that they can fight the white men peace. He also referred to the biblical occurrence of the Israelites being in Egypt, and how they had to join together and break free from the Egyptians, and by the help from God, they passed through the Red Sea and were taken through the wilderness, into the Promised Land. He likened this to the situation of the African American community in their time, facing oppression, racism, just like the Israelites when they were held as slaves in Egypt. He also referred to the African American community as God's chosen race. In Martin Luther King's last speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop", he mentioned, "if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?" I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God's children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the Promised Land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn't stop there." Dr. King continued on to say "I call upon you to take your money out of the banks downtown and deposit your money in Tri-State Bank. We want a "bank-in" movement in Memphis. Go by the savings and loan association. I'm not asking you something that we don't do ourselves at SCLC. Judge Hooks and others will tell you that we have an account here in the savings and loan association from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. We are telling you to follow what we are doing. Put your money there. You have six or seven black insurance companies here in the city of Memphis. Take out your insurance there." (A Call to Conscience, 216) See, he knew how to attack the problem, without using violence and hatred. He truly proved to be a great leader for not only his community of African Americans but for whites. All in all this was a great book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am exicted to own this collection of speeches by one of the greatest Americans. However, I was very irritated to discover that THE CD'S WILL NOT PLAY ON EITHER OF MY COMPUTERS. They play fine on a regular CD player. This information should be known in advance of purchase. I do not regret the purchase IN SPITE OF THE MAJOR INCONVENIENCE of not being able to listen in my office.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Stanford University Professor Clayborne Carson compiles some of the great speeches by Dr. King that stirred the world into positive social activity. Most of the entries are famous such as the ¿I Have A dream¿, a personal favorite not just solely because of the moving address. I shared a row in coach on a plane from Hartsfield to Reagan with Congressman Lewis who still has butterflies from that landmark moment in history any time he flies into DC. The introductions to each oration provide additional perspectives on eleven of the ¿landmark speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.¿. This is a wonderful collection that takes the reader back to a time of turmoil in which a prophet arose to awaken a generation into believing not just dreaming that justice and equality needs to be the American way.

Harriet Klausner

wrmjr66 on LibraryThing 7 months ago
These are definitely the landmark speeches. It's amazing to read them in a row and realize how much of an effect he had on our country in a very short time. The introductions are interesting because they are by people who knew him, but they don't offer much in the way of interesting commentary.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am amazed at how this man could speak!!!He moves me so much that I am speechless when I read what he has written!!!!!!!! By: a fifth grader . I'm not kidding. I'm 10
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Kayleigh Harnden More than 1 year ago
during my 4th grade years and 5th grade years i love this speach an i still remember it like it was yesterday my kids aree also saying the speach later to day :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is full of truths that we still need to hear today. A must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't own many non-fictional books, but this one I had to get. It's the only book I own that's a hardcover, but it was worth every penny. I came across it by pure accident in the library while searching for images on the Civil Rights movement and ended up reading it for a couple of hours. I always knew that Dr. King was (historically)a great speaker, but I had no idea how great he really was until I picked up this book and have gained more respect for him. I suggest anyone at least read the book once, especially if they're in a down time in their life.