As we reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this day set aside for his honor, it’s clear that Dr. King believed racial integration was the only path forward for America to thrive.
“The history of the movement reveals that Negro-white alliances have played a powerfully constructive role, especially in recent years,” Dr. King wrote in his 1967 book “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” the last book he published before his assassination. “While Negro initiative, courage and imagination precipitated the Birmingham and Selma confrontations and revealed the harrowing injustice of segregated life, the organized strength of Negroes alone would have been insufficient to move Congress and the administration without the weight of the aroused conscience of white America. In the period ahead, Negroes will continue to need this support … The American Negro is not in a Congo where the Belgians will go back to Belgium after the battle is over, or in an India where the British will go back to England after independence is won. In the struggle for national independence one can talk about liberation now and integration later, but in the struggle for racial justice in a multiracial society, where the oppressor and the oppressed are both ‘at home,’ liberation must come through integration.”
Dr. King also wrote in his Chaos or Community book about the powerful influence of exceptional leaders–what he called a “creative minority”–to move society forward.
“The hope of the world is still in dedicated minorities,” Dr. King wrote. “The trail blazers in human, academic, scientific and religious freedom have always been in the minority. That creative minority of whites absolutely committed to civil rights can make it clear to the larger society that vacillation and procrastination on the question of racial justice can no longer be tolerated.”
One of these creative leaders was Rev. Billy Graham, who passed away nearly a year ago at the age of 99. Rev. Graham’s grandson, Will Graham, told Bold TV this week that “my grandfather, he was a man that believed that everybody was made equal. Black man, white man, whether it’s the Native American. It didn’t matter the color of your skin, you’re all the same in God’s eyes.”
When it came time to practice what he preached, Will Graham said his grandfather was a bold desegregationist who refused to preach in a segregated venue.
“Especially in the South, when the South was segregated,” Will Graham said. “My granddaddy would preach and they had it segregated. It was during segregation, and my grandaddy said ‘No I’m gonna tear these ropes down. We’re not going to have that. I’m preaching to one crowd, not two different crowds here.’ And a man came up and said ‘If you do that they’re gonna carry you out in a pine box.’ He said, ‘Then I’m getting carried out in a pine box.’ And he went down and tore them down. Now needless to say my grandfather didn’t get killed that night, but a lot of people weren’t happy. But my granddaddy believed that everybody was created equal. Men, women, black, white didn’t matter. So my granddaddy, he preached that and he lived it.”
Will Graham said “my grandfather was good friends with Martin Luther King. My granddaddy said: ‘Do I need to do more?’ talking to Martin Luther King, and Martin Luther says, ‘Tell you what Billy. We’ve both got different callings in life. Let me stick to the streets and you stick to the stadiums.’ And, so they were good friends … both were equal, both were good friends, but both had different functions, and Martin Luther knew it. He said, ‘Billy you stick to the stadiums let me stick to the streets.'”
In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Dr. King spoke of the only path beyond racism and violence: love. This was the central message to which both Dr. King and Rev. Graham dedicated their lives.
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality,” Dr. King said. “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
Watch the full Bold TV interview with Will Graham below: