As part of your lessons on Martin Luther King, Jr., help students understand the depth of how Dr. King's Christian faith impacted his leadership in the civil rights movement.
Below is an excerpt from a U.S. State Department website that reminds us of a largely-forgotten part of the non-violent protests for civil rights. For the complete article, click on the link at the end of this article.
IMPORTANT REMINDER: You are not proselytizing for merely teaching your students about Dr. King's passionate insistence that his fellow protesters base their actions on Christian principles.
Excerpted from "The Martin Luther King We Remember" by Adam Wolfson and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan
The Christian springs of King's statesmanship are abundantly evident. With the successful end of the Montgomery bus boycott, King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in order to take the civil rights struggle and his nonviolent message throughout the South. One of his most trusted aides urged him to drop the word Christian from the new organization. It was argued that such an explicit religious reference would alienate white Northern liberals, whose support would be crucial in the years ahead. King was adamant, however, and the word Christian remained. He also insisted that civil rights participants be guided by Christian principles. For example, volunteers in the Birmingham campaign were required to sign a "Commitment Card" that read in part:
I HEREBY PLEDGE MYSELF--MY PERSON AND MY BODY--TO THE NONVIOLENT MOVEMENT. THEREFORE I WILL KEEP THE FOLLOWING TEN COMMANDMENTS:
- MEDITATE daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
- REMEMBER always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation-not victory.
- WALK and TALK in the manner of love, for God is love.
- PRAY daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.
- SACRIFICE personal wishes in order that all men might be free.
- OBSERVE with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
- SEEK to perform regular service for others and for the world.
- REFRAIN from the violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
- STRIVE to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
- FOLLOW the directions of the movement and of the captain on a demonstration.
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