Martin Luther King Jr. Gives a Masterful Teaching on Non-violent Protest on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ … in 1965

By Mark L. Taylor

Daily Call (1/22/12)


Wish I had come across this video to run on MLK Day, but I didn’t see it until Friday when a colleague showed it to me. This is a fascinating glimpse of not just the man, but the method of non-violent protest.

It’s hard to recall just how brutal the days of the civil rights movement in the south were. Jim Crow was not going away without a fight. Beatings, bombings, murder and assassination were the rule of the day. Cops stood by as thugs attacked peaceful demonstrators and when that failed the cops themselves became the street criminals. The entire power structure conspired to keep poor blacks down and out in the ways of the old south.



There are at least two important reasons for modern viewers to watch this amazing video.



The repeated scenes of disgusting violence by cops from coast to coast against Occupy protesters this past fall were a clear echo of the police state tactics of the 1950’s and ‘60’s attacks on the civil rights movement, giving a whole new generation an up close and very personal teaching in the true nature of the corporate state.

Obviously, there was no way for the advocates of civil rights then to go head-to-head against all those cops; they would never have the power to take them on. The same is true now as we confront the brutality and rule of the modern corporate state.

But, and here is one of the central teachings of the nonviolence movement, even if that were to happen and be successful, the exercise of such reciprocal violence would only twist and darken the souls of those who stooped to the levels of the state. Nothing, really, would change; it would simply be swapping out one form of darkness for another.

So, instead, King and other civil rights organizers used the ju jitsu of non-violent action to actually get the weight and power of the corrupt state to work against itself by illuminating its intrinsic hypocrisy, showcasing its cruelty and advertising its brutish uncivilized nature.

The 1965 five-day march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama by King and other civil rights leaders had an electrifying effect that – as was inevitable - prompted the state to reveal itself for the thuggish darkness it was. On this March 28, 1965 broadcast of NBC’s “Meet the Press” Dr. King went toe-to-toe on live television with three of the most powerful journalists in the nation. We see a pre-awakened Tom Wicker taking a pretty traditional line. He would later go on to do amazing reporting on the struggle of the poor. His covering of King and the movement changed him for the better.

Besides the obvious historical interest, there are two reasons to watch this entire clip:

First, watch how skillful King was in the ebb-and-flow of political discourse. We know the man from the thunderous speeches, but here he is in a much quieter venue projecting a message far larger than the small screen. The man does not utter a single “um” or incomplete sentence. Every answer is a complete, well-crafted resonating statement that doesn’t concede a millimeter of moral ground. Clearly, what is being said is coming from a deep soulful well of insight and and honed on a stone of clarity.

Second, watch it for a masterful seminar on the how and why of non-violent protest and the importance of holding true and steady to the values that count. For the most part the “Meet the Press” journalists simply present the conventional wisdom the current political moment. At every turn, King presents a higher perspective – an invitation, really – to rise above the silly scrum of the political moment to become the better society - the better people - that was and is within our grasp.

The lessons King taught America on a long ago Sunday resonate with the currency of the moment 46 years later.

Treat yourself; this is amazing television. It’s worth every moment.

25-Minute Video:


(Oh, and by the way, if the corporate power grab of the internet as represented by the “anti-piracy” bills in congress were to pass, the “Daily Call” would not be able to pass along this important video. Keep that in mind when you call your senator and congress person. – MLT)

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