As the historic wave of sit-ins
sweep across the South, segregationists strike back with mob
violence, arrests, firehoses, dogs, and tear-gas. In an act of political
retribution, Alabama indicts
Dr. King on felony tax-evasion charges that could put him behind
bars for five years. In New York, a "Committee to Defend Dr. King and
the Struggle for Freedom in the South" is formed to raise money for
King's legal defense, support the students, and advance
On March 29, 1960 the Committee runs a full-page advertisement in The New York Times describing the crises and appealing for funds. The ad, titled "Heed Their Rising Voices," is sucessful in raising enough money to continue Dr. King's legal defense and provide some bail money for the students.
Alabama Governor Patterson and Montgomery Police Commissioner Sullivan then sue Dr. King, some of the ad co-signers, and the Times for Defamation. Though their names are not mentioned in the ad, the officials allege that the ad falsely imputed improper conduct on their part and caused them embarrassment. An Alabama court levies $500,000 damages against King, each of the other defendants, and the Times. They file an appeal (New York Times v Sullivan) with the Supreme Court. In a ruling that re-defines the meaning of the First Amendment, the Court overturns the Alabama verdict.
See Alabama Tries to Destroy Dr. King for detailed information.
Heed Their Rising Voices
"The growing movement of peaceful mass
demonstrations by Negroes is something
new in the South, something understandable....
Let Congress heed their rising voices,
for they will be heard."
— New York Times editorial Saturday, March 19, 1960.
As the whole world knows by now, thousands of Southern Negro students are engaged in wide-spread non-violent demonstrations in positive affirmation of the right to live in human dignity as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. In their efforts to uphold these guarantees, they are being met by an unprecedented wave of terror by those who would deny and negate that document which the whole world looks upon as setting the pattern for modern freedom....
In Orangeburg, South Carolina, when 400 students peacefully sought to buy doughnuts and coffee at lunch counters in the business district, they were forcibly ejected, tear-gassed, soaked to the skin in freezing weather with fire hoses, arrested en masse and herded into an open barbed-wire stockade to stand for hours in the bitter cold.
In Montgomery, Alabama, after students sang "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" on the State Capitol steps, their leaders were expelled from school, and truck-loads of police armed with shotguns and tear-gas ringed the Alabama State College Campus. When the entire student body protested to state authorities by refusing to re-register, their dining hall was padlocked in an attempt to starve them into submission.
In Tallahassee, Atlanta, Nashville, Savannah, Greensboro, Memphis, Richmond, Charlotte, and a host of other cities in the South, young American teen-agers, in face of the entire weight of official state appa-ratus and police power, have boldly stepped forth as protagonists of democracy. Their courage and amaz-ing restraint have inspired millions and given a new dignity to the cause of freedom.
Small wonder that the Southern violators of the Constitution fear this new, non-violent brand of freedom fighter...even as they fear the upswelling right-to-vote movement. Small wonder that they are determined to destroy the one man who, more than any other, symbolizes the new spirit now sweeping the South-the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., world-famous leader of the Montgomery Bus Protest. For it is his doctrine of non-violence which has inspired and guided the students in their widening wave of sit-ins; and it this same Dr. King who founded and is president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference — the organization which is spearheading the surging right-to-vote movement. Under Dr. King's direction the Leadership Conference conducts Student Workshops and Seminars in the philosophy and technique of non-violent resistance.
Again and again the Southern violators have answered Dr. King's peaceful protests with intimidation and violence. They have bombed his home almost killing his wife and child. They have assaulted his person. They have arrested him seven times-for "speeding." "loitering" and similar "offenses." And now they have charged him with "perjury" — a felony under which they could imprison him for ten years. Obviously, their real purpose is to remove him physically as the leader to whom the students and millions of others — look for guidance and support, and thereby to intimidate all leaders who may rise in the South. Their strategy is to behead this affirmative movement, and thus to demoralize Negro Americans and weaken their will to struggle. The defense of Martin Luther King, spiritual leader of the student sit-in movement, clearly, therefore, is an integral part of the total struggle for freedom in the South.
Decent-minded Americans cannot help but applaud the creative daring of the students and the quiet heroism of Dr. King. But this is one of those moments in the stormy history of Freedom when men and women of good will must do more than applaud the rising-to-glory of others. The America whose good name hangs in the balance before a watchful world, the America whose heritage of Liberty these Southern Upholders of the Constitution are defending, is our America as well as theirs...
We must heed their rising voices — yes — but we must add our own.
We must extend ourselves above and beyond moral support and render the material help so urgently needed by those who are taking the risks, facing jail, and even death in a glorious re-affirmation of our Constitution and its Bill of Rights.
We urge you to join hands with our fellow Amer-icans in the South by supporting, with your dollars, this Combined Appeal for all three needs- the defense of Martin Luther King-the support of the embattled students- and the struggle for the right-to-vote.
Raymond Pace Alexander
Harry Van Arsdale
Dr. Algernon Black
Mrs. Ralph Bunche
Dr. Alan Knight Chalmers
Nat King Cole
Sammy Davis, Jr.
Dr. Philip Elliott
Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick
Rev. Donald Harrington
Rabbi Edward Klein
A. J. Muste
L. Joseph Overton
Albert P. Palmer
A. Philip Randolph
Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt
Rev. Gardner C. Taylor
We in the south who are struggling daily for dignity and freedom warmly endorse this appeal
Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy
Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth
Rev. Kelley Miller Smith
Rev. W. A. Dennis
Rev. C. K. Steele
Rev. Matthew D. McCollom
Rev. William Holmes Borders
Rev. Douglas Moore
Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker
Rev. Walter L. Hamilton
Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr.
Rev. Henry C. Bunton
Rev. S. S. Seay, Sr.
Rev. Samuel W. Williams
Rev. A. L. Davis
Mrs. Katie E. Whickham
Rev. W. H. Hall
Rev. J. E. Lowery
Rev. T.J. Jemison
Chairmen: A. Philip Randolph, Dr. Garner C. Taylor; Chairmen of Cultural Division: Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier; Treasurer: Nat King Cole; Executive Director: Bayard Rustin; Chairmen of Church Division: Father George B. Ford, Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick, Rev. Thomas Kilgore, Jr., Rabbit Edward E. Klein; Chairmen of Labor Division: Morris Iushewitz, Cleveland Robinson
Copyright © 2011