In this WSB newsfilm clip from November 10, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers a speech before the Atlanta Press Club, where he addresses racism in the Southern justice system, tokenism in desegregation practices, and affirms his conviction in nonviolent direct action. The audio quality of the clip is poor.
The clip is divided into two segments. The first segment of the clip begins with King addressing the audience (off-camera) at an Atlanta Press Club meeting. He states that recent events in Lowndes County, Alabama, "suggest that the whole structure of Southern justice is contaminated with racism and corrupted by color consciousness," a reference to the recent acquittal of Klansman Collie Leroy Wilkins, the accused killer of civil rights activist Viola Liuzzo, by an all-white jury in Hayneville, Alabama. King suggests that the system needs "drastic alteration."
After a jump in the clip, King proposes the adoption of a "Selma-Montgomery-type" model of nonviolent direct action in order to "arouse the conscience of the nation," noting that he and others are prepared to initiate this activity. He states that he is still convinced that nonviolent direct action protest is the best way to "improve the inadequacies existing in the American social system" and notes that nonviolent resistance wears down on the opponent of such tactics because it "exposes his moral defenses, weakens his morale, and at the same time, it works on his conscience." He further endorses nonviolent resistance by adding that "it also makes it possible for the individual to struggle to secure moral ends through moral means."
The second segment of the clip begins with silent b-roll footage of the Atlanta Press Club event. There are several shots of the audience, the dais, where Andrew Young and King's secretary Dora McDonald are seated next to King, and the Atlanta Press club banner interspersed with several seconds of King speaking from the podium without any audio track. After a break in the clip, the camera closes in on King; the audio track resumes as King continues to address the audience. King challenges institutions and administrators who purport to practice desegregation, but are in fact resisting it by practicing tokenism. He refers to this obstruction as a "sophisticated form of delay" and "one of the most difficult problems that our movement confronts." The clip jumps several times and truncates King's further comments.
On November 10, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed the Atlanta Press Club, a newly-formed organization of Atlanta-area journalists. Speaking on behalf of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), King criticized the Department of Justice for weak enforcement of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965; an absence of much-needed federal intervention was keenly felt in voter registration drives throughout rural Alabama and Mississippi, areas with a longstanding history of violent retribution against African Americans attempting to exercise their civil rights. He pledged to direct SCLC's efforts to these regions of the South. King also declared that SCLC would organize mass protests in order to shed light on racial injustice in the legal system. Of primary concern was the ability of state and local legislators to establish qualifications for jurors and jury service, which enabled segregationists to uphold racist practices in the courtroom. King advocated reforms that included a federal standard for jurors, the supervision of jury selection by federal officials, and the employment of African Americans at all levels of state and local law enforcement agencies. At this speech, King also sought the enactment of federal legislation that would make the murder or intimidation of civil rights activists a federal crime.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking about ongoing discrimination and the benefits of nonviolence, Atlanta, Georgia, 1965 November 10, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1320, 2:15/03:33, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.