"Let us realize that
history has thrust upon us an indescribably important destiny --to complete a
process of democratization which our nation has developed too slowly, but which
is our most powerful weapon for world respect."
This might have come from Barack Obama's Tuesday inaugural
address. It didn't. America's second most important black leader, Martin Luther
King Jr., spoke these words on Miami Beach almost exactly a half century ago.
That speech, one of two King doozies Riptide dug up from the Miami
area in the late 1950s, is a monster.
He spoke to the American Jewish Congress at the Carillon hotel, which had long
prohibited blacks from sleeping in its elegant rooms. Indeed laws forbade blacks from even being on the Beach after 9 p.m.
Back then, Miami was a mecca for Jews in the South, which is why
King decided to address the American Jewish Congress here on May 14 1958. The AJC and the ACLU had both recently opened
their first offices in the South here, to some degree to try and end
segregation. The city had also been dealing with a two-year long recession,
just as it is today.
King's speech compares the Jews struggle against Hitler to black
efforts to end segregation. It sounds prophectic. "There are Hitlers loose in
America today [who]... as economic problems become more severe...will seek to
divert people's minds and turn their frustrations and anger to the helpless, to
the outnumbered. Then whether the Negro and Jew shall live in peace will depend
upon how firmly they resist."
The Obama administration has lots of challenges. Race is only
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one. But the top guns would do well to listen to King's description of the
Jewish/black partnership: "Our unity is born of our common struggle for
centuries, not only to rid ourselves of bondage, but to make oppression of any
people by others an impossibility."