LINCOLN AND MLK – HATE VS. FORGIVENESS
October 26, 2011
Philip Yancey’s book What’s So Amazing About Grace in the chapter Arsenal of Grace quotes Alexander Solshenitsyn: “Only a small crack. . . . but cracks make caves collapse.” Later in this chapter references are made to Lincoln and Martin Luther King as champions of grace and national reconciliation. Interesting is the fact that the recently dedicaded statue monument of Martin Luther King is across from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It was here that King gave his “I Have a Dream Speech”.
Lincoln’s election in November 1860 led to the secession of South Carolina in December and the following February ten more states in the deep South seceeded. Lincoln’ inaugural address Feb. 11, 1861 stated: “We are not enemies but friends”. On February 8th the secessionists created the Confederacy. A four year struggle ensued and left 617,000 casualties on both sides. Total population North and South numbered 40 million (North 30 million, South 10 million of which 4 million were slaves).After four years of struggle Lincoln was urged by vindictive politicians to punish the South. An assassin’s bullet removed Lincoln from leadership and swift reconciliation lead rather to recrimination and bitterness North and South. What might have been? A complex unfolding of event led to legal segregation in the South and virtual non-legal segregation in the rest of the country. Bringing to reality the guarantees for the ex-slaves (freedmen) of Radical Reconstruction’s 14th amendment providing for citizenship and “due process of law” was a decades long struggle . Not until the Civil Right Decade triggered by the Supreme Court decision of 1954 declaring “separate but equal schools” unconstitutional were the guarantees of the 14th mendment eventually guaranteed for all citizens. The Civil Rights Era was profoundly influenced by King’s non-violent protest in the face of racial discrimination, injustice, and violence. As Yancey has it King stirred “the national reservoir of moral outrage” with a “sophisticated strategy of war fought with grace, not gunpowder”.