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Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch.jpg

Late 1930's

From Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch p53-54.

"Although there was no dramatic civic progress in those years, Reverend King (this is Daddy King, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's father) was at the forefront of what movements there were, propelled by his continued success at Ebenezer. With great fanfare, the minister capped a fundraising drive with an installation ceremony for a new Wurlitzer organ that featured two manuals and two thousand pipes. It became the pride of Alberta King, the church organist. Remarkably, the expansion at Ebenezer accelerated until the church caught and passed its older and more established rival on Auburn Avenue, Wheat Street Baptist, where the building program for a new church stalled and then collapsed in mid-construction. The renowned Rev. J. Raymond Henderson of Wheat Street finally resigned in despair, leaving his members to quarrel with one another over alleged embezzlement of church funds by insiders.


Reverend King was master of Auburn Avenue in less than six years after taking over a bankrupt Ebenezer, but his preeminence lasted only a matter of months. Wheat Street hired as its new pastor Rev. William Holmes Borders, who was in many respects a twin of Reverend King, a preachers son from rural Georgia who had begged President John Hope personally for permission to attend Morehouse, who believed so strongly in money as a measure of church and pastor that he listed the value of church real estate in worship programs. The principal difference between the two ministers was that Borders had obtained seminary and master's degrees at Northern white colleges. Wheat Street hired him off the Morehouse faculty. His wife taught at Spelman. In degree-conscious Atlanta, the Borders family was several steps ahead of the Kings on the refinement index, and Borders highlighted the distinction by becoming the first Negro minister in Atlanta to have a regular radio program, "Seven Minutes at the Mike." The show helped spread his reputation for polished sermons filled with commanding language and perfect diction. To the consternation of Reverend King, Borders became one of the preachers young Mike (future Dr.M.L.King) listened to in his eagerness to learn big words."


From Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch p 301 - 302.

"… Atlanta college students wanted him to help them commemorate the sixth anniversary of the Brown decision. They had planned to march from Atlanta University to the state capitol for a rally, but Governor Vandiver I just announced that he would use state troopers to prevent any Negro from setting foot on the capitol lawn. Vandiver's warning caused tremors within Atlanta's Negro leadership. The six presidents of the Atlanta University colleges were asking what good could come of it. The students, who had remained mere observers of the sit in movement since their one day demonstration in March, pleaded with King to support them, but their elders argued that it would be sheer folly for King to cross Governor of Georgia over something so trivial as an aborted student march. Vandiver's antipathy for King was a matter of public record.
Students gathered the next morning not knowing whether they would march or King would come. Dr. Brawley of Clark College took the most extreme position of the six presidents: he ordered the doors of the gymnasium locked from the outside in an effort to keep the students from marching. But someone slipped out a window to spring the locks, and the Clark students joined an immense tide of students that prayed, caucused, and sang, then surged into the streets 1,500 strong. They marched from the West Side to the perimeter of the capitol grounds, where they found that the governor indeed had posted state trooper's with orders not
to let them pass. From there, the main body of students retreated eastward through downtown Atlanta reversing the historical path of Negro migration from the city toward Auburn Avenue.


Borders had agreed to let them hold their rally at Wheat Street Baptist Church. The students had heard radio bulletins that King was flying in from Montgomery expressly to join them, but conflicting rumors buzzed until the head of the column came into sight of Borders and King together at the top of the Wheat Street steps. Waving and beaming, the two preachers greeted the students like victorious pilgrims. A great shout of triumph went back through the line of marchers, and when the rally began, King commended the students for their nonviolence and for having the courage to take a stand. King praised Borders, Borders praised King, and everyone praised the students even the college presidents who had urged them not to march. All six turned up on the dais during the rally, giving thanks that their fears had been proven wrong. The goodwill was so pervasive that no one thought ill of the presidents or begrudged them their places of honor.
During the Atlanta student march, white pedestrians stood silently for the most part, gawking at the endless procession. A bewildered woman matter of factly said, "I didn't know there were that many niggers in college." Her comment, which made the newspapers, was fairly representative of the national state of mind. For the vast majority of Americans who were not directly threatened or inspired by the demonstrations, the very existence of large masses of Negro college students came as a revelation. Hitherto, whites had been able to categorize Negroes as both a class and a race of laborers, because the educated ones they knew tended to be famous, idiosyncratic by definition and set apart from ordinary life. Even in the North, white collar Negroes were an uncommon sight in the downtown business districts. Now, suddenly, their presence in sufficient numbers to clog streets or fill up jails began to register, and more than a few members of the majority culture wondered how they would fit into the greater scheme of things."



From Parting the Waters by Taylor Branch, pg. 477

In the education building at Ebenezer, King presided over the founding meeting of the Freedom Ride Coordinating Committee. Gordon Carey of CORE represented Farmer, who remained in the Jackson jail. Two Nashville preachers represented Bevel and Lawson, who were with Farmer, and an SCLC assistant sat in for Wyatt Walker, who was in the Montgomery jail. With an SCNN representative and an officer of the National Student Association, these 6 people pledged to "intensify" the freedom ride until bus segregation crumbled throughout the South…..

Parting The Water 2nd
Parting The Water 3rd
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