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MLK jr. speech 5/17/1957 ~ Give Us the Ballot ~

“Give Us the Ballot, We Will Transform the South”

by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Speech given before the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington, May 17, 1957

Martin Luther King, Jr. Three years ago the Supreme Court of this nation rendered in simple, eloquent and unequivocal language a decision which will long be stenciled on the mental sheets of succeeding generations. For all men of good will, this May 17 decision came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of segregation. It came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of distinguished people throughout the world who had dared only to dream of freedom. It came as a legal and sociological deathblow to the old Plessy doctrine of “separate-but-equal.” It came as a reaffirmation of the good old American doctrine of freedom and equality for all people.

Unfortunately, this noble and sublime decision has not gone without opposition. This opposition has often risen to ominous proportions. Many states have risen up in open defiance. The legislative halls of the South ring loud with such words as “interposition” and “nullification.” Methods of defiance range from crippling economic reprisals to the tragic reign of violence and terror. All of these forces have conjoined to make for massive resistance.

But, even more, all types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters. The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic traditions and its is democracy turned upside down.

So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.

So our most urgent request to the president of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote. Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights. Give us the ballot and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law; we will by the power of our vote write the law on the statute books of the southern states and bring an end to the dastardly acts of the hooded perpetrators of violence. Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly citizens. Give us the ballot and we will fill our legislative halls with men of good will, and send to the sacred halls of Congressmen who will not sign a Southern Manifesto, because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice. Give us the ballot and we will place judges on the benches of the South who will “do justly and love mercy,” and we will place at the head of the southern states governors who have felt not only the tang of the human, but the glow of the divine. Give us the ballot and we will quietly and nonviolently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court’s decision of May 17, 1954.

<!–Read about recent allegations of voter disenfranchisement in Florida
and other states across the country in these articles.



Learn more about Martin Luther King, Jr. and read more of his speeches and writings at The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project at Stanford University.

Resources: pbs.org

Ferguson Decision in Context


The Disturbing Facts Surrounding The Case And Where We Go From Here

By now the world knows about the grand jury decision announced last night to not indict Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, on August 9. What you may not know, however, is the context surrounding the case: how remarkably rare it is for a grand jury not to indict, but how remarkably common it is for tragedies like this one to occur; a prosecutor asked to step down before presenting the case, and then slammed by experts afterward for how he handled it. These circumstances have amounted to a situation that has left many people, paradoxically, shocked yet unsurprised at how it unfolded, and searching for accountability and answers about how to prevent more tragedies like this in the future.

A decision by the grand jury not to indict is very rare. According to statistics from the Justice Department, grand juries declined to return and indictment in just 11 of 162,000 federal cases prosecuted by U.S. attorneys in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. While Wilson’s case was heard in state court, not federal, legal experts agree that it is extremely rare for prosecutors at any level to fail to win an indictment.

The prosecutor’s tactics made a charge much less likely. According to legal experts, county prosecutor Robert McCollough approached the case in a way that could have made an indictment less likely. He decided to let the grand jury hear “every scrap of evidence,” as he put it. Typically, prosecutors present to the grand jury only the evidence necessary to establish probable cause – a grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence but only if a reasonable jury could find the defendant guilty. Watch this video to learn more.

The prosecutor faced widespread criticism leading up to the decision, and after it. As the case began, civil rights groups called for McCollough to step down, citing his previous support for police officers in another police misconduct case, and a family history that includes many family members on the police force including his father, who was killed by a black man with a gun. After the decision last night, many decried McCoullough’s choice to make the announcement late at night, his long-winded explanation pointing fingers at the media, and his defiant tone that reinforced prior frustration with how he handled the case.

In the wake of the decision, community activists are taking the long view. ThinkProgress reporter Carimah Townes reports from Ferguson: “The death of Michael Brown was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, adding to a longer list of grievances in the community, such as income inequality and the need for a $15 minimum wage. And activist groups, professional associations, and individuals in and around the city are already looking — and planning — beyond the verdict, in the hopes of seeking justice for individuals who die at the hands of police.”

Lives cut short by police violence happen all too often. A 22-year-old carrying a sword his mother said was a toy. A 12-year-old gunned down by police while carrying a toy gun at a playground. Another 22-year-old who had just picked up a BB gun stocked on the shelf of a WalMart. A young man walking down a darkened stairwell in an apartment complex after he and his girlfriend got tired of waiting for the elevator. These are just a few of the numerous examples of lives cut short by police since Michael Brown was killed in August.

BOTTOM LINE: The context surrounding the decision not to indict Darren Wilson in the shooting of Michael Brown only increases the immensely troubling and tragic nature of the incident. While we respect the work and the decision of the grand jury, days like yesterday are a clear reminder about how much work we still have left to do to ensure that treatment by the criminal justice system is not determined by one’s race, and that the opportunity to prosper is not based on one’s ZIP code.

Chart of the Week: SHOP Marketplac​e Premiums Flat in 2015

whitehousebannerChart of the Week: SHOP Marketplace Premiums Flat in 2015

On November 15, the Health Insurance Marketplace opened for the 2015 enrollment season on HealthCare.gov. But November 15 also marked the beginning of online shopping through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP).

Historically, small businesses have paid as much as 18 percent more than their larger competitors for the same coverage. However, SHOP now tackles these problems by creating a competitive marketplace where small businesses can shop for coverage that meets their needs via a convenient online application.

Find out more about the Chart of the Week and SHOP here.

Find out more about the Chart of the Week.



Weekly Address: Immigration Accountability Executive Action

In this week’s address, the President laid out the steps he took this past week to fix our broken immigration system. Enacted within his legal authority, the President’s plan focuses on cracking down on illegal immigration at the border; deporting felons, not families; and accountability through criminal background checks and taxes. These are commonsense steps, but only Congress can finish the job.


The Faces of Health Care: Amy W.

Amy and her husband are self-employed, operating a semi-truck out of Augusta, GA. As self-employed Americans, they had to purchase health insurance on their own. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, they were able to keep a significant amount of their business profits in their pocket by purchasing an affordable, quality plan on the Health Insurance Marketplace.


What You Need To Know: The President’s Actions on Immigration

Here’s what you need to know about President Obama’s new steps to fix our broken immigration system.


Get Over It


Republicans Are Mad That Other Republicans Are Debunking Benghazi

The right-wing Benghazi conspiracy has been thoroughly debunked numerous times, but now it is back in the news because Republicans are the ones that are debunking it.

Six different investigations in the past two years have found that, while the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were tragic and reprehensible, there was no evidence for any kind of cover-up by President Obama and his administration. There was also no evidence that the Obama administration stopped attempted rescues from the diplomatic compound or that it intentionally misinformed Congress or the American people. Despite the myriad conspiracy theories, these notions have been disproven time and time again.

Well, none of that changed with the release of the House Intelligence Committee’s latest report, the seventh of the genre, on what happened that night in Benghazi. According to the Associated Press, this Republican-led, bipartisan committee reported the following:

Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

While an investigation into the deaths at Benghazi was appropriate, conservative media, irresponsible right-wing politicians and pundits, and their enablers in Congress refuse to accept that these investigations have already concluded that there’s no controversy behind the tragic attack. Republicans have used this as a distraction for 2016 instead of treating the violence with the seriousness it has deserved.

Some Republicans are asking the GOP to move on from trying to prove something that does not exist. However, that has not stopped leading Benghazi conspiracy theorist Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., from calling the report inaccurate, “full of crap” and “a complete bunch of garbage.” Nor has this report stopped Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. from continuing his $3.3 million investigation into Benghazi, with House Republicans choosing to spend more on an eighth investigation than on the committees for Ethics, Veterans’ Affairs, the budget, or science.

BOTTOM LINE: The latest Benghazi investigation – this one led by House Republicans – found more of the same, namely that there was no conspiracy. But amazingly, that hasn’t stopped some GOPers from continuing to push this non-story. And conservatives wonder why the Obama administration continues its work on moving the country forward through executive action with such unreasonable and hostile opposition in Congress?