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MLK: Give Us the Ballot

AP Photo / Charles Gorry

MLK: Give Us the Ballot

On May 17, 1957, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. traveled to Washington, D.C. for a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The purpose of the protest? Push the president and Congress to enforce Brown v. Board of Education. It had been three years since the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the legal basis of "separate but equal," yet in many places, not much had changed. In addition to urging the government to honor the historic Supreme Court decision, King also spoke at length about the role voting rights would play in addressing the ills plaguing African-Americans.

Give us the ballot, and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights.

The speech comes on the heels of the successful Montgomery bus boycott and a year after King fully committed to nonviolent resistance. His newfound faith in nonviolence is evident in his closing remarks:

I say to you this afternoon: Keep moving. Let nothing slow you up. Move on with dignity and honor and respectability. I realize that it will cause restless nights sometime. It might cause losing a job; it will cause suffering and sacrifice. It might even cause physical death for some. But if physical death is the price that some must pay to free their children from a permanent life of psychological death, then nothing can be more Christian.


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