That is the Commentary magazine headline over a memorable six-page article by Joshua Muravchik, a fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies.
I have not seen this article printed, or even reported, elsewhere. Since it has so much significance to American history, I would like to mention a number of quotes, including the following:
“President John F. Kennedy had tried to persuade the conveners, fearing that any incidents would jeopardize the civil rights bill he had sponsored. After Kennedy’s failure to dissuade the march organizers, members of his administration ghost-wrote letters to them from liberal senators warning of difficulties. A Gallup poll showed that most Americans had heard of plans for the march and disapproved of it by a 3:1 ratio.”
Think about that.
JFK tried to dissuade the march organizers. Not only that, but “members of his administration ghost-wrote letters to them from liberal senators warning of difficulties.”
What a historical and moral indictment of JFK and members of his administration – before the national tragedy of his assassination.
“When John Lewis, a 23-year-old leader of SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or ‘SNICK’) prepared a speech of more radical tenor – rejecting Kennedy’s bill for being too modest and threatening a ‘nonviolent’ reprise of Sherman’s March through the South – the other leaders told him that he would not be allowed to speak unless he moderated those words. The specter of a shrill and perhaps violent black militancy that the leaders believed would harm the case was already in the air. Dr. King addressed it directly in his speech, inveighing: ‘We must forever conduct our struggle on the high place of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.’
“But King did not fear Lewis as much as the spirit that was personified in Malcolm X. The black Muslim rabble-rouser camped out in the lobby of the Statler Hilton, where the leaders were staying and the journalists were swarming, and offered up sound bites about the ‘farce on Washington.’ ‘While King was having a dream, the rest of us negroes are having a nightmare,’ he declaimed. ‘The negroes spent a lot of money, had a good time and enjoyed a real circus. … Now that is all over. They are still jobless, homeless and landless, so what did it accomplish?’”
As one of the 25,000 people who marched into downtown Montgomery, Ala., in the Selma March, I remember both searching and asking around that Catholic school in the suburbs where we formed for the march whether anyone in that 25,000 had seen or heard from Malcolm X.
No one had seen him. He was nowhere to be found at this historic event for civil rights.
- “In a surge of militancy that saw the slogan ‘Freedom Now’ replaced by ‘Black Power,’ those who supplanted them exhibited little of their majesty of character and intellect. [James] Farmer, who had been principle founder of CORE in 1942, his then-colleague Rustin was called an uncle to the group, was forced out as its director in 1966, after which the CORE’s white members were made unwelcome.”
- “SNCC expelled its white members after John Lewis was succeeded in 1966 by Stokely Carmichael, who denounced racial integration as ‘an insidious subterfuge.’ Carmichael himself was expelled by SNCC a year later by a still more extreme and bloody-minded H. Rap Brown, inspiring the quip that the group had transformed itself into the Nonstudent Violent Coordinating Committee. After his expulsion, Carmichael left America, married singer Miriam Makeba, changed his name to Kwame Ture, embraced febrile anti-Semitism and became an aide to Guinea’s President Ahmed Sekou Toure, rated by Freedom House as among the world’s most repressive tyrants.”
Think about that, too.
In 1966, members of the Congress of Racial Equality who were white were made unwelcome. That name of the organization continued as a monument of hypocrisy, along with the final years of Stokely Carmichael.
Muravchik of Hopkins also reports:
- “The degeneration of the movement reached its apotheosis in the rise of a new organization, the Black Panther Party, a mélange of hucksters, hoodlums and psychopaths. Its slogan was ‘Off the Pig,’ and its principle activity was to ambush police officers on routine patrol, shooting them in the back. Several were killed in this manner, some of them black. By this time, however, white guilt, as if in compensation for being long overdue, had swelled to such bizarre proportions that no act of black militancy failed to garner a sympathetic audience. Leonard Bernstein, conductor of the New York Philharmonic, hosted a fundraising party for the Panthers attended by 100 of the crème of the Big Apple’s high society. As various Panther officers with titles such as ‘field marshal’ served up semi-literate babble about Maoism and the urgency of violent revolution in America, Bernstein thoughtfully rejoined, ‘I dig absolutely.’”
- “The Panthers soon flamed out, but the same dynamic captured in Tom Wolfe’s essay, ‘Radical Chic,’ that immortalized Bernstein’s shindig has permanently shaped the historiography of the movement.”