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Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks to the crowd (Full Text)

Head Note: At this Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) weekly meeting, King speaks to the crowd.

Democracy gives us this right to protest and that is all we're doing. We have never and never intended to practice violence. There was no evidence in the court that we had. The court did not prove that any acts of violence were carried out by Negroes. We can say honestly that we have not advocated violence, have not practiced it and have gone courageously on with a Christian movement. Ours is a spiritual movement depending on moral and spiritual fortitude. The protest is still going on. (Great deal of applause here)

I want you to know that for the last two months I have had a great rendezvous with the jail house. I was arrested for driving 35 miles an hour and put in a cell. I went to court and was convicted and fined. I go to jail again with some of the finest citizens of Montgomery when we are arrested for breaking the anti-boycott law. I had to go to court this week and now I will have to go again. I might have to go four or five times more.

This past conviction, the one before it, and all they can heap upon us will not diminish our determination one iota. (two rounds of applause) I'm going to stand in the morning, stand in the afternoon, and stand in the evening. I want it to be known through the length and breadth of the nation and to take wings and go to the far corners of the world, to Asia, to China, and to all parts of the world. (Lots of applause) I am standing, and we will not retreat until we receive justice.

We don't mind the cross, because we know that beyond the tragedy of Good Friday is the breathlessness of Easter. We know that Easter is coming through the suffering of Good Friday. Easter is coming to Montgomery. Almost since the beginning of his existence, man has recognized the struggle between the forces of good and evil. Men have called these forces by different names, but what they have said about them and about the struggle is much the same. A philosopher named Plato saw it, and later on, a man called Thoreau. Christianity has always insisted that in the persistent struggle between good and evil, in the long battle between dark and light, the forces of light emerge as victor. This is our hope, that we will know the day God will stand supreme over the forces of evil, when the forces of light will blot out the forces of dark, when God will stand before the universe and say, 'I am God.'

In ancient times, God stood before the forces of evil and said, 'Don't play with me, Babylon.' God said, 'Don't play with me. I'll break the backbone of your power. Don't play with me. I'm going to be God in this universe.'

God controls the destiny of the universe, and evil cannot conquer. This keeps us going in all our trying experiences.

Freedom doesn't come on a silver platter. With every great movement toward freedom there will inevitably be trials. Somebody will have to have the courage to sacrifice. You don't get to the Promised Land without going through the Wilderness. You don't get there without crossing over hills and mountains, but if you keep on keeping on, you can't help but reach it. We won't all see it, but it's coming and it's because God is for it. When God is for a thing it will survive. Don't worry about some things we have to go through. Some of them are a necessary part of the great movement we are making toward freedom. There can never be growth without growing pains. There is no birth without birth pains. Like the mother suffering when she gives birth to new life, we know there is glory beyond the pain.

We won't back down. We are going on with our movement.

Let us continue with the same spirit, with the same orderliness, with the same discipline, with the same Christian approach. I believe that God is using Montgomery as his proving ground. It may be that here in the capital of the Confederacy, the birth of the ideal of freedom in America and in the Southland can be born. God be praised for you, for your loyalty, for your determination. God bless you and keep you, and may God be with us as we go on.

Source: Excerpts from a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., as reported by Anna Holden, a teacher at Fisk University. March 22, 1956. Montgomery, Alabama.