The Negro Leadership Class

The Negro Leadership Class

The Negro Leadership Class

The Negro Leadership Class


by Martin Luther King Jr.

This great nation of ours is in the midst of a social revolution. Few of us realize the gravity of the change which is taking place, because it proceeds so steadily. Only the burning of a bus by Alabama klansmen, or the rioting of students at Ole Miss, and the protest marching of over a thousand Negro citizens in Albany, Georgia, punctuate the tremendous transformation which is under way.

It is a testimony to our democratic institutions that we can accommodate such change without chaos, and a testimony to the minorities in our midst that we do so without wholesale violence. Many a civilization before us has floundered and fallen on its inability to provide equal rights and opportunities for all its citizens. But we are just beginning to come under the judgment. The strivings of a few civil rights organizations have now begun to blossom into the full flower of a mass demand for dignity. The Negro citizens in the plantation country of the Mississippi delta and the share cropper in Tennessee are now saying to the Southern power structure and Negro leadership alike that "we must be free, Now!" Whether we as a nation meet this challenge or go the way of many a culture before us depends on the ability of every person and every institution in this nation to face squarely and justly the problem of racial injustice.

Our ability to understand the dynamics of this quiet revolution may well be a determining factor in our attempting to face it squarely. Dr. Thompson has contributed a great deal to this understanding through his study of Negro leadership in one of the key cities of the South. This is truly a work of painstaking research and sound scholarship. It will contribute far more validly to the understanding of changing patterns of leadership than some of the journalistic accounts which have preceded it. At every point the author reveals the capacity to adhere to objective appraisal and creative analysis.

This study is of further significance in that Dr. Thompson was actively involved in the leadership patterns within the New Orleans Negro community. His work there with the Coordinating Council of Greater New Orleans pioneered with a pattern of leadership which we will find emulated throughout the South for years to come.

The coordination of all the forces of the Negro community into a single cooperating power block is one sure answer to the exclusion of Negroes . . .

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