• In this 1967 press conference clip, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. predicts what it would take, in his opinion, for the United States to elect a black president. The question, for King, was never of capability or qualification. Instead it would be a matter of consolidating black voting power, coalition-building, and unity with white liberal voters. Courtesy of WSB-TV, Walter J. Brown Media Archives via Digital Library of Georgia.

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    WSB-TV newsfilm clip of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking about presidential candidates for the 1968 election, the Vietnam War, and interactions with Stokely Carmichael during a press conference held at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, 1967 April 25, clip 1
    • Date
    • 1967-06-25
    • Creator
    • King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968. WSB-TV (Television station : Atlanta, Ga.).
    • Description
    • In this WSB newsfilm clip probably from April 25, 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks to reporters at a press conference held at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia about presidential candidates for the 1968 election; the Vietnam War; and... more
      In this WSB newsfilm clip probably from April 25, 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks to reporters at a press conference held at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia about presidential candidates for the 1968 election; the Vietnam War; and interactions with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) leader Stokely Carmichael. Comments in the clip are not always completely recorded. Dr. King sits at a table with microphones in front of him. Fellow Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) leader reverend Andrew Young stands beside him. King begins by mentioning newspaper articles advocating that he become a presidential candidate for the 1968 election; he announces that he will not do so. Next King warns of a potential national disaster if the United States government continues to focus on war at the expense of racial equality. Even if the Vietnam War escalates and "make relevant an independent candidacy" King proclaims that he will not consider a political office. When an off-screen reporter asks King who he thinks would make a good candidate for president King avoids the question by asserting his hope for an end of the Vietnam War, which he believes would make an independent candidacy unnecessary, and reiterating that SCLC does not endorse political candidates. Although he has no basis for his hope that the war will end King believes that millions of citizens will "oppose this war very vigorously" and that this opposition to the war will encourage the government to change its position. After this the discussion turns to SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael; although King and Carmichael do not agree on everything King points out they both oppose the Vietnam War and encourage African American freedom in the United States. King suggests that there are some positive aspects to the "black power" slogan as long as the slogan does not involve or embrace violence. King cites a conflict between what Carmichael has said to him privately that opposes violence and what the media portrays as Carmichael's position advocating violence. King attributes a recent conflict in Nashville, Tennessee following a Carmichael appearance to existing conditions of poverty, police brutality, and despair, not to Carmichael. After a break in the clip King suggests that African Americans are capable of being president but have been unable to do so because they have been "held out of the political arena." Asked about a possibility of Alabama governor George Wallace as a presidential candidate King condemns Wallace for "eighteenth century thinking that has no place in the twentieth century." He insists that a Wallace campaign would "create the atmosphere for new bigotry, new hatred, and ultimately new violence." The clip ends with King commenting again about the Vietnam War, proposing that if the boxer Cassius Clay, known also as Muhammad Ali, is jailed for refusing to go to war, other young men in the country will consider the possibility of refusing the draft. Muhammad Ali was convicted of refusing induction into the army and was stripped of his professional boxing titles in 1967. Title supplied by cataloger. The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection. Original found in the WSB-TV newsfilm collection. less
    • Rights
    • Http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/. Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking about presidential candidates for the 1968 election, the Vietnam War, and interactions with Stokely Carmichael during a press conference... more
      Http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/. Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking about presidential candidates for the 1968 election, the Vietnam War, and interactions with Stokely Carmichael during a press conference held at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, 1967 April 25, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1387, 00:00/05:30, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia. less
    • Partner
    • Digital Library of Georgia
    • Contributing Institution
    • Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection

African Americans have been active political organizers throughout the nation’s history—petitioning, organizing, voting, protesting, and serving their communities from the era of early republic through the Abolition Movement, Reconstruction, and the era of lynching and segregation. By the mid-twentieth century, as the number of African American voters grew rapidly through both legislative action and political empowerment, presidential candidates were required to court their votes by appealing to their concerns. This growing constituency also made it possible for black candidates to run for office with more success, which legitimized the idea that black candidates were contenders for the presidency for an increasingly broad and interracial group of voters.

In 1964, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party brought national attention the issue of black voter disenfranchisement in Mississippi and demanded that the Democratic Party confront the reality of injustice. Eight years later, as Shirley Chisholm ran for president, members of the National Black Political Convention met to strategize about how to build on the legal gains of the Civil Rights Movement and continue to work towards expanded political power for African Americans. In 1984 and 1988, Jesse Jackson ran for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and earned support from a broader, and more diverse group of Americans than had previously supported a black presidential candidate, laying the groundwork for the successful candidacy of Barack Obama, who was elected as the first black president, in 2008.