How MLK Learned A Valuable Lesson About White Allyship

JFK meets leaders of the March on Washington
Leslie Taylor-Grover
October 15, 2021

MLK wanted segregation outlawed. During a meeting at the White House, he asked President Kennedy about the possibility of a second Emancipation Proclamation, which would ensure racial equality. Surely Kennedy, who claimed to be supportive of Civil Rights, would agree – correct?

Not so much. Kennedy’s response was shady – he was polite but refused to give a definite answer. So MLK went the extra step and had a proclamation drawn up for Kennedy to sign. Did that do the trick?

Nope! Kennedy didn’t even acknowledge the document, but he did take the time to invite King to the White House to commemorate Lincoln’s signing of the first emancipation proclamation. That invite let MLK know where Kennedy REALLY stood on equality.

Kennedy wasn’t sincere – so MLK refused to attend the event and instead called upon trusted BLACK organizers to put in work. They planned the Children’s Crusade – so the world could see how the U.S. mistreated its Black children.

After the outcry, Kennedy finally lent his political support and federal resources for Civil Rights legislation. As MLK learned, regardless of how nice or supportive white people may appear to be, the truth is that our liberation is usually up to us. Other people can’t always be trusted in the battle for our freedom!

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