"A GENERATION OF YOUNG PEOPLE HAS COME OUT OF DECADES OF SHADOWS TO FACE NAKED STATE POWER": EXCEPTIONAL FIRST EDITION OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR'S "BURNING TRUTH IN THE SOUTH," APPEARING IN THE MAY 1960 ISSUE OF THE PROGRESSIVE
KING, Jr., Martin Luther. The Burning Truth in the South. Madison, Wisconsin: Progressive, May, 1960. Quarto, original black-and-white printed red wrappers, staple-bound as issued; pp. 8-10.
First publication of King's provocative and timely work on student protests and sit-ins across the South, declaring "it is no overstatement to characterize these events as historic.. an integral part of the history which is reshaping the world, replacing a dying order with modern democracy."
In March 1960, shortly before King submitted this work to Progressive magazine, students who assembled in Orangeburg, South Carolina to protest segregated lunch counters were attacked by police, tear gas and fire hoses. This marked the "first of some 40 new cities… as the sit-in movement spread into Georgia, West Virginia, Texas and Arkansas." Unlike the late 1950s Montgomery Bus Boycott, these protesters "were openly subject to physical repression and extremely dangerous" violence—both in the streets and in jail. Soon money was raised for a full-page March 29 ad in The New York Times that covered the protests and gave a "brief history of the efforts to prosecute and intimidate King" (Branch, Parting the Waters, 283-89). On April 4, King sent his draft of "Burning Truth" to The Progressive, which published it in the May issue.
Here King draws attention to the vital importance of the sit-ins, declaring: "It is no overstatement to characterize these events as historic." He highlights events that led to the movement, such as impact of WWII Black soldiers returning home, the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education (1954), and the impact of an "upsurge of Africa and Asia… [where] Black men form the government, write the laws, and administer the affairs of state. But in state after state in the U.S. the Negro is ruled and governed without a fragment of participation in civic life. The contrast is a burning truth." King particularly notes that these protests at lunch counters "represent more than a demand for service; they represent a demand for respect." He writes: "a generation of young people has come out of decades of shadows to face naked state power… [they] are an integral part of the history which is reshaping the world, replacing a dying order with modern democracy." To some scholars, King's words "offer a more dynamic and complex set of meanings" than that seen in his subsequent Letter from a Birmingham Jail (1963). In effect, "Burning Truth" is said to voice "something distinct from a moral stance" when King signals a greater strategic focus to the movement, one that extends "protest across new arenas" (Pineda, Civil Disobedience and Punishment, 9-10). On April 4, 1960 "King sent his draft to [Progressive] editor Morris H. Rubin and invited him to edit as he saw fit… In his April 13 reply, Rubin praised King's 'excellent job' and informed him the article would be "leading off" the May issue. The article was later reprinted as a fund-raising brochure (Committee to Defend Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Freedom in the South)" (Stanford University: Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute).
A very scarce copy in fine condition.