On April 6th 1968 The Memphis World showcased an article featuring a protest speech given by Congressman Dan Kuykendall titled, “Setting the Record Straight on Memphis.” During the speech he gave an account of what he believed actually happened on the day of the march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His account of Dr. King’s actions tell a story of irresponsibility and poor leadership as if Dr. King was not a leader at all, but a mere imposter trying to fill shoes far too big for his feet.
The first of Kuykendall’s claims comes from the fact that students left their classes to march alongside Dr. King. “This man. Dr. Martin Luther King exhorted even high school students to leave their classrooms and to join a march through the downtown streets of our city. The Negro teenagers of our city are no more and no less impressionable than those of any other city, Negro or white.” This entire claim is entirely false given that Dr. King was nonviolent, and in no way forced anyone to do anything against his or her own will. He was an intelligent man with followers like every other movement leader. Even more frustrating is the preceding ideas leading up to Kuykendall’s accusations of Dr. King. Kuykendall alludes to Dr. King before mentioning him by name in his speech as “some internationally known figure that by some unbelievable set of circumstances was at one time awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.” The fact that Kuykendall is willing to say that the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by chance or mistake is clearly a testament to his ill will towards Dr. King, and possibly mankind in general.
Kuykendall continues to size up Dr. King as a coward and fraud throughout the remainder of his speech. Granted Kuykendall was clearly wrong, his speech offers an alternative viewpoint to the effect of Dr. King’s marches and protests. Throughout most public education we are taught that Civil Rights was a hard fought battle and morality was in the end victorious. But what a lot of curriculums fail to mention is the hatred that supplemented the battle at hand. While I was heavily offended at the words of Kuykendall it broadened my focus on the Civil Rights movement altogether to realize that leaders of our country at one point truly believed that this movement was wrong. What governing principles would lead a man to believe that treating human beings as anything less than human could be justified?
Source: “Memphis World: Cong. Kuykendall Raps Dr. King!”