THE TRIAL OF MARTIN LUTHER KING by Alan P. & Barry Mahoney Westin


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In 1967 following a five to four decision of the Supreme Court, Martin Luther King was jailed for contempt. He had disobeyed an ex parte injunction issued by a Birmingham judge in 1963 enjoining him from demonstrating against the segregationist practices of Bull Connor's city; the situation, King felt, was too pressing for him to wait out an appeal. The authors find King's incarceration fruitful ground for a study of ""the limits of lawful protest and the nature of the duty to obey the courts"" in a repressive milieu. Pursuing the campaigns -- sit-ins, freedom rides, boycotts, the fire hoses, dogs, clubs, murders, bombings -- the authors portray the injunction as an abuse of authority for political purposes (and it was clearly specious on many grounds). In spite of supplications from Justice Department officials (sympathetic to his struggle) to appeal rather than defy, King saw an urgent need to march. He was arrested for so doing and appealed. Eventually, with Warren, Douglas, Brennan, and Fortas dissenting (Black in the majority), the Supreme Court determined that while the injunction may have been unconstitutional, King was legally bound to obey it until it was overturned. The authors -- two lawyers -- focus on both the legal issues and the social realities, recreating the dramatic confrontation. They conclude that neither the majority nor the dissenters came to grips with the fundamental issues: the misuse of court power and the necessity to preserve it. A most impressive examination of tension and order in change.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1974
Publisher: T.Y. Crowell