Martin Luther King Jr. Was a Republican, Other Claims about Selma March-Truth! & Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
A chain email claims that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican, that Democratic leaders were responsible for segregation and racism in the south during the 1950s and 60s, and that President Obama has gotten historical details about the march in Selma wrong.
Parts of this email are true, and parts of it are false.
The email went viral as America marked the 50th anniversary of the civil rights march in Selma, Alabama, that was led by Martin Luther King Jr. Protestors marched from Selma to Montgomery to encourage black voters in the south to register to vote. The three-day march drew national attention to the struggle of black voters in the south, and the Voting Rights Act was passed a year later.
This eRumor covers a lot of ground. It makes claims about Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement, the 1965 march in Selma, and comments made by President Obama.
We’ll do our best to look at three of its key points separately.
Martin Luther King Jr. Was a Republican – Fiction!
Republicans and Democrats have both tried to claim Martin Luther King Jr. for years, but he never identified with either party. King never endorsed a political candidate, and he said in a 1958 interview:
“I’m not here to tell you how to vote. That isn’t my concern. I’m not a politician. I have no political ambitions. I don’t think the Republican Party is a party full of the almighty God, nor is the Democratic Party. They both have weaknesses. And I’m not inextricably bound to either party. I’m not concerned about telling you what party to vote for. But what I’m saying is this, that we must gain the ballot and use it wisely.”
The South Was Under the Power of the Democratic Party Before the Civil Rights Movement – Fiction!
This claim is false. Prior to the civil rights movement, southern states are what today we call “swing states.” Sometimes they voted Democrat, sometimes Republican, and sometimes third party. Electoral maps from 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968 prove this, so the south was not “maintained in power” by any one party, as the eRumor claims. No single political party can be blamed for racism and segregation in the 20th century because the issue crossed party lines.
But the eRumor’s claim that Sheriff Jim Clark, who was known for the “Bloody Sunday” clashes with protestors in Selma, was elected to office on the Democratic ticket is true. Clark served two terms before he was voted out of office in the 1966 Democratic primary, the Washington Post reports
President Obama Said the Selma March Led to His Birth – Truth!
During his first presidential campaign in 2007, then-Senator Obama spoke at an event that commemorated the 42nd anniversary of the march in Selma and talked about how the civil rights movement had made his birth possible.
Obama has been criticized for saying that the march in Selma made his birth possible because it was held in 1965, and he was born in 1961. According to a transcript of the speech, Obama said:
“And what happened in Selma, Alabama and Birmingham also stirred the conscience of a nation and it worried folks in the White House who said, you know, we’re battling communism, how are we going to win the hearts and minds all across the world if right here in our own country, (President Kennedy), we’re not observing the ideals that are set forth in our Constitution?
“…The Kennedys decided, we’re going to do an airlift. We’re going to go out to Africa. And we’re going to start bringing young Africans over to this country and bring them scholarships to study so that they can learn what a wonderful country America is. And this young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country.
“And he met this woman, whose great-, great-, great-, great-grandfather had owned slaves, but she had a different idea. There’s some good craziness going on because they looked at each other and they decided, we know that in the world as it has been it might not be possible for us to get together and have a child.
“But something stirred across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks were willing to march across a bridge. And so they got together, Barack Obama Jr. was born.
“So don’t tell me I don’t have a claim on Selma, Alabama. Don’t tell me I’m not coming home when I come to Selma
, Alabama. I’m here because somebody marched for our freedom. I’m here because y’all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of giants. I thank the Moses generation.”
The president was wrong when he said the march in Selma led to his birth.