Thursday, May 02, 2019

On a Quote Attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King

"Every condition exists because someone profits by its existence. This economic exploitation is crystallized in the slum." -- Rev. James Bevel (probably)
On page 305 of Matthew Desmond's amazing book, Evicted he gives the above quote and attributes it to Martin Luther King. If you look at his footnote, though, he is citing a secondary source. Given that King is a magnet for misattributed quotes, I decided to look this one up. It turns out it is from "A Proposal by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for the Development of a Nonviolent Action Movement for the Greater Chicago Area," which is just what it says it is, a planning document for the Chicago Freedom Movement. I can't find a facsimile of the original document, but this is a .pdf version of that that was created for educational purposes. The .pdf has typos, but I'm not sure if they are carried over from the original or introduced.

The document is unsigned, at least in the form I found it, But according to this site and this footnote and a few other things like that, the document was drawn up by Rev. James Bevel. Bevel isn't a really good name to put with a powerful quote you want to use to motivate action. Later in life, Bevel became a LaRouchie and was revealed to be a pedophile who molested his daughter. I suppose if I were to use the quote in an inspirational context, I might just attribute it to the SCLC.

In any case, I spent 45 minutes trying to track down the quote, so I thought I'd put information out her in a form that Google can index to spare other people the trouble. Real scholars of the Civil Rights era I'm sure have more detailed information, but none of that comes up easily on Google right now.

(Actually, I'm a little miffed that there isn't a facsimile version of this document available on line. You can get a facsimile of a Plato manuscript from 895 but you can't get a facsimile of an SCLC document from 1966?)

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