The Richmond Museum of History notes online that it was 49 years ago today that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Contra Costa College in San Pablo.
Here is the Oakland Tribune’s coverage of his talk, in which he declared that segregation was in its final throes, had praise for the (Byron) Rumford Fair Housing Bill and the national Civil Rights Bill being debated, and said that “We have come a long way and we still have a long way to go.”
‘Segregation Is On Its Deathbed’
SAN PABLO-’Segregation is on its deathbed, but it remains to be seen how costly the segregationists will make the funeral.”
In an address before 2,300 at Contra Costa College, Dr. Martin Luther King, the Southern integrationist, called for “legislation, non-violent direct action and love” to enhance “the American dream.”
His talk was highlighted by accolades for California’s Rumford Fair Housing Law, which he termed “a great step forward.”
King said, “It would be a real tragedy if California went on record for repeal of its fair housing law.”
He referred to the Civil Rights Bill now before the Senate as “the greatest tribute to John F. Kennedy” and called on lawmakers to gird themselves for victory over an expected filibuster in the upper house.
At a brief press conference earlier in the day at San Francisco International Airport, King revealed that his Southern Christian Leadership Conference may attempt to cope with such a filibuster with “another march on Washington.”
He was one of the leaders of the huge civil rights parade in the nation’s capital last August.
King summed up the three basic attitudes toward progress in race relations, stating that he favors a “realistic position” in favor of “extreme optimism and extreme pessimism.”
King took the stand that “we have come a long way and we still have a long way to go.”
He included in signs of progress the end of the poll tax in federal elections, a rise in the number of registered Negro voters to 2 million, and a 12-fold increase in Negro income in the past 15 years.
King said there are still 6 million unregistered voters because of threats of “economic reprisal, physical violence and the literacy test.”
He told of one literacy test question in Mississippi which asked: “How many bubbles are there in a bar of soap.”
Forty-two per cent of the Negro population earns less than $2,000 a year and 20 per cent less than $1,000, King pointed out. He said the corresponding percentages for whites are 17 and 6.
The Nobel Peace Prize nominee also pointed to housing and health facilities as areas where much progress is needed. “Presdent Johnson’s war on poverty must be supported,” he said.
“If democracy is to live then segregation must die,” King remarked, “because segregation relegates persons to the status of things.”
He termed the theory that legislation cannot solve race reations a “myth,” adding that a law can’t make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me. Legislation changes habits, and habits change hearts.”
The Negro leader flew out of the Bay Area last night for five more speaking engagements in Los Angeles and Hawaii.