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A note to Blacks on voting from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Courtesy of The King Center | 1/15/2016, 8:37 p.m.
We have known for many years – and learn anew every day – that dignity and freedom come only to ...
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks in Selma, Alabama, Feb. 12, 1965, while engaged in a battle with Sheriff Jim Clark over voting rights and voter registration in Selma. Horace Cor

We have known for many years – and learn anew every day – that dignity and freedom come only to those who not only dream of it and yearn for it, but who will act and sacrifice for it.

Some of us are in positions where we can and must give more of ourselves than others. That is the nature of our struggle. But there are time and places where the burden, the cause, can be shared equally by all. This – now – is such a time. In communities throughout our country, Election Day is now at hand.

Your vote is not a small contribution to the struggle for freedom. It is a large – as significant – as any other any of us can make.

On behalf of all those, in the South, who cannot vote this November, but through the power of your vote shall yet be free to cast their ballots, I appeal to you – to each of you – to go to the polls and vote!

The struggle for dignity and freedom goes on continually, and on many different points. A young Southern student risks jail and injury by participating in sit-ins, a Northern adult walks a picket line, a journalist appeals to reason through law, and a worker rises at his union meeting to read a resolution condemning bigotry and inequality.

Each of these – each of you – speaks and acts as time and opportunity demand and permit. But there is one blow for freedom which we can and must all strike together. It is the blow which racists feel at the ballot box when we all register and vote. The time for this may vary slightly from one community to another, but for all who are serious about freedom the time is now.

If you would be truly free, if you would leave an inheritance of dignity and equality for your children, you will register and vote. There is no short-cut to freedom, but the road is shorter through the ballot box. On behalf of those who struggle at this very moment for the freedom for us all, I ask you – register and vote.

Brief timeline

Photo 2: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., right, chats with Greenwood African Americans on their front porch during his door-to-door campaign, telling all African Americans to register to vote in Greenwood, July 21, 1964.

  • During a five-day tour of Mississippi towns, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. informed journalists that his Freedom Democratic party wants federal marshals to guard African American voting rights as he stands at the pulpit of Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, July 22, 1964.

Photo 3: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was attacked when he registered at a White hotel, says in Selma, Alabama, Jan. 19, 1965, African Americans will march on the Dallas County Courthouse again and that those seeking to register to vote will use the front door. African Americans who sought to register were forced to line up in an alley beside the courthouse.