Author Dan Abrams New Book About Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Trial

The book Alabama v. King

New book coming out Alabama v. King: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Criminal Trial that kicked off the Civil Rights Movement Take a look back at the “forgotten” criminal trial of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the wake of Rosa Park‘ refused in 1955 to give up his seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Founder of Law & Crime Dan Abrams co-authored a book on historical cases with Fred Grey, attorney for both Parks and Dr. King.

Book by HarperCollins Publishing, slated to hit the shelves on 5/24, which provides relevant context on leading up to the protest, both about the Parks and the growing and broader civil rights movement. A book excerpt narrates the main events this way:

At about 9:15 p.m. on January 30, 1956, 27-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. was campaigning for a nonviolent protest with about two thousand people at First Baptist Church in the cave. Dr. King told the enthralled audience, “If all I had to pay was going to jail a few times and getting about 20 threatening calls a day. . . I think that’s a very small price to pay for what we’re fighting for.” Little he may know that as he speaks, that price is becoming significantly higher.

That night, a white supremacist drove up to his house, walked up the half-step of a white plank house in a quiet neighborhood, and threw a live dynamite on the front porch. His wife, Coretta Scott King, and a friend were in the living room and their newborn daughter, Yolanda, slept in the back room. When the explosives detonated shortly afterwards, windows were blown out and parts of the house were destroyed or left bare.

Upon hearing the news of the incident, King immediately ran home and was relieved to find that his wife, her friend and his daughter were all unharmed. An angry and frightened crowd of about three hundred quickly gathered to support the King family, and with the smell of dynamite lingering in the night air, Dr. King stepped out onto the veranda to stand only part of himself and declares: “We believe in the law and order food. Don’t take your weapon. . . We do not support violence. We want to love our enemies.” With those words, a potentially volatile situation was diffused.

The local authorities never arrested the perpetrators of the crimes, but less than two months later they arrested Dr. King for organizing peaceful protests he supported on the night his home was bombed. The trial that follows will introduce the young minister to the US.

It required an extraordinary, unexpected and random sequence of events to bring the young Dr. King to the center of history. It wasn’t a role he was after. “When Martin Luther King arrived in Montgomery in 1953,” recalls Fred Grey, his friend and first defense attorney, “He had no citizenship in mind. In fact, the preacher before him ran out of town because he was too free. ”

But after civil rights activist Rosa Parks was arrested on December 1, 1955 for violating city policy by refusing to give up her seat on a crowded bus to whites, a small group of public Montgomery’s top Black citizens and ministers have called for a … daytime bus boycott to protest the way black Americans are treated on public transit. The rally is scheduled for December 5, the day of Parks’ trial. Fred Gray explains: “This is far from happening. “This is not just an isolated incident. We have been complaining about the treatment of Negroes on buses for a long time. But the bus company did nothing. We’ve settled for minor changes; instead, they just ignored us. They treat us like we have no rights. So when Ms. Parks was arrested, the community just said, that’s it. We will do something about it now. They will respect us or we will not continue on their bus. “

At the 30-minute trial on December 5, Rosa Parks pleaded not guilty to disorderly conduct and violation of local regulations. Fred Gray protects her. She was convicted and fined $10, plus $4 in court fees. Gray immediately appealed the conviction. But by then the protest had already begun.

Parks’ arrest and conviction inspired the “Montgomery Bus Boycott” and Dr. What a dynamic demonstration? against discrimination in the Deep South.

“Mrs. Rosa Parks was a good person. And, since it had to happen, I’m glad it happened to someone like Mrs. Parks, because no one can doubt her unwavering strength. No. no one can doubt the height of her character, no one can doubt the depth of her Christian commitment and devotion to the teachings of Jesus,” he said in “And I’m so glad it happened, it happened to someone no one would call a troublemaker in the community. Mrs. Parks was a good, humble Catholic. , but still had integrity. And just because she refused to get up, she was arrested.”

“And you know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled by the iron feet of oppression,” he added.

Dr King, then a 27-year-old minister, was soon in legal trouble when prosecutors blamed him for leading a bus boycott that violated anti-boycott regulations.

As King’s first attorney, Fred Grey, remembers, this moment in history was the one that lifted Dr. King out of relative anonymity and set him on the path to becoming a civil rights icon.

“It is certainly correct to say that none of those who chose him thought of him as the man who would lead the blacks across the country. We just deal with the situation on the bus in Montgomery. It wasn’t until much later that we understood that this kind of random selection made all the difference in the world,” Gray said.

Fred Gray mugshot

Fred Gray mugshot, Montgomery County Archives

Gray was then 25 years old and was described as having “legal problems almost every day”, with Dr King “in the middle of every one of them.”

Then came the trial of Dr. King and final faith.

Eighty-nine people were arrested, but Dr. King was indicted as the leader of the “Montgomery Bus Boycott”. However, Gray wasn’t worried about King testifying in his own defense at the trial. He describes a client who would accept legal advice, who is knowledgeable about the law, who is wary of prosecution pitfalls, and who is able to be authentic and confident in his stance.

“During the trial we will discuss the legal strategy and he will state his opinion but in general he accepts advice. Our main goal is that regardless of the outcome of the case, Martin Luther King will be the winner. He has never testified in a trial before, but I have great confidence in him,” Gray said. “We have carefully prepared for him both direct testimony and cross-examination: Dr. King understands what the law is, what the facts are, what our theory of the case is and what the prosecution will try to do. doing what. Their goal was to prove that he was the leader, the decision-making man, rather than the mouthpiece for all the others.”

“He is aware of the legal traps Mr Thetford will lay for him and how to avoid them. He quietly sat through all the testimonies, listening attentively. After each day, we would all come together to my office to review the day’s progress and plan for the next day. And while we never told him how to respond or what to say, we never rehearsed. But Dr. King understands that sometimes there is a difference between law and justice, and he has dedicated his life to believing in justice for our community,” he added. “He was sure of that, and that gave him complete confidence. He wasn’t nervous in the slightest when he stood up. He knows what they’re going to try to get him to say and he knows what we want him to say. I suspect that many people in that courtroom were far more worried about him than he felt. “

In addition to Grey’s insight and firsthand account, the book accesses key sources, such as Dr. King’s trial transcripts, as well as the testimonies of Black witnesses, to expose fake in 2022 going back to the 1950s in Montgomery, Alabama.

Join Abrams and Gray as co-authors David Fisher. Abrams and Fisher have also co-authored several other books, New York Times bestsellers among them, on John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Jack Ruby.

[Image via HarperCollins]

Is there a trick we should know? [email protected] Author Dan Abrams New Book About Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Trial

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