King comic book inspires fresh calls to fight racism

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comJanuary 25, 2013 

For many, Martin Luther King Jr.'s accomplishments have earned him the status of hero, an honor that comes complete with a comic book.

Beverley Bass, a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, rattled off a number of lesser known facts about King and the civil rights movement of the 1960s during events marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Those facts included the "Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story" comic, published in 1958 by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

"This was at a time when the mainstream media didn't cover civil rights causes nor much of anything related to black communities," Bass said Monday, holding a reprinting of the book.

The book explains how a nonviolent movement could be carried out, references the success of a nonviolent movement by Mahatma Gandhi and depicts the brutality of the Ku Klux Klan. It also tells the story of the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott.

"Many civil rights leaders recognize this as one of the most important and persuasive items of the '50s in explaining (the nonviolent) cause to the world," Bass said.

Of the estimated 250,000 copies printed, few still exist, but one resides in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Scores of marchers celebrated the civil rights leader with a march from City Hall to First Baptist Church, where Bass and others spoke, and the crowd sang hymns and watched a video of King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Kenté Women's Club organized the march and program.

Bruce Rivers, the pastor of Greater Exodus Baptist Church, also recognized the efforts of King's widow, Coretta Scott King, who was an author and activist.

"She was the wife of the preacher Dr. Martin Luther King (and) is still an icon," Rivers said.

Vondell McKenzie, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said the struggle against racism continues. She took exception to several states that had voter ID laws on their November ballots.

"Anytime people add little things to cause you to have to qualify to vote, they don't want you to vote," McKenzie said.

She said the laws are reminiscent of the tests designed to suppress the black vote, given in many Southern states before the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

McKenzie called on marchers to register to vote, and pay attention to the issues.

"Sometimes we don't realize what's happening in our own back yard," she said. "We don't realize what's happening in our front yard."

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at

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