Mary Elizabeth King
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By Mary Elizabeth King:
Black History Month has many meanings. For me, it is a time to remember the tremendous contribution African Americans have made to the building of the United States—as much as any group, and possibly more. I mean this literally, as in constructing so much of the nation’s material infrastructure, but I also am speaking of another realm.
The U.S. Department of Commerce reported 4,733 lynchings between 1882 and 1962, nationwide. Of these, three-quarters of the victims were black, mostly in the Deep South, and we may assume that the incidents were underreported.
How does one learn nonviolent resistance? The same way that Martin Luther King Jr. did—by study, reading and interrogating seasoned tutors. King would eventually become the person most responsible for advancing and popularizing Gandhi’s ideas in the United States, by persuading black Americans to adapt the strategies used against British imperialism in India to their own struggles. Yet he was not the first to bring this knowledge from the subcontinent.
By the 1930s and 1940s, via ocean voyages and propeller airplanes, a constant flow of prominent black leaders were traveling to India. College presidents, professors, pastors and journalists journeyed to India to meet Gandhi and study how to forge mass struggle with nonviolent means.
Václav Havel, who died on December 18, epitomized the power of the pen. A playwright and actor, he was born in Prague in 1936, two years before Nazi Germany militarily occupied Czechoslovakia. As I have written elsewhere, the Stalinist effort to destroy internal opposition to the Czechoslovak communist regime and its worsening economic policies led to hundreds of executions and tens of thousands of imprisonments. Millions were left suffering. Rigid communist economic views, bureaucratization of all dimensions of life, and recurring shortages meant that people could survive under communist rule only through venality and by shortcutting regulations. Those who went along with the habitual corruption—including the great proportion of managers and professionals—found themselves subjected to blackmail and entrapped by lies.