Thursday, July 16, 2009

Martin Luther King Was A Republican

Was Martin Luther King Jr. a member of the party of Lincoln or the party of Obama? Does it even matter? That is part of a question a group of black Republicans raised in Houston when they placed a huge billboard proclaiming: “Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican.” The black conservative group Ragingelephants.org sponsored the sign, which debuted July 2 but has since been removed by the billboard company because of controversy over the message. The billboard is a replica of ones erected by the National Black Republican Association in Denver to coincide with the Democratic National Convention and the nomination of Barack Obama – the first African American to head a major party’s political ticket. “We are a grassroots organization, devised to be a counter weight to left wing organizations,” said Claver Kamau-Imani, chairman and founder of Ragingelephants.org. “One of our main missions is to try to expand the conservative voting base through racial diversity. The billboard was just an opening salvo, to say that conservatives are coming. We are not simply going to concede the community of color to the Democratic Party.” While he had no voting records or other documentation, Kimau-Imani claims that King’s niece, Alveda King, said her uncle was a Republican.“I have not talked to Kimau-Imani. I don’t even know who he is,” she said. “I have never said Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican. I never saw his registration card.” She does acknowledge that her grandfather, Martin Luther King Sr., once was a Republican. Historically, the perception that blacks leaned Republican came from the fact that Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and promoted the passage of the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, was a party member. Nearly 100 years later, when King was arrested before the 1960 election, his family reached out to both candidates for help. The Republican Richard Nixon ignored them, while the Democrat John F. Kennedy secured King’s release. King Sr., who had planned to vote for Nixon, endorsed Kennedy. King Jr., on the other hand, did not endorse candidates. “Martin Luther King Jr. was not a Republican or Democrat,” said Alveda King, who was previously elected to the Georgia House as a Democrat, but later appointed to state and federal commissions by Republicans. “But everybody uses Martin Luther King Jr.’s name for their own benefit.” Kamau-Imani said his group plans more billboards with claims that other black historic figures, such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, were Republicans.