Sharing Space with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The “Big Six” Civil Rights Leaders (l to r) John Lewis, Whitney Young Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Farmer Jr., and Roy Wilkins. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in 1929. My father, Eddie Green was born in 1891 and by 1929 was writing songs, doing small radio appearances and working in burlesque with Billy Minsky. When King graduated from Morehouse College in 1948, Eddie had reached Old Time Radio (OTR) fame, and by the time King had graduated from Crozer Theological Seminary in 1950, Eddie had died. So Eddie probably was not cognizant of the fact that King existed. He did not know that one day Martin Luther King, Jr. would be instrumental in making the lives of Black people a bit easier.

Through the process of doing research on my father for his biography I came across a couple of articles that mentioned Eddie’s involvement with Negro Organizations. The California Eagle did a piece on Eddie in their “Trail Blazers” column in 1947.
The article spoke of Eddie’s 23 years in show business with 15 years of before-the-mike experience and 30 years of technical radio knowledge. It mentioned his beginnings with the late Fats Waller in the 20s and his progress to Duffy’s Tavern. There is mention of Eddie being a 32nd degree Mason and that he had spent the last year working actively with the NAACP.

In 1949 there was an  Omega Smoker gathering given in Mr. Paul R. Williams house in Los Angeles, for the then Governor of the Virgin Islands. Among the guests present were Dr. Ralph Bunche, Eddie Green of Duffy’s Tavern and Amos ‘N Andy shows, Jack Dempsey, and Roy Wilkins of the NAACP. Eddie took over the party by telling some of his “grandfather jokes.” Seems that Eddie couldn’t resist being the funny guy, but clearly he had hobnobbed with well-known leaders of the times.

One of the goals of the NAACP was to remove all barriers of racial discrimination through democratic processes. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is considered the formative figure in the modern fight for civil rights, and his legacy looms large in the work of all those who follow him in his cause. Dr. King’s involvement with the NAACP dates back to his position on the executive committee of the NAACP Montgomery Branch in the 1950’s, through his leadership in the various boycotts, marches and rallies of the 1960’s, and up until his assassination in 1968. (www.naacp.org/oldest-and-boldest/dr-martin-luther-king-jr-mw/)

King, representing the SCLC, was among the leaders of the “Big Six” civil rights organizations who were instrumental in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which took place on August 28, 1963. Among the other leaders and organizations comprising the Big Six was Roy Wilkins from the NAACP. (Wikimedia)

During Eddie’s voting years some people “engaged in egregious voting discrimination”. Making it difficult if not impossible for people of color to vote. Jim Crow laws were enacted. A typical news article read: Stepin Fetchit is in Johnstown experiencing what is was like to deal with “Jim Crow.” Paul Robeson was stopping the “Show Boat” in Angel City. Pittsburgh Courier, May 1940.

From past articles I have read and according to my mom, Eddie was usually upbeat; he did not like violence of any kind, he did not even like to see comedians booed off the stage.

Being a 32nd degree Mason means that the Master Mason is involved in charitable work. Work to do good. You are to have good moral values. When you go beyond 32nd you go into the “Shrine” or what most people know as The Shriner’s. It is generally known that the Shriner’s help burn victims and children by providing hospitals and medical care all free. But what is not commonly known is that each of the branches also provide services for underprivileged children. Eddie provided food to the poor while he owned his bar-b-q restaurants. As a 32nd degree Mason and Shriner, Eddie was given a Shriner’s Parade down Adams Boulevard in 1950 when he died.

In the 1950s, the Civil Rights Movement increased pressure on the federal government to protect the voting rights of racial minorities. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was advancing civil rights through non-violence. He won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was concerned about how we treat our neighbors. He believed in the Spirit of Love.

I haven’t thought too much about Eddie’s experience with voting as a Black person but my thought process is beginning to take a different path. I do believe that if Eddie had lived to see the growth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a leader and civil rights activist he would have been proud to have been able to share space on this earth with Dr. King, who paved the way for the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Dr. King believed in loving our fellows and promoting non-violence. Something we can all work on.

Hey, thanx for stopping by. Peace.

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