Of the many atrocities Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. faced during his time, the attack on his Montgomery, Ala., home in response to his involvement in the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott stands out as one of the most heinous. The attack happened on this day in 1956, while King was away helping to organize members of the boycott movement.
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The bombing was an especially troubling act, considering King and his wife, Coretta, were new parents to their first child, Yolanda. His family lived in the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church parsonage, where the then-27-year-old King served as pastor.
As was custom in his life of public service and his push for fair rights for African Americans, threats were commonly hurled in King’s direction. According to Shirley Cherry of the Dexter Parsonage Museum, King received a chilling phone call three days before the bombing that trumped them all:
“We’re tired of your mess. And if you aren’t out of this town in three days, we’re going to blow up your house and blow your brains out,” said the mystery caller. King was said to be affected by the call but relied on his faith to get him past the moment. Although shaken to his core, King said that God strengthened him and he continued on his path.
While at an evening meeting with bus boycott members, a bomb exploded on the front porch of King’s residence, causing damage to the home and blowing out the windows. At some point, King was alerted of the explosion and rushed to his wife and child who were both unharmed.
He was met by an angry mob of armed Black men seeking to defend the leader alongside White police officers. With his house surrounded as he spoke to reporters and others, King addressed the crowd and urged them to find peace in the wake of the violent act.
“If you have weapons, take them home. If you do not have them, please do not seek them. We cannot solve this problem through violence. We must meet violence with non-violence. Love your enemies; bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. Remember this movement will not stop, because God is with it,” said King after raising his hand for silence. After delivering his words, the crowds dispersed.
Learn about Dr. King’s life here:
The same day of the bombing, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was urged to file a lawsuit to challenge the bus segregation laws ironically enough.
Two days later, the NAACP local chapter President and King collaborator E. D. Nixon’s home was also bombed. In both cases, as expected, outrage was expressed by city officials along with a push to find the criminals but no such arrest was ever made.
Much later that year, King was arrested for violating boycott laws and his home was shot during the winter as well.
King’s will, inspired by Rosa Parks’ bold act in 1955, could not be dimmed despite the odds placed against him. It is amazing that even until his last days, he found inspiration to face up to his enemies and detractors with an unwavering message of peace, love, and justice.
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