The biggest name in Lynchburg actively fought against the man we’re celebrating today.
[T]he most pervasive mistake I have made was in believing that because our cause was just, we could be sure that the white ministers of the South, once their Christian consciences were challenged, would rise to our aid. I felt that white ministers would take our cause to the white power structure. I ended up, of course, chastened and disillusioned. As our movement unfolded, and direct appeals were made to white ministers, most folded their hands — and some even took stands against us.
Jerry Falwell on integration, 1958:
The true Negro does not want integration…. He realizes his potential is far better among his own race… It will destroy our race eventually. In one northern city, a pastor friend of mine tells me that a couple of opposite race live next door to his church as man and wife.
“[Falwell] enlisted with J. Edgar Hoover to distribute FBI manufactured propaganda against the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and publicly denounced the 1964 Civil Rights Act as ‘civil wrongs,’”
— Max Blumenthal, The Nation
Falwell on civil rights leaders, 1964:
[I question] the sincerity and intentions of some civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. James Farmer, and others, who are known to have left-wing associations. It is very obvious that the Communists, as they do in all parts of the world, are taking advantage of a tense situation in our land, and are exploiting every incident to bring about violence and bloodshed…
Preachers are not called to be politicians, but soul winners.”
Three years later he opened Lynchburg (later Liberty) Christian Academy as a (segregated) private school for white children.
On MLK Day, 2016, Liberty University hosted Donald Trump (who, has been sued for housing discrimination, and just days ago, attacked civil rights icon John Lewis for being “all talk”). Over the last year, Jerry Falwell Jr. has been a faithful supporter (read: surrogate) of Trump, appearing on network news programs and even going so far as to get into petty arguments with anti-Trump LU students.
I wanted to highlight these things, not because I enjoy beating dead horses (Falwell later said he’d been wrong on integration), but because when we talk about MLK and the Civil Rights Movement, we rarely connect the dots from that time to now.
Conservative historical revisionists have tried to erase the names and faces of those who worked against the movements for justice and civil rights, but it’s not like we don’t have anything to learn from them…
like what it sounds like to be on the wrong side of history at an especially historic time…
Note: I’m from Lynchburg and Falwell’s ministries are still the dominant institution of that city.
Disclosure: Jerry Falwell Jr. has been nice to me before.