ABSTRACT

Martin Luther King arrived in Montgomery in September 1954, largely unknown outside of the network of black Baptist pastors, and his immediate circle of family and friends. By the time he submitted his resignation to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church on November 29, 1959, the Montgomery Bus Boycott had catapulted him to national and international renown. Over the same period, changes that would ultimately transform the South seemed, in the short term, to increase the rigidity of its race relations. In 1954 the city of Montgomery still relished its reputation as the Cradle of the Confederacy. By December 1956, however, national civil rights leader Roy Wilkins of the NAACP extravagantly described the city as “the peace capital of a new liberation movement” because of “the spontaneous protest of the city’s Negro population against the humiliation of Jim Crow [segregation]” (Burns 1997: 315). At the time Wilkins spoke, the NAACP was unable to operate in Alabama due to injunctions secured by state Attorney-General and future Governor John Patterson, and outgoing Governor Jim Folsom declared that his moderate-to-liberal stance on racial matters had become so unpopular that he could not get elected to the post of city dogcatcher (Bartley 1995: 208).