Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

The Power of Martin Luther King

BOND: Tell us about Martin Luther King and how he came in your life or how he came into your consciousness.

WILLIAMS: Well, first of all, this was a man who was different from everybody else in many ways, at least from a distance. I didn't know much about him because he was in the South and I was in the North, and he was like Gandhi. He was prepared to stand up for his principles, but he wouldn't fight back. He turned the other cheek. He believed in passive resistance. It was hard to swallow, especially in Chicago. Chicago is a tough town. People like to think of themselves as being tough, you know, growing up in Chicago and so you always want to think, well, I wouldn't stand up for that, I would fight back, but he was showing that he could use a different tactic and actually bring people, all people—white, black, Latinos, everybody—to his side. That was a powerful thing to see and to observe. Then he came to Chicago, of course. He led marches in Chicago to try to break through segregated housing.

BOND: Yes, I remember reading that Dr. King moved into a slum in Chicago and the landlord cleaned it up and people said, well, all we got to do is get him to move into the slums. We'll all be cleaned up in a short while.

WILLIAMS: That's right. [laughs]