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*On May 17, 1957, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “Give Us the Ballot” speech. Dr. King addresses 25,000 people in Washington D.C. at the Lincoln Memorial for the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom. He suggested that the “betrayal” of disenfranchised Americans by all politicians offered the ultimate argument for why the struggle for voting rights is essential to the struggle for social justice, environmental protection, and peace. Dr. King (in part) went on the say:
Give us the ballot, and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights.
Give us the ballot and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law; we will by the power of our vote write the law on the statute books of the South and bring an end to the dastardly acts of the hooded perpetrators of violence.
Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient misdeeds of bloodthirsty mobs into the calculated good deeds of orderly citizens.
Give us the ballot and we will fill our legislative halls with men of goodwill and send to the sacred halls of Congress men who will not sign a "Southern Manifesto" because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice.
Give us the ballot and we will place judges on the benches of the south who will do justly and love mercy and we will place at the head of the southern states governors who have felt not only the tang of the human, but the glow of the Divine.
His speech coincided with the 3rd anniversary of public schools being desegregated in the United States. Dr. King was only 28 years old at the time and noted the “open defiance” that was preventing Brown v. B.O.E. from going forward.