One of the most important — and often overlooked — moments of the civil rights movement was Martin Luther King Jr.’s midnight “kitchen table experiment” in 1956, which shaped its (and our) future. .
King was 27 and in his second year as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, within sight of Alabama’s capital. He had helped lead the city’s bus boycott, which resulted in an ongoing barrage of death threats to his home, by mail and by phone. Some days there were as many as 30 to 40 calls, often in the evenings, trying to coerce him back to Atlanta.
King would simply put the phone down and, if it got dark, go back to bed. But a call, around midnight on January 27, became crucial for him.
As his wife, Coretta, and their baby girl slept nearby, the male caller said, “N—–, we’re tired of your mess. And if you don’t leave this town in three days, we’re going to blow up your house and blow your brains out.
Shaken more than usual, King, as it was later recounted, went to their small kitchen, made a coffee pot, buried his face in his hands and prayed out loud, “Lord, I’m here trying to do what’s right… But I’m scared… I have to admit… I’m losing my courage.
King, in his own words, said, “I could hear a voice inside me saying, ‘Martin Luther, stand up for the truth. Stand up for justice. Stand up for justice. I’ll be by your side.'”