The following is an editorial from the April 15, 1968, issue of Publishers Weekly, written by the magazine’s then editor-in-chief Chandler B. Grannis. The piece, titled “Can Violence Be Denied Its Victory?,” was written in response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was fatally shot in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968.
Modern Americans like to think of their society as one marked by scientific achievement and the advance of humanistic culture. But once again we have seen this pretension brutally shattered. Once again the America heritage of violence—perpetuated by nostalgic tradition, racial fear, a confusing war, misapplied nationalism and television programming—has struck down one of our noblest and most needed citizens.
In expressing the nation’s shock over the murder of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, the President said that violence must be denied its victory. This can only come about, however, when the people—businessmen, workmen, writers, scientists, all of us—insist on taking—and paying for—those practical steps toward social construction to which Dr. King devoted his life.
The need for these steps is rendered all the more poignant by the fact that, as unrest mounts in many cities, some of the very measures in question are being cut back by Congress and state legislators.
As more than one observer has pointed out, Congress has just slashed a whole series of programs necessary for the betterment of educational and employment opportunities. Children and young people are chief victims. The Headstart program for overcoming some of the worst handicaps under which poor children begin school is being cut back in Congress by $27-million; health centers by another $27-million; legal services by $9-million; community action support by $30-million; the Neighborhood Youth program by another $30-million; the Job Corps by $10-million; Work Experience projects by $25-million.
Recently, even those who are most committed to vigorous educational programs have been in retreat. Under the Office of Education budget proposals, Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (PW, March 4 ) may be cut about 53.5%—or over $53-million—for fiscal 1968; and Title III of the National Defense Education Act, a title which involves matching funds from the states, may drop 80%, or over $60-million.
Congressional pressures are towards further slashes. It is hardly surprising if such moves are regarded as almost deliberate slaps at the poor, the critics, and the Negro community.
Good will, to be sure, has been expressed. Counter to the terrible episodes of burning and looting and shooting, there have been spontaneous demonstrations of friendship and concern. A fine example was, on Palm Sunday, the “Walk for Understanding” in Newark, New Jersey, which brought out 25,000 people, white and black, from the homes and churches of the city and all its polite suburbs, to march through riot-torn areas.
Such demonstrations, matched in many other places, may make the climate a little easier for peaceful improvement. But will these gestures be followed by meaningful legislative action?
Specifically, can bookmen and other people of good will help mobilize the pressures that will restore cuts in educational and library programs, in youth projects, in job training?
In his most famous speech, Dr. King spoke of the modest but unattained dreams he had for America. They were dreams not for his race alone, but for all those to whom much hope has been extended and then denied.
Bookmen, concerned as they are with education and with the opportunities that depend upon reading and learning, have a particular role in seeing that violence shall not have a victory, and that the reasonable dreams of a great America will come true.
Chandler B. Grannis was the editor-in-chief of Publishers Weekly at the time of this writing. He died in 2002 at the age of 90.