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History > 20th century > USA > Civil rights > Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) > MLK’s first imprisonment - October 1960




Martin Luther King Jr. under arrest, Oct. 19, 1960.



Associated Press


How Martin Luther King Jr.’s Imprisonment Changed American Politics Forever


Jan. 12, 2021

















October 1960


MLK’s first imprisonment



The story begins

in mid-October 1960

with Martin Luther King Jr.’s

incarceration (his first)

in a Georgia jail cell

and ends three weeks later

with John F. Kennedy’s

narrow victory

over Richard M. Nixon

in the most competitive

presidential election

of the 20th centurY.


Kennedy’s razor-thin triumph

depended on several factors

ranging from his youthful charm

to Mayor Richard J. Daley’s ability

to pad the Democratic vote

in Chicago.


But, as the Kendricks

ably demonstrate,

one crucial factor

in Kennedy’s electoral success

was the late surge of Black voters

into the Democratic column.


In all likelihood, this surge

represented the difference

between victory and defeat

in at least five swing states,

including Illinois,

Michigan and New Jersey,

ensuring Kennedy’s

comfortable margin (303 to 219)

in the Electoral College.


This last-minute shift

was precipitated

by two impulsive phone calls:

one from John Kennedy

to Coretta Scott King,

expressing his concern

for her jailed husband’s safety;

the second from

the candidate’s

younger brother Robert

to Oscar Mitchell,

the Georgia judge

overseeing King’s incarceration.


Arrested on two minor charges

— participating in a student-led sit-in

at Rich’s department store in Atlanta

and driving with an Alabama license

after changing his residency

to Georgia — King was thought

to be in grave danger

after a manacled, late-night transfer

from an Atlanta jail

to a remote rural facility

in Klan-infested DeKalb County,

and soon thereafter to the state’s

notorious maximum-security prison

in Reidsville.














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New York Times > Disunion: The Civil War


Disunion revisits and reconsiders

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This timeline tracks the posts

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