Two weeks ago, on April 4, various commemorative services were held in the United States to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King. In those difficult and turbulent times, many parts of the American south were crucibles of hate. So much so that on March 11, 1965, white American Unitarian minister James Reed was brutally clubbed to death by segregationists while marching for civil rights in Alabama. Days later, on March 25, Martin Luther King led thousands of non-violent demonstrators to the steps of the Alabama capitol in Montgomery, after a 5-day 54-mile march from Selma. Archbishop Iakovos would travel to Selma and march with King for a few hours. The photo below is of Archbishop Iakovos marching with King as King holds a wreath for Reed’s memorial service.
Many Greeks have seen this iconic "Life" magazine cover below. Not all appreciate the courage it took for a Greek Orthodox leader at that time to stand arm in arm with African-American leaders. Coretta Scott King, King’s widow, would later highlight how important it was to have the support of Archbishop Iakovos:
"At a time when many of the nation’s most prominent clergy were silent, Archbishop Iakovos courageously supported our Freedom Movement and marched alongside my husband, and he continued to support the nonviolent movement against poverty, racism and violence throughout his life."
Archbishop Iakovos explained that it was that obligation to speak up that led him to Selma:
"We have fought oppressive and repressive political regimes, based on Christian principles, for centuries. A Christian must cry out in indignation against all persecution. That’s what made me walk with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma."
Dr John N Yiannakis OAM