Cross Bearing


From James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree: “Bearing the cross was a frequent theme in King’s sermons. Preaching at Dexter on his return from a visit to Palestine in 1959, Martin King, following the black religious tradition on Simon of Cyrene, recalls that in the story of the crucifixion, “when Jesus fell and stumbled under that cross, it was a black man that picked it up for him and said, ‘I will help you,’ and took it on up to Calvary.” When we realize that blacks “have been dominated politically, exploited economically, trampled over, and humiliated,” King told the Dexter congregation, “I think one day God will remember that it was a black man that helped His son in the darkest and most desperate moment of his life. . . . It was a black man who picked up that cross for him and who took that cross on up to Calvary. …” Like other black ministers before him, King connected the story of the black struggle for dignity with the biblical story of Calvary. In merging the two stories, he was enabled to face his own coming death. How did King live with the daily threat of death for more than twelve years? No one was more at risk than he. The cross of Jesus is the key to King’s willingness to sacrifice his life, not only for the freedom of black people (“ I will die standing up for the freedom of my people”) but also for the souls of whites and the redemption of America.”


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