‘Certifiably Insane’ – Andrew Young’s Droll Remembrance

U.S. president Lyndon Johnson addresses a joint session of Congress in Washington on March 15, 1965: "Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice – and we shall overcome." AP photo

MEMPHIS, TN: Another February Black History Month drawing to a close and that has deep associations here in Memphis where Martin Luther King gave his last memorable message.

That recalls a story as there are so many from that dramatic and truly heroic period. In 1998 CNN broadcast a documentary series called “Soundtrack: Songs That Defined History.” One episode addressed the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and had a startling interview with Dr. King’s friend and assistant Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta.

Reverend Young reminisced that King would confess: “You’ve got to be crazy.” And he would include himself. “The Movement was a collection of people who were certifiably insane.”

Then he would explain what he meant.

“Nobody in their right mind would think they were gonna take on the federal government, the world, and all the state courts, the police and everyone else with no money, no guns, no political power, nothing but an idea in your head and a song in your heart.

“You’ve got to be crazy to think you're going to change the world that way.”

But, as Young concluded, “he was doing it.”

The Song in their heart of course was “We shall overcome” – a borrowed hymn from the black church tradition. The idea was from Jesus’ “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

So without burnings, or attacks, or violence or anger – the Movement set out to transform the country. And did. As a congregation of mostly African-Americans, Memphis GCI can’t help but remind our fellow Christians of that. And yet, the best is yet to come.