Officials of The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Seek to Strengthen Alliance Between Black Americans and Jews

The tour group on the Temple Mount.

Civil Rights Organization Commits to Fulfilling Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s 55-Year-Old Promise To The Jewish Nation

ATLANTA – Ten days after he was assassinated on a hotel balcony in Memphis, Dr. Martin Luther King, Dr., the co-founder and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), was scheduled to make a return visit to Israel, where he was fostering stronger alliances between Black Americans and Jews, two groups that shared a common history of discrimination, racism, and oppression.

Last month, SCLC’s First Lady Cathelean Steele, and Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., the civil rights organization’s president and CEO, finally made good on the SCLC’s return to Israel. First Lady Steele was honored by Israeli leaders and was a guest speaker at three events, including one on a street named after Dr. King and one outside a popular forest where a section is named after Dr. King’s late wife, Coretta. During the SCLC’s 54th Annual Conference on August 25 and 26th, Ms. Steele and Dr. Steele  provided highlights of that historic trip.

Today, they announced next steps for strengthening relations between both communities, which includes educating Black Americans about the historic alliance and the need for it to continue as well as supporting efforts that encourage Black Americans to travel to Israel where they can learn first-hand about the reason Black Americans and Jews have a bond that cannot be broken.

This renewed focus comes during a time when tensions have developed between the Black and Jewish communities following comments by high profile individuals from both sectors that are perceived antisemitic and anti-Black.

In an effort to address the discourse and to repair damage to decades of Black Americans and Jews uniting to address injustices, many Black and Jewish organizations across the nation have been holding symposiums and other meetings where the discussions center on honest dialogue about the state of the alliance. The SCLC is one of the latest internationally recognized Black organizations and one of the most legendary to place the spotlight on strengthening the alliance, because its ties to working closely with Israeli leaders date back to Dr. King’s visit in 1959.

With major civil rights gains being reversed and attacked and with the heightened racial tensions in the U.S., Ms. Steele and Dr. Steele said the SCLC made a commitment with Israeli leaders that the organization is committed to completing Dr. King’s vision of building a stronger collaboration between the two communities.

“We still need each other,” Mrs. Steele said about the alliance with Israel. “We need to work together. We need to realize our past, and we need to make sure our future is better than our past. I believe that Dr. King’s dream and Mrs. Coretta Scott King’s dream is being fulfilled. The history of African Americans and the history of our Jewish brothers and sisters is not that different. Slavery is slavery. I don’t care what name you call it by.”

She added, “We are fulfilling the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to bring African Americans to Israel. Our job is to bring us back together because of the history we share.”

During her visit to Jerusalem, Ms. Steele shared a passage Dr. King shared about the SCLC’s commitment to Israel.

“Peace for Israel means security, and we want to stand with all of our might to protect its right to exist. It’s territorial integrity. I think Israel, and I never mind saying it, has one of the great outposts of democracy in the world and a marvelous example of what can be done… how desert land can almost be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be reality.”

Ms. Steele, one of a delegation of 600 women, including 150 women leaders from the U.S., said the SCLC will be working through an organization called the Covenant Daughters International, who is working closely with the First Lady of Israel Michal Herzog to bring African Americans on a continuous basis to Israel.

Dr. Steele said the alliance would also include focus on economics, because Dr. King recognized a few months before his death that the movement had focused on integration and voting rights and left out economics.

“He thought integrating people in society and putting them in political positions would bring about economic equality,” Dr. Steele said. “You cannot have the right to vote without economics.”

Ms. Steele and Dr. Steele said education is the key to building the foundation for a stronger alliance with Israel, something that Ms. King was intentionally about in her quest to root out communism and antisemitism until her death.

“She believed there was an educational benefit reassuring that Black and Jewish youth understood the struggle that each group experienced as two of the most repressed groups in the world,” Ms. Steele said. “Dr. Steele and I agree, and we are committed to strengthening the alliance so we can eradicate all injustices.”

ABOUT THE SCLC: Established in 1957, the SCLC, whose first president was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is an international organization made up of chapters and affiliates with programs that affect the lives of all Americans: north, south, east, and west. Its sphere of influence and interests has become international in scope because the human rights movement transcends national boundaries. For additional information about the SCLC, visit arrange an interview with Ms. Steele and Dr. Steele, contact Jerry Thomas at, or (312) 804-7999.