To be continued...
To be continued..

Cassandra Metaphor

                                                                             Painting of Cassandra by Evelyn De Morgan.

The Cassandra metaphor (variously labelled the Cassandra 'syndrome', 'complex', 'phenomenon', 'predicament', 'dilemma', or 'curse'), is a term applied in situations in which valid warnings or concerns are dismissed or disbelieved.

The term originates in Greek mythology. Cassandra was a daughter of Priam, the King of Troy. Struck by her beauty, Apollo provided her with the gift of prophecy, but when Cassandra refused Apollo's romantic advances, he placed a curse ensuring that none would believe her warnings. Cassandra was left with the knowledge of future events, but could neither alter these events nor convince others of the validity of her predictions.

The metaphor has been applied in a variety of contexts such as psychology, environmentalism, politics, science, cinema, the corporate world, and in philosophy, and has been in circulation since at least 1949 when French philosopher Gaston Bachelard coined the term 'Cassandra Complex' to refer to a belief that things could be known in advance.

In psychology

The Cassandra metaphor is applied by some psychologists to individuals who experience physical and emotional suffering as a result of distressing personal perceptions, and who are disbelieved when they attempt to share the cause of their suffering with others.

Melanie Klein

In 1963 psychologist Melanie Klein provided an interpretation of Cassandra as representing the human moral conscience whose main task is to issue warnings. Cassandra as moral conscience, "predicts ill to come and warns that punishment will follow and grief arise." Cassandra's need to point out moral infringements and subsequent social consequences is driven by what Klein calls "the destructive influences of the cruel super-ego" which is represented in the Greek myth by the god Apollo, Cassandra's overlord and persecutor. Klein's use of the metaphor centers on the moral nature of certain predictions, which tends to evoke in others "a refusal to believe what at the same time they know to be true, and expresses the universal tendency toward denial, [with] denial being a potent defence against persecutory anxiety and guilt."

Laurie Layton Schapira

In a 1988 study Jungian analyst Laurie Layton Schapira explored what she called the "Cassandra Complex" in the lives of two of her analysands.

Based on clinical experience, she delineates three factors which constitute the Cassandra complex: 1. dysfunctional relationships with the “Apollo archetype” 2. emotional or physical suffering, including hysteria or ‘women’s problems’, and 3. being disbelieved when attempting to relate the facticity of these experiences to others.

Layton Schapira views the Cassandra complex as resulting from a dysfunctional relationship with what she calls the "Apollo archetype” which refers to any individual's or culture's pattern that is dedicated to, yet bound by, order, reason, intellect, truth and clarity that disavows itself of anything dark and irrational. The intellectual specialization of this archetype creates emotional distance and can predispose relationships to a lack of emotional reciprocity and consequent dysfunctions. She further states that a 'Cassandra woman' is very prone to hysteria because she, "feels attacked not only from the outside world but also from within, especially from the body in the form of somatic, often gynaecological, complaints.”. Speaking of the metaphorical application of the Greek Cassandra myth, Layton Schapira states that:

What the Cassandra woman sees is something dark and painful that may not be apparent on the surface of things or that objective facts do not corroborate. She may envision a negative or unexpected outcome; or something which would be difficult to deal with; or a truth which others, especially authority figures, would not accept. In her frightened, ego-less state, the Cassandra woman may blurt out what she sees, perhaps with the unconscious hope that others might be able to make some sense of it. But to them her words sound meaningless, disconnected and blown out of all proportion.

Jean Shinoda-Bolen

In 1989 Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California Jean Shinoda-Bolen published an essay on the God Apollo in which she detailed a psychological profile of the ‘Cassandra woman’ whom she suggested referred to someone suffering –as happened in the mythological relationship between Cassandra and Apollo- a dysfunctional relationship with an “Apollo man”. Shinoda-Bolen added that the Cassandra woman may exhibit “hysterical” overtones, and may be disbelieved when attempting to share what she knows.

According to Shinoda-Bolen the archetypes of Cassandra and Apollo do not belong to either gender. She states "women often find that a particular [male] god exists in them as well, just as I found that when I spoke about goddesses men could identify a part of themselves with a specific goddess. Gods and goddesses represent different qualities in the human psyche. The pantheon of Greek deities together, male and female, exist as archetypes in us all... There are gods and goddesses in every person."

"As an archetype, Apollo personifies the aspect of the personality that wants clear definitions, is drawn to master a skill, values order and harmony, and prefers to look at the surface rather than at what underlies appearances. The Apollo archetype favors thinking over feeling, distance over closeness, objective assessment over subjective intuition."

Of what she describes as the negative Apollonic influence, Dr. Shinoda-Bolen writes:

Individuals who resemble Apollo have difficulties that are related to emotional distance, such as communication problems, and the inability to be intimate... Rapport with another person is hard for the Apollo man. He prefers to access (or judge) the situation or the person from a distance, not knowing that he must "get close up" - be vulnerable and empathic - in order to truly know someone else….. But if the woman wants a deeper, more personal relationship, then there are difficulties… she may become increasingly irrational or hysterical.

Shinoda-Bolen suggests that a Cassandra women (or man) may become increasingly hysterical and irrational when in a dysfunctional relationship with a negative Apollo, and may experience others' disbelief when describing her experiences.

In popular culture


In the following cinematic examples Cassandra is a term applied to those whose predictions of doom are initially dismissed, but later turn out to be correct. This further denotes a psychological tendency among people to deny and disbelieve such predictions. The person making the prediction is caught in the dilemma of knowing what will happen but not being able to convince others. The figure of Cassandra has also been invoked to describe those who take the role of antagonist toward widespread or institutional ignorance of the future consequences of current actions. The films Twelve Monkeys, The Dead Zone, and Terminator 2 all provide examples of this term. A 1961 episode of the television show The Twilight Zone titled "Back There" relates the story of a modern man sent into the past who tries unsuccessfully to convince all who will listen of the impending assassination of Abraham Lincoln.


The Marvel Comic characters Mystique and Destiny, are two mutant super-villains driven to commit acts of violence and terrorism based upon Destiny's visions of the future. Comic writer (and creator of the characters) Chris Claremont, often refers to Destiny as a "Cassandra" figure whose predictions of death for mutantkind are often ignored by the X-Men, with catastrophic effect. However, while Destiny often took her failures in stride, her lover and comrade Mystique would ultimately be driven to insanity after coming into possession with Destiny's various diaries, written with details of the future of mankind and mutantkind. Her madness ultimately leads her to fight the X-Men, who defeat her. Afterwords, Mystique gives the X-Men her copies of Destiny's diaries, promptly telling the X-Men that it was their time to "play Cassandra" with the information inside the diaries.

The corporate world:

Foreseeing potential future directions for a corporation or company is sometimes called ‘visioning’. Yet achieving a clear, shared vision in an organization is often difficult due to a lack of commitment to the new vision by some individuals in the organization because it does not match reality as they see it. Those who support the new vision are termed ‘Cassandras’ – given the ability to see what is going to happen but not believed. Sometimes the name Cassandra is applied to those who can predict rises, falls, and particularly crashes on the world stock market, as happened with Warren Buffett who repeatedly warned that the '90s stock market surge was a bubble, attracting to him the title of 'Wall Street Cassandra'.

The environment movement:

Many environmentalists have predicted looming environmental catastrophes including climate change, rise in sea levels, irreversible pollution, and an impending collapse of ecosystems including those of rainforests and ocean reefs. Such individuals sometimes acquire the label of 'Cassandras' whose warnings of impending environmental disaster are disbelieved or mocked. 

Environmentalist Alan Atkisson states that to understand that humanity is on a collision course with the laws of nature is to be stuck in what he calls the 'Cassandra dilemma' in which one can see the most likely outcome of current trends and can warn people about what is happening, but the vast majority can not, or will not respond, and later if catastrophe occurs they may even blame you, as if your prediction set the disaster in motion.
Occasionally there may be a "successful" alert, though the succession of books, campaigns, organizations, and personalities that we think of as the environmental movement has more generally fallen toward the opposite side of this dilemma: a failure to "get through" to the people and avert disaster. In the words of Atkisson: "too often we watch helplessly, as Cassandra did, while the soldiers emerge from the Trojan horse just as foreseen and wreak their predicted havoc. Worse, Cassandra's dilemma has seemed to grow more inescapable even as the chorus of Cassandras has grown larger."

Other examples

There are examples of the Cassandra metaphor being applied in the contexts of medical science, the media, to feminist perspectives on 'reality', to the experience of partners of individuals with Asperger's syndrome, and in politics. There are also examples of the metaphor being used in popular music lyrics.[26][27] The five part The Mars Volta song "Cassandra Gemini" may reference this syndrome.

Happy birthday, John!


On This Day in History

                                                  1973 : Roe vs Wade: US Supreme Court legalizes some abortions

Argued December 9, 1971
Reargued October 11, 1972
Decided January 22, 1973

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), is a United States Supreme Court case that resulted in a landmark decision regarding abortion. According to the Roe decision, most laws against abortion in the United States violated a constitutional right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision overturned all state and federal laws outlawing or restricting abortion that were inconsistent with its holdings. Roe v. Wade is one of the most controversial and politically significant cases in U.S. Supreme Court history. Its lesser-known companion case, Doe v. Bolton, was decided at the same time.

Roe v. Wade centrally held that a mother may abort her pregnancy for any reason, up until the "point at which the fetus becomes ‘viable.’" The Court defined viable as being "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid. Viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks." The Court also held that abortion after viability must be available when needed to protect a woman's health, which the Court defined broadly in the companion case of Doe v. Bolton. These rulings affected laws in 46 states.

The Roe v. Wade decision prompted national debate that continues today. Debated subjects include whether and to what extent abortion should be legal, who should decide the legality of abortion, what methods the Supreme Court should use in constitutional adjudication, and what the role should be of religious and moral views in the political sphere. Roe v. Wade reshaped national politics, dividing much of the nation into pro-Roe (mostly pro-choice) and anti-Roe (mostly pro-life) camps, while activating grassroots movements on both sides.

History of the case

In 1970, attorneys Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington filed suit in a U.S. District Court in Texas on behalf of Norma L. McCorvey ("Jane Roe"). McCorvey claimed her pregnancy was the result of rape. The defendant in the case was Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade, representing the State of Texas.

The district court ruled in McCorvey's favor on the merits, but declined to grant an injunction against the enforcement of the laws barring abortion. The district court's decision was based upon the Ninth Amendment, and the court also relied upon a concurring opinion by Justice Arthur Goldberg in the 1965 Supreme Court case of Griswold v. Connecticut, regarding a right to use contraceptives. Few state laws proscribed contraceptives in 1965 when the Griswold case was decided, whereas abortion was widely proscribed by state laws in the early 1970s.

Roe v. Wade ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal. Following a first round of arguments, Justice Harry Blackmun drafted a preliminary opinion that emphasized what he saw as the Texas law's vagueness. Justices William Rehnquist and Lewis F. Powell, Jr. joined the Supreme Court too late to hear the first round of arguments. Therefore, Chief Justice Warren Burger proposed that the case be reargued; this took place on October 11, 1972. Weddington continued to represent Roe, and Texas Assistant Attorney General Robert C. Flowers stepped in to replace Wade. Justice William O. Douglas threatened to write a dissent from the reargument order, but was coaxed out of the action by his colleagues, and his dissent was merely mentioned in the reargument order without further statement or opinion.

Supreme Court decision

Harry Blackmun wrote the Court’s opinion.

The court issued its decision on January 22, 1973, with a 7 to 2 majority voting to strike down Texas abortion laws. Burger and Douglas' concurring opinion and White's dissenting opinion were issued separately, in the companion case of Doe v. Bolton.

The Roe Court deemed abortion a fundamental right under the United States Constitution, thereby subjecting all laws attempting to restrict it to the standard of strict scrutiny. Although abortion is still considered a fundamental right, subsequent cases, notably Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Stenberg v. Carhart, and Gonzales v. Carhart have affected the legal standard.

The opinion of the Roe Court, written by Justice Harry Blackmun, declined to adopt the district court's Ninth Amendment rationale, and instead asserted that the "right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." Douglas, in his concurring opinion from the companion case Doe v. Bolton, stated more emphatically that, "The Ninth Amendment obviously does not create federally enforceable rights." Thus, the Roe majority rested its opinion squarely on the Constitution's due process clause.

According to the Roe Court, "the restrictive criminal abortion laws in effect in a majority of States today are of relatively recent vintage." Abortion before Roe had been subject to criminal statutes since at least the nineteenth century. Section VI of Blackmun's opinion was devoted to an analysis of historical attitudes, including those of the Persian Empire, Greek times, the Roman era, the Hippocratic oath, the common law, English statutory law, American law, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and the American Bar Association.

Without finding what it deemed a sufficient historical basis to justify the Texas statute, the Court identified three possible justifications in Section VII of the opinion to explain the criminalization of abortion: (1) women who can receive an abortion are more likely to engage in "illicit sexual conduct"; (2) the medical procedure was extremely risky prior to the development of antibiotics and, even with modern medical techniques, is still risky in late stages of pregnancy; and (3) the state has an interest in protecting prenatal life. To the first, Blackmun wrote that "no court or commentator has taken the argument seriously" and the statute failed to "distinguish between married and unwed mothers"; according to the Court, the second and third constitute valid state interests. In Section X, the Court reiterated, "[T]he State does have an important and legitimate interest in preserving and protecting the health of the pregnant woman ... and that it has still another important and legitimate interest in protecting the potentiality of human life."

Although the Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy, the Court had previously found support for various privacy rights in several provisions of the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as in the "penumbra" of the Bill of Rights. But instead of relying upon the Bill of Rights or "penumbras, formed by emanations", as the Court had done in Griswold v. Connecticut, the Roe Court relied on a "right of privacy" that it said was located in the due process clause of the Constitution.

The Court determined that "arguments that Texas either has no valid interest at all in regulating the abortion decision, or no interest strong enough to support any limitation upon the woman's sole determination, are unpersuasive", and declared, "We, therefore, conclude that the right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, but that this right is not unqualified and must be considered against important state interests in regulation."

When weighing the competing interests that the Court had identified, Blackmun also asserted that if the fetus was defined as a person for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment then the fetus would have a specific right to life under that Amendment. The Court majority determined that the original intent of the Constitution (up to the enactment of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868) did not require protection of the unborn.

The Court's determination of whether a fetus can enjoy constitutional protection was separate from the notion of when life begins: "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer." The Court only believed itself positioned to resolve the question of when a right to abortion exists.

The decision established a system of trimesters that attempted to balance the state's legitimate interests against the abortion right. The Court ruled that the state cannot restrict a woman's right to an abortion during the first trimester, the state can regulate the abortion procedure during the second trimester "in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health", and the state can choose to restrict or proscribe abortion as it sees fit during the third trimester when the fetus is viable ("except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother").


An aspect of the decision that attracted comparatively little attention was the Court's disposition of the issues of standing and mootness. The Supreme Court does not issue advisory opinions (those stating what the law would be in some hypothetical circumstance). Instead, there must be an actual case or controversy, including particularly a plaintiff who is aggrieved and seeks relief. In the Roe case, "Jane Roe", who began the litigation in March 1970, had already given birth by the time the case was argued before the Supreme Court in December 1971. By the traditional rules, therefore, there was an argument that Roe's appeal was moot because she would not be affected by the ruling, and also because she lacked standing to assert the rights of other pregnant women.

The Court concluded that the case came within an established exception to the rule; one that allowed consideration of an issue that was "capable of repetition, yet evading review." This phrase had been coined in 1911 by Justice Joseph McKenna. Blackmun's opinion quoted McKenna, and noted that pregnancy would normally conclude more quickly than an appellate process: "If that termination makes a case moot, pregnancy litigation seldom will survive much beyond the trial stage, and appellate review will be effectively denied."


Byron White was the senior dissenting justice.

Associate Justices Byron R. White and William H. Rehnquist wrote emphatic dissenting opinions in this case. Justice White wrote:

I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court's judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes. The upshot is that the people and the legislatures of the 50 States are constitutionally disentitled to weigh the relative importance of the continued existence and development of the fetus, on the one hand, against a spectrum of possible impacts on the mother, on the other hand. As an exercise of raw judicial power, the Court perhaps has authority to do what it does today; but, in my view, its judgment is an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review that the Constitution extends to this Court.

White asserted that the Court "values the convenience of the pregnant mother more than the continued existence and development of the life or potential life that she carries." Despite White suggesting he "might agree" with the Court's values and priorities, he wrote that he saw "no constitutional warrant for imposing such an order of priorities on the people and legislatures of the States." White criticized the Court for involving itself in this issue by creating "a constitutional barrier to state efforts to protect human life and by investing mothers and doctors with the constitutionally protected right to exterminate it." He would have left this issue, for the most part, "with the people and to the political processes the people have devised to govern their affairs."

Rehnquist elaborated upon several of White's points, by asserting that the Court's historical analysis was flawed:

To reach its result, the Court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment. As early as 1821, the first state law dealing directly with abortion was enacted by the Connecticut Legislature. By the time of the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, there were at least 36 laws enacted by state or territorial legislatures limiting abortion. While many States have amended or updated their laws, 21 of the laws on the books in 1868 remain in effect today.

From this historical record, Rehnquist concluded that, "There apparently was no question concerning the validity of this provision or of any of the other state statutes when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted." Therefore, in his view, "the drafters did not intend to have the Fourteenth Amendment withdraw from the States the power to legislate with respect to this matter."


Some pro-life supporters argue that all nine justices in Roe failed to adequately recognize that life begins at conception (sometimes referred to as "fertilization") and should therefore be protected by the Constitution; the dissenting justices in Roe instead wrote that decisions about abortion "should be left with the people and to the political processes the people have devised to govern their affairs." Other pro-life supporters argue that, in the absence of definite knowledge of when life begins, it is best to avoid the risk of doing harm. Every year on the anniversary of the decision, tens of thousands of pro-life supporters demonstrate outside the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. in the March for Life.

Advocates of Roe describe it as vital to preservation of women's rights, personal freedom, and privacy. Denying the abortion right has been equated to compulsory motherhood, and some scholars (not including any member of the Supreme Court) have argued that abortion bans therefore violate the Thirteenth Amendment:

When women are compelled to carry and bear children, they are subjected to 'involuntary servitude' in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment….[E]ven if the woman has stipulated to have consented to the risk of pregnancy, that does not permit the state to force her to remain pregnant.

Opponents of Roe have objected that the decision lacks a valid Constitutional foundation. Like the dissenters in Roe, they have maintained that the Constitution is silent on the issue, and that proper solutions to the question would best be found via state legislatures and the democratic process, rather than through an all-encompassing ruling from the Supreme Court. Supporters of Roe contend that the decision has a valid constitutional foundation, or contend that justification for the result in Roe could be found in the Constitution but not in the articles referenced in the decision.

In response to Roe v. Wade, most states enacted or attempted to enact laws limiting or regulating abortion, such as laws requiring parental consent for minors to obtain abortions, parental notification laws, spousal mutual consent laws, spousal notification laws, laws requiring abortions to be performed in hospitals but not clinics, laws barring state funding for abortions, laws banning abortions utilizing intact dilation and extraction procedures (often referred to as partial-birth abortion), laws requiring waiting periods before abortion, or laws mandating women read certain types of literature before choosing an abortion. Congress in 1976 passed the Hyde Amendment, barring federal funding of abortions for poor women through the Medicaid program. The Supreme Court struck down several state restrictions on abortions in a long series of cases stretching from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s, but upheld restrictions on funding, including the Hyde Amendment, in the case of Harris v. McRae (1980).

The most prominent organized groups that mobilized in response to Roe are the National Abortion Rights Action League on the pro-choice side, and the National Right to Life Committee on the pro-life side. The late Harry Blackmun, author of the Roe opinion, was a determined advocate for the decision. Others have joined him in support of Roe, including Judith Jarvis Thomson, who before the decision had offered an influential defense of abortion.

Roe remains controversial. Polls show continued division about its landmark rulings, and about the decision as a whole.

Internal memoranda

Internal Supreme Court memoranda surfaced in the Library of Congress in 1988, among the personal papers of Douglas and other Justices, showing the private discussions of the Justices on the case. Blackmun said of the majority decision he authored, "You will observe that I have concluded that the end of the first trimester is critical. This is arbitrary, but perhaps any other selected point, such as quickening or viability, is equally arbitrary." Stewart said the lines were "legislative" and wanted more flexibility and consideration paid to the state legislatures, though he joined Blackmun's decision.

The assertion that the Supreme Court was making a legislative decision is often repeated by opponents of the Court's decision. The "viability" criterion, which Blackmun acknowledged was arbitrary, is still in effect, although the point of viability has changed as medical science has found ways to help premature babies survive.

Liberal critiques

Liberal and feminist legal scholars have had various reactions to Roe, not always giving the decision unqualified support. One reaction has been to argue that Justice Blackmun reached the correct result but went about it the wrong way. Another reaction has been to argue that the ends achieved by Roe do not justify the means.

Justice John Paul Stevens, in an interview following the Court's decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, averred that Roe "create[d] a new doctrine that really didn’t make sense," and lamented that if Justice Blackmun "could have written a better opinion[, that] ... might have avoided some of the criticism." His colleague Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had, before joining the Court, criticized the decision for terminating a nascent democratic movement to liberalize abortion law. Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox wrote: "[Roe’s] failure to confront the issue in principled terms leaves the opinion to read like a set of hospital rules and regulations.... Neither historian, nor layman, nor lawyer will be persuaded that all the prescriptions of Justice Blackmun are part of the Constitution."

In a 1973 article in the Yale Law Journal, Professor John Hart Ely criticized Roe as a decision which "is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be." Ely added: "What is frightening about Roe is that this super-protected right is not inferable from the language of the Constitution, the framers’ thinking respecting the specific problem in issue, any general value derivable from the provisions they included, or the nation’s governmental structure." Professor Laurence Tribe had similar thoughts: "One of the most curious things about Roe is that, behind its own verbal smokescreen, the substantive judgment on which it rests is nowhere to be found." Liberal law professors Alan Dershowitz, Cass Sunstein, and Kermit Roosevelt have also expressed disappointment with Roe.

Jeffrey Rosen and Michael Kinsley echo Ginsburg, arguing that a democratic movement would have been the correct way to build a more durable consensus in support of abortion rights. William Saletan wrote that "Blackmun’s [Supreme Court] papers vindicate every indictment of Roe: invention, overreach, arbitrariness, textual indifference." Benjamin Wittes has written that Roe "disenfranchised millions of conservatives on an issue about which they care deeply". And Edward Lazarus, a former Blackmun clerk who "loved Roe’s author like a grandfather" wrote: "As a matter of constitutional interpretation and judicial method, Roe borders on the indefensible....Justice Blackmun’s opinion provides essentially no reasoning in support of its holding. And in the almost 30 years since Roe’s announcement, no one has produced a convincing defense of Roe on its own terms."

Public opinion

An October 2007 Harris poll on Roe v. Wade asked the following question:

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that states laws which made it illegal for a woman to have an abortion up to three months of pregnancy were unconstitutional, and that the decision on whether a woman should have an abortion up to three months of pregnancy should be left to the woman and her doctor to decide. In general, do you favor or oppose this part of the U.S. Supreme Court decision making abortions up to three months of pregnancy legal?

In reply, 56 percent of respondents indicated favor while 40 percent indicated opposition. The Harris organization concluded from this poll that "56 percent now favors the U.S. Supreme Court decision." Pro-life activists have disputed whether the Harris poll question is a valid measure of public opinion about Roe's overall decision, because the question focuses only on the first three months of pregnancy.The Harris poll has tracked public opinion about Roe since 1973:

Regarding the Roe decision as a whole, more Americans support it than support overturning it. When pollsters describe various regulations that Roe prevents legislatures from enacting, support for Roe drops.

Activities of Norma McCorvey

Norma McCorvey became a member of the pro-life movement in 1995; she now supports making abortion illegal. In 1998, she testified to Congress:

It was my pseudonym, Jane Roe, which had been used to create the "right" to abortion out of legal thin air. But Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee never told me that what I was signing would allow women to come up to me 15, 20 years later and say, "Thank you for allowing me to have my five or six abortions. Without you, it wouldn't have been possible." Sarah never mentioned women using abortions as a form of birth control. We talked about truly desperate and needy women, not women already wearing maternity clothes.

As a party to the original litigation, she sought to reopen the case in U.S. District Court in Texas to have Roe v. Wade overturned. However, the Fifth Circuit decided that her case was moot, in McCorvey v. Hill. In a concurring opinion, Judge Edith Jones agreed that McCorvey was raising legitimate questions about emotional and other harm suffered by women who have had abortions, about increased resources available for the care of unwanted children, and about new scientific understanding of fetal development, but Jones said she was compelled to agree that the case was moot. On February 22, 2005, the Supreme Court refused to grant a writ of certiorari, and McCorvey's appeal ended.

Presidential positions

The New York Times cover page from January 23, 1973. President Lyndon B. Johnson died the same day as the Roe decision.

The Roe decision was opposed by Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush. President George H.W. Bush also opposed Roe, though he had supported abortion rights earlier in his career.

Jimmy Carter supported legal abortion from an early point in his political career, in order to prevent birth defects and in other extreme cases; he encouraged the outcome in Roe and generally supported abortion rights. Roe was also supported by President Bill Clinton. President-elect Barack Obama has taken the position that, "Abortions should be legally available in accordance with Roe v. Wade."

Richard Nixon, who was President when the Roe decision occurred, did not believe abortion was an acceptable form of population control. Nixon did not publicly comment about the decision.

State laws regarding Roe

Several states have enacted so-called "trigger laws" which "would take effect if Roe v. Wade is overturned." Those states include Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota. Additionally, many states did not repeal pre-1973 statutes that criminalized abortion, and some of those statutes could automatically spring back to life in the event of a reversal of Roe.

Other states have passed laws to maintain the legality of abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Those states include California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Nevada and Washington.


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Hall of Fame
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, showing Lake Erie in the foreground.

A handful of artists are inducted into the Hall of Fame in an annual induction ceremony, historically held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. The first group of inductees, inducted on January 23, 1986, included Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley.

Currently, groups or individuals are qualified for induction 25 years after the release of their first record. Nominees should have demonstrable influence and significance within the history of rock and roll. Four categories are recognized: Performers, Non-Performers, Early Influences, and since 2000, Sidemen. However, fans have no input concerning who is nominated or elected to the hall.

Beginning in 2009, the annual induction ceremony will move to Cleveland on a rotating basis, perhaps as often as every three years.


Performers include singers and instrumentalists.

A nominating committee composed of music historians selects names for the Performers category, which are then voted on by roughly 1000 experts, including academics, journalists, producers, and others with music industry experience. Performers receiving the highest number of votes greater than 50% of the votes received are selected for induction; each year, about five to seven nominees make the cut.

Early influences

Early Influences includes artists from earlier eras, primarily country, folk, and blues, whose music inspired and influenced rock and roll artists. The most recent of this category to be inducted were Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday in 2000. Other notable artists that have been inducted as Early Influences include country musician Hank Williams, blues musician Howlin' Wolf, and jazz musicians Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong.


The Sidemen category includes veteran session and concert players who are selected by a large committee composed primarily of producers.

Foundation and museum

Trabant cars from U2's Zoo TV Tour hanging in the lobby of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was created April 20, 1983. However, it had no home. The search committee considered several cities, including Memphis (home of Sun Studios and Stax Records), Cincinnati (home of King Records), New York, and Cleveland. Cleveland lobbied hard to be chosen, citing that one-time Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed is widely credited with promoting the new genre (and the term) of "rock and roll", and that Cleveland was the location of the first rock and roll concert. Civic leaders in Cleveland pledged $65 million in public money to fund the construction. A petition drive was signed by 600,000 fans favoring Cleveland over Memphis, and a USA Today poll which Cleveland won by 100,000 votes. The hall of fame board voted to build the museum in Cleveland.

Although there is some debate among music fans over why Cleveland ended up being chosen, most industry professionals agreed that it is because the city offered the best financial package. As Plain Dealer music critic Michael Norman noted, "It wasn't Alan Freed. It was $65 million... Cleveland wanted it here and put up the money."

During early discussions on where to build the Hall of Fame and Museum, the Foundation's board considered the Cuyahoga River. Ultimately, the chosen location was in downtown Cleveland by Lake Erie, just east of Cleveland Stadium and the Great Lakes Science Center.

At a point in the planning phase when a financing gap existed, a proposal was made for the Rock Hall to be located in the then vacant May Company Building, but it was finally decided that Chinese architect, I. M. Pei, who is credited with such other projects as the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France and the Bank of China Tower, would be commissioned to design a new building. Initial CEO Larry R. Thompson facilitated I. M. Pei as designs for the site were made. Pei came up with the idea of a tower with a glass pyramid protruding from it. The museum tower was initially planned to stand 200ft high, but it had to be cut down to 162ft due to its proximity to Burke Lakefront Airport. The building's base is approximately 150,000 square feet. The groundbreaking ceremony was June 7, 1993, with Pete Townshend and Chuck Berry doing the honors. The museum opened on September 2, 1995, with the ribbon being cut by an ensemble that included Yoko Ono and Little Richard, among others.

The museum documents the entire history of rock and roll, regardless of induction status. Hall of Fame inductees are honored in a special exhibit inside the museum's spire.

Temporary exhibit honoring Roy Orbison in 2007

There are seven levels in the building. The first through fifth levels feature many permanent and temporary exhibits documenting the history of rock and roll. Temporary exhibits display items from artists that have only been borrowed for a short period of time, such as the Warped Tour display in 2007, showcasing memorabilia from the tour's 12 years in existence. The museum has also put up numerous musical films for viewing, such as 2007's temporary exhibit running George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh. Some of the permanent exhibits include a history of audio technology, a section of mannequins donning outfits of famous performers past and present, and an area which looks at music scenes in various cities throughout different eras, including Memphis in the 50s, Detroit, Liverpool and San Francisco in the 60s, Los Angeles in the 70s, New York City and London in the 70s and 80s and Seattle in the 90s.

The third level is where the actual Hall of Fame is located and includes a wall with all of the inductees' signatures. The seventh and final level of the building is a temporary exhibit which features a certain group or artist for a period of time. It occupies the entire floor, which is the smallest since it is at the top of the pyramid. Some of the artists featured include Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley, The Supremes, The Who, John Lennon, U2, Bob Dylan, The Clash and The Police.

While the museum is located in Cleveland, the induction ceremony has been annually held in New York City (except in 1997, when the ceremony was held in Cleveland). This has been a source of controversy and tension between the Foundation's commitment to a yearly showcase and the Hall of Fame itself. In December 2007, it was announced that Cleveland will hold the ceremony every three years, beginning in 2009.

At the December 2008 opening celebration for the new Rock Hall Annex in New York City-- a facility that some Clevelanders fear is the first step in moving the museum to New York-- co-founder Jann Wenner admitted that they had made a mistake in building the museum in Cleveland and not New York: "One of the small sad things is we didn't do it in New York in the first place." 


Letter sent to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from the Sex Pistols

The main criticism is that the nomination process is controlled by a few individuals who are not even musicians, such as founder Jann Wenner, former foundation director Suzan Evans, and writer Dave Marsh, reflecting their tastes rather than the views of the rock world as a whole. A former member of the nominations board once said:

At one point Suzan Evans lamented the choices being made because there weren't enough big names that would sell tickets to the dinner. That was quickly remedied by dropping one of the doo-wop groups being considered in favor of a 'name' artist ... I saw how certain pioneering artists of the 50s and early 60s were shunned because there needed to be more name power on the list, resulting in 70s superstars getting in before the people who made it possible for them. Some of those pioneers still aren't in today.

Petitions with tens of thousands of signatures were also being ignored and some groups that were signed with certain labels or companies or were affiliated with various committee members have even been put up for nomination with no discussion at all.

Another criticism is that too many artists are inducted, allowing for several lesser acts to make it in. In fifteen years, 97 different artists have been inducted. A minimum of 50% of the vote is needed to be inducted, although the final percentages are not announced and a certain number of inductees (5 in 2007) is set before the ballots are shipped. The committee usually nominates a small number of artists (9 in 2007) and they are coming from an increasing number of different genres. Several voters, including Joel Selvin, who himself is a former member of the nominating committee, didn't submit their ballots in 2007, with the reason being that they didn't feel any of the candidates were truly worthy.

The Sex Pistols, inducted in 2006, refused to attend the ceremony, calling the museum a "piss stain".


On March 14, two days after the 2007 induction ceremony, Roger Friedman of Fox News published an article claiming that The Dave Clark Five should have been the fifth inductee, as they had more votes than inductee Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five. The article went on to say "[Jann Wenner] used a technicality about the day votes were due in. In reality, The Dave Clark Five got six more votes than Grandmaster Flash. But he felt we couldn't go another year without a rap act."

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame would later deny fixing the vote, although they didn't deny that late votes were received, saying, "No. There is a format and rules and procedure. There is a specific time when the votes have to be in, and then they are counted. The bands with the top five votes got in."

The Dave Clark Five was subsequently nominated again and then inducted the following year.

Year   Image Name   Inducted members  
1986 Berry, ChuckChuck Berry
1986 Brown, JamesJames Brown
1986 Charles, RayRay Charles
1986 Cooke, SamSam Cooke
1986 Domino, FatsFats Domino
1986 The Everly Brothers Don Everly and Phil Everly.
1986 Holly, BuddyBuddy Holly
1986 Lewis, Jerry LeeJerry Lee Lewis
1986 Little Richard
1986 Presley, ElvisElvis Presley
1987 The Coasters Carl Gardner, Cornelius Gunter, Billy Guy and Will "Dub" Jones.
1987 Cochran, EddieEddie Cochran
1987 Diddley, BoBo Diddley
1987 Franklin, ArethaAretha Franklin
1987 Gaye, MarvinMarvin Gaye
1987 Haley, BillBill Haley
1987 King, B. B.B. B. King
1987 McPhatter, ClydeClyde McPhatter
1987 Nelson, RickyRicky Nelson
1987 Orbison, RoyRoy Orbison
1987 Perkins, CarlCarl Perkins
1987 Robinson, SmokeySmokey Robinson
1987 Joe Turner, BigBig Joe Turner
1987 Waters, MuddyMuddy Waters
1987 Wilson, JackieJackie Wilson
1988 The Beach Boys Al Jardine, Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson and Dennis Wilson.
1988 left to right: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr The Beatles George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.
1988 The Drifters Clyde McPhatter, Ben E. King, Rudy Lewis, Johnny Moore, Bill Pinkney, Charlie Thomas and Gerhart Thrasher.
1988 Dylan, BobBob Dylan
1988 The Supremes Florence Ballard, Diana Ross and Mary Wilson.
1989 Dion
1989 Redding, OtisOtis Redding
1989 The Rolling Stones in 2006. Left to right: Ronnie Wood, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards The Rolling Stones Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Ian Stewart, Mick Taylor, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood and Bill Wyman.
1989 The Temptations Dennis Edwards, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendrick, David Ruffin, Otis Williams and Paul Williams.
1989 Wonder, StevieStevie Wonder
1990 Ballard, HankHank Ballard
1990 Darin, BobbyBobby Darin
1990 The Four Seasons Tom DeVito, Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi, and Frankie Valli.
1990 Left to right: Renaldo "Obie" Benson, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Lawrence Payton and Levi Stubbs The Four Tops Renaldo "Obie" Benson, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Lawrence Payton and Levi Stubbs.
1990 left to right: Dave Davies, John Gosling, John Dalton, Mick Avory, Ray Davies The Kinks Mick Avory, Dave Davies, Ray Davies and Peter Quaife.
1990 The Platters David Lynch, Herb Reed, Paul Robi and Tony Williams,
1990 Simon & Garfunkel Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.
1990 The Who in 1975, left to right: Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Keith Moon, Pete Townshend The Who Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Keith Moon and Pete Townshend.
1991 Baker, LaVernLaVern Baker
1991 The Byrds Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn.
1991 Hooker, John LeeJohn Lee Hooker
1991 The Impressions Arthur Brooks, Richard Brooks, Jerry Butler Fred Cash, Sam Gooden and Curtis Mayfield.
1991 Pickett, WilsonWilson Pickett
1991 Reed, JimmyJimmy Reed
1991 Ike & Tina Turner Ike Turner and Tina Turner.
1992 Bobby "Blue" Bland
1992 Booker T. & the M.G.s Steve Cropper, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Al Jackson, Jr., Booker T. Jones and Lewis Steinberg.
1992 Cash, JohnnyJohnny Cash
1992 The Isley Brothers Chris Jasper, Ernie Isley, Marvin Isley, O'Kelly Isley, Jr., Ronald Isley and Rudolph Isley.
1992 The Jimi Hendrix Experience Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding.
1992 Sam & Dave Sam Moore and Dave Prater.
1992 The Yardbirds Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty, Jimmy Page, Keith Relf and Paul Samwell-Smith.
1993 Brown, RuthRuth Brown
1993 Cream Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton.
1993 Creedence Clearwater Revival Doug Clifford, Stu Cook, John Fogerty and Tom Fogerty.
1993 The Doors John Densmore, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison.
1993 Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers Frankie Lymon, Sherman Garnes, Jimmy Merchant, Joe Negroni and Herman Santiago
1993 James, EttaEtta James
1993 Van Morrison
1993 "The Original Stone" in 2006: Jerry Martini, Rose Stone, and Cynthia Robinson. Sly & The Family Stone Gregg Errico, Larry Graham, Jerry Martini, Cynthia Robinson, Freddie Stone, Rosie Stone, Sly Stone.
1994 The Animals Eric Burdon, Chas Chandler, Alan Price, John Steel, Hilton Valentine.
1994 The Band performing with Bob Dylan (Dylan was not a member of The band) The Band Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson.
1994 Eddy, DuaneDuane Eddy
1994 Grateful Dead Tom Constanten, Jerry Garcia, Donna Godchaux, Keith Godchaux, Mickey Hart, Robert Hunter, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, Ron McKernan, Brent Mydland, Bob Weir and Vince Welnick.
1994 John, EltonElton John
1994 Lennon, JohnJohn Lennon
1994 Marley, BobBob Marley
1994 Stewart, RodRod Stewart
1995 The Allman Brothers Band Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Jai Johanny Johanson, Berry Oakley and Butch Trucks.
1995 Green, AlAl Green
1995 Joplin, JanisJanis Joplin
1995 Led Zeppelin in 2007, left to right: John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page Led Zeppelin John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant
1995 Martha and the Vandellas Martha Reeves, Rosalind Ashford, Betty Kelly, Lois Reeves and Annette Sterling.
1995 Young, NeilNeil Young
1995 Zappa, FrankFrank Zappa
1996 bowiepic.jpg"> Bowie, DavidDavid Bowie
1996 N-SC-82-07155.jpg">Left to right: William "Red" Guest, Edward Patten, Merald "Bubba" Knight, and Gladys Knight Gladys Knight & the Pips Gladys Knight, William Guest, Merald Knight and Edward Patten.
1996 Jefferson Airplane Marty Balin, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Grace Slick.
1996 Little Willie John
1996 inkfloyd.png">Clockwise from top left: Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Rick Wright and Nick Mason Pink Floyd Syd Barrett, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Rick Wright.
1996 The Shirelles Shirley Alston Reeves, Addie Harris, Doris Kenner-Jackson, Beverly Lee.
1996 The Velvet Underground John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Lou Reed, Maureen Tucker.
1997 Left to right: Maurice, Barry and Robin Gibb Bee Gees Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb.
1997 Buffalo Springfield Richie Furay, Dewey Martin, Bruce Palmer, Stephen Stills, Neil Young.
1997 left to right: Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, Neil Young (not inducted with the band) and David Crosby Crosby, Stills & Nash David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills.
1997 The Jackson 5 Jackie Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Michael Jackson, Tito Jackson.
1997 Mitchell, JoniJoni Mitchell
1997 Parliament-Funkadelic Jerome Brailey, Bootsy Collins, Raymond Davis, Tiki Fulwood, George Clinton, Glenn Goins, Michael Hampton, Fuzzy Haskins, Eddie Hazel, Walter Morrison, Cordell Mosson, William "Billy Bass" Nelson, Garry Shider, Calvin Simon, Grady Thomas and Bernie Worrell.
1997 The Rascals Eddie Brigati, Felix Cavaliere, Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli.
1998 Eagles Don Felder, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Randy Meisner, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh.
1998 Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham Fleetwood Mac Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Peter Green, Danny Kirwan, John McVie, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks and Jeremy Spencer.
1998 The Mamas & the Papas Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, John Phillips and Michelle Phillips.
1998 Price, LloydLloyd Price
1998 Santana Carlos Santana, Jose Chepito Areas, David Brown, Mike Carabello, Gregg Rolie and Michael Shrieve.
1998 Vincent, GeneGene Vincent
1999 Joel, BillyBilly Joel
1999 Mayfield, CurtisCurtis Mayfield
1999 McCartney, PaulPaul McCartney
1999 Shannon, DelDel Shannon
1999 Springfield, DustyDusty Springfield
1999 Springsteen, BruceBruce Springsteen
1999 Staple Singers, TheThe Staple Singers Pops Staples, Cleotha Staples, Mavis Staples, Pervis Staples, Yvonne Staples.
2000 Clapton, EricEric Clapton
2000 Earth, Wind & Fire Philip Bailey, Larry Dunn, Johnny Graham, Ralph Johnson, Al McKay, Fred White, Maurice White, Verdine White and Andrew Woolfolk.
2000 Lovin' Spoonful, TheThe Lovin' Spoonful Steve Boone, Joe Butler, John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky.
2000 Moonglows, TheThe Moonglows Prentiss Barnes, Harvey Fuqua, Peter Graves, Bobby Lester and Billy Johnson.
2000 Raitt, BonnieBonnie Raitt
2000 Taylor, JamesJames Taylor
2001 Left to right: Tom Hamilton (bass), Steven Tyler (vocals, percussion), Joey Kramer (drums), Brad Whitford (guitar), and Joe Perry (guitar) Aerosmith Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer, Joe Perry, Steven Tyler and Brad Whitford.
2001 Burke, SolomonSolomon Burke
2001 Flamingos, TheThe Flamingos Jake Carey, Zeke Carey, Johnny Carter, Tommy Hunt, Terry "Buzzy" Johnson, Sollie McElroy, Nate Nelson and Paul Wilson
2001 Jackson, MichaelMichael Jackson
2001 Left to right:  John Deacon (side), Freddie Mercury (front), Brian May (rear) and Roger Taylor (back) Queen John Deacon, Brian May, Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor.
2001 Simon, PaulPaul Simon
2001 Steely Dan Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.
2001 Valens, RitchieRitchie Valens
2002 Hayes, IsaacIsaac Hayes
2002 Lee, BrendaBrenda Lee
2002 Tom Petty Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Tom Petty, Ron Blair, Mike Campbell, Howie Epstein, Stan Lynch and Benmont Tench.
2002 Pitney, GeneGene Pitney
2002 The Ramones in 1980 Ramones Dee Dee Ramone, Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone, Marky Ramone and Tommy Ramone.
2002 Talking Heads David Byrne, Chris Frantz, Jerry Harrison, Tina Weymouth.
2003 Brian Johnson and Angus Young in 2008 AC/DC Phil Rudd, Brian Johnson, Bon Scott, Cliff Williams, Angus Young and Malcolm Young.
2003 The Clash in 1980 Clash, TheThe Clash Terry Chimes, Topper Headon, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Joe Strummer.
2003 Elvis Costello Elvis Costello & the Attractions Elvis Costello, Steve Nieve, Bruce Thomas and Pete Thomas.
2003 The Police in 2007, left to right: Stewart Copeland, Sting, Andy Summers Police, TheThe Police Stewart Copeland, Sting, Andy Summers.
2003 Righteous Brothers, TheThe Righteous Brothers Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley.
2004 Browne, JacksonJackson Browne
2004 Dells, TheThe Dells Verne Allison, Chuck Barksdale, Johnny Carter, Johnny Funches, Marvin Junior and Michael McGill.
2004 Harrison, GeorgeGeorge Harrison
2004 Prince
2004 Seger, BobBob Seger
2004 Traffic Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason, Steve Winwood and Chris Wood.
2004 ZZ Top Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard.
2005 Guy, BuddyBuddy Guy
2005 O'Jays, TheThe O'Jays Eddie Levert, Bobby Massey, William Powell, Sammy Strain and Walter Williams.
2005 Pretenders, TheThe Pretenders Chrissie Hynde, Martin Chambers, Pete Farndon and James Honeyman-Scott.
2005 Sledge, PercyPercy Sledge
2005 Left to right: The Edge, Larry Mullen, Bono and Adam Clayton U2 Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen.
2006 Left to right: Geezer Butler, Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Bill Ward Black Sabbath Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne and Bill Ward.
2006 Blondie Deborah Harry, Clem Burke, Jimmy Destri, Nigel Harrison, Frank Infante, Chris Stein and Gary Valentine.
2006 Davis, MilesMiles Davis
2006 Lynyrd Skynyrd Bob Burns, Allen Collins, Steve Gaines, Ed King, Gary Rossington, Billy Powell, Artimus Pyle, Ronnie Van Zant and Leon Wilkeson.
2006 Sex Pistols Paul Cook, Steve Jones, Glen Matlock, Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious.
2007 Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five Grandmaster Flash, Cowboy, Kidd Creole, Melle Mel, Rahiem and Scorpio.
2007 Left to right: Mike Mills, Michael Stipe, touring drummer Bill Rieflin (not inducted with the band), and Peter Buck. R.E.M. Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe.
2007 Ronettes, TheThe Ronettes Ronnie Spector, Estelle Bennett and Nedra Talley.
2007 Smith, PattiPatti Smith
2007 Van Halen in 2004, left to right: Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Eddie Van Halen Van Halen Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, David Lee Roth, Alex Van Halen and Eddie Van Halen.
2008 Dave Clark Five, TheThe Dave Clark Five Dave Clark, Lenny Davidson, Rick Huxley, Denny Payton and Mike Smith.
2008 Cohen, LeonardLeonard Cohen
2008 Madonna
2008 Mellencamp, JohnJohn Mellencamp
2008 Ventures, TheThe Ventures Bob Bogle, Nokie Edwards, Gerry McGee, Mel Taylor and Don Wilson.
2009 Beck, JeffJeff Beck
2009 Little Anthony & The Imperials
2009 Left to right: Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, Robert Trujillo Metallica
2009 Run-DMC
2009 Womack, BobbyBobby Womack

Early influences

Woody Guthrie, inducted in 1988.
Louis Armstrong, inducted in 1990.
Pete Seeger, inducted in 1996.
Charles Brown, inducted in 1999.

Artists inducted into the early influences category are those "whose music predated rock and roll but had an impact on the evolution of rock and roll and inspired rock's leading artists." Unlike the performers category, these inductees are selected by a committee. The full process is not transparent and it is unclear who comprises this selection committee.

Year   Name  
1986 Rodgers, JimmieJimmie Rodgers
1986 Yancey, JimmyJimmy Yancey
1986 Johnson, RobertRobert Johnson
1987 Jordan, LouisLouis Jordan
1987 Walker, T-BoneT-Bone Walker
1987 Williams, HankHank Williams
1988 Guthrie, WoodyWoody Guthrie
1988 Lead Belly
1988 Les Paul
1989 The Ink Spots[A]
1989 Smith, BessieBessie Smith
1989 The Soul Stirrers[B]
1990 Armstrong, LouisLouis Armstrong
1990 Christian, CharlieCharlie Christian
1990 Rainey, MaMa Rainey
1991 Howlin' Wolf
1992 James, ElmoreElmore James
1992 Longhair, ProfessorProfessor Longhair
1993 Washington, DinahDinah Washington
1994 Dixon, WillieWillie Dixon
1995 Orioles, TheThe Orioles[C]
1996 Seeger, PetePete Seeger
1997 Jackson, MahaliaMahalia Jackson
1997 Monroe, BillBill Monroe
1998 Jelly Roll Morton
1999 Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys[D]
1999 Brown, CharlesCharles Brown
2000 Nat King Cole
2000 Holiday, BillieBillie Holiday
2009 Jackson, WandaWanda Jackson

^ A. Inducted members: Bill Kenny, Charlie Fuqua, Deek Watson, and Orville "Hoppy" Jones.
^ B. Inducted members: Sam Cooke, Roy Crain Sr., R.H. Harris, Jesse Farley, T.L. Bruster, James Medlock, Paul Foster, Johnnie Taylor, and Bob King.
^ C. Inducted members: Sonny Til, Tommy Gaither, George Nelson, Johnny Reed and Alexander Sharp.
^ D. Inducted members: Bob Wills, Tommy Duncan, Johnny Gimble, Joe "Jody" Holley, Tiny Moore, Herb Remington, Eldon Shamblin and Al Stricklin.

Lifetime achievement

The following were inducted for "Lifetime Achievement in the Non-Performer Category."

Year   Name  
1986 Hammond, JohnJohn Hammond
1991 Ertegun, NesuhiNesuhi Ertegun
2004 Wenner, JannJann Wenner
2005 Barsalona, FrankFrank Barsalona
2005 Stein, SeymourSeymour Stein
2006 Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss


Carole King, inducted in 1990.

Dick Clark
, inducted in 1993.
Clive Davis, inducted in 2000.

The non-performer category honors "songwriters, producers, disc jockeys, record executives, journalists and other industry professionals who have had a major influence on the development of rock and roll." Several of the inductees in this category were in fact fairly well-known as performers as well. The inductees in this category are selected by the same committee that chooses the early influences. The full process is not transparent and it is unclear who comprises this selection committee. This category has been criticized for inducting those that have "been coming to the dinner for years and paying for their tickets" and not revealing their full criteria. In 2008, this category was renamed the "Ahmet Ertegün Award".

Year   Name  
1986 Freed, AlanAlan Freed
1986 Phillips, SamSam Phillips
1987 Chess, LeonardLeonard Chess
1987 Ertegun, AhmetAhmet Ertegun
1987 Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
1987 Wexler, JerryJerry Wexler
1988 Gordy, Jr, BerryBerry Gordy, Jr
1989 Spector, PhilPhil Spector
1990 Gerry Goffin and Carole King
1990 Holland-Dozier-Holland
1991 Bartholomew, DaveDave Bartholomew
1991 Bass, RalphRalph Bass
1992 Fender, LeoLeo Fender
1992 Graham, BillBill Graham
1992 Pomus, DocDoc Pomus
1993 Clark, DickDick Clark
1993 Gabler, MiltMilt Gabler
1994 Otis, JohnnyJohnny Otis
1995 Ackerman, PaulPaul Ackerman
1996 Donahue, TomTom Donahue
1997 Nathan, SydSyd Nathan
1998 Toussaint, AllenAllen Toussaint
1999 Martin, GeorgeGeorge Martin
2000 Davis, CliveClive Davis
2001 Blackwell, ChrisChris Blackwell
2002 Stewart, JimJim Stewart
2003 Ostin, MoMo Ostin
2008 Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff


First established in 2000, the sidemen category "honors those musicians who have spent their careers out of the spotlight, performing as backup musicians for major artists on recording sessions and in concert." A separate committee, composed mainly of producers, chooses the inductees.

Year   Name   Instrument  
2000 Blaine, HalHal Blaine Drums
2000 Curtis, KingKing Curtis Saxophone
2000 Jamerson, JamesJames Jamerson Bass guitar
2000 Moore, ScottyScotty Moore Guitar
2000 Palmer, EarlEarl Palmer Drums
2001 Burton, JamesJames Burton Guitar
2001 Johnson, JohnnieJohnnie Johnson Piano
2002 Atkins, ChetChet Atkins Guitar
2003 Benjamin, BennyBenny Benjamin Drums
2003 Cramer, FloydFloyd Cramer Piano
2003 Douglas, SteveSteve Douglas Saxophone
2008 Walter, LittleLittle Walter Harmonica
2009 Black, BillBill Black Bass guitar
2009 Fontana, D. J.D. J. Fontana Drums
2009 Oldham, SpoonerSpooner Oldham Keyboard

Multiple inductees

As of 2009, only fifteen performers have been inducted twice or more; ten have been recognized as a solo artist and with a band, and four have been inducted with two separate bands. Eric Clapton is the only one to be inducted three times, as a solo artist and with The Yardbirds and Cream. Clyde McPhatter was the first to ever be inducted twice and is one of three artists to be inducted first as a solo artist, then as a member of a band (Sam Cooke and Neil Young are the others). Stephen Stills is the only artist to be inducted twice in the same year. Sam Cooke is the only person to be inducted in both the "performers" and "early influences" categories.

Eric Clapton is the only artist to be inducted three times.

Name   First   Year   Second   Year   Third Year
Clapton, EricEric Clapton The Yardbirds 1992 Cream 1993 Solo career 2000
Beck, JeffJeff Beck The Yardbirds 1992 Solo career 2009
Johnny Carter The Flamingos 2001 The Dells 2004
Cooke, SamSam Cooke Solo career 1986 The Soul Stirrers 1989
Crosby, DavidDavid Crosby The Byrds 1991 Crosby, Stills & Nash 1997
Harrison, GeorgeGeorge Harrison The Beatles 1988 Solo career 2004
Jackson, MichaelMichael Jackson The Jackson Five 1997 Solo career 2001
Lennon, JohnJohn Lennon The Beatles 1988 Solo career 1994
Mayfield, CurtisCurtis Mayfield The Impressions 1991 Solo career 1999
McCartney, PaulPaul McCartney The Beatles 1988 Solo career 1999
McPhatter, ClydeClyde McPhatter Solo career 1987 The Drifters 1988
Page, JimmyJimmy Page The Yardbirds 1992 Led Zeppelin 1995
Simon, PaulPaul Simon Simon and Garfunkel 1990 Solo career 2001
Stills, StephenStephen Stills Buffalo Springfield 1997 Crosby, Stills & Nash 1997
Young, NeilNeil Young Solo career 1995 Buffalo Springfield 1997

The 44th President of the United States of America: Barack Hussein Obama

                                                                            Abraham Lincoln's Inauguration Bible


The oath or affirmation of office of the President of the United States was established in the United States Constitution and is mandatory for a President upon beginning a term of office. The wording is prescribed by the Constitution (Article II, Section 1, Clause 8), as follows:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

"So help me God"

It is uncertain how many Presidents used a Bible or added the words "So help me God" at the end of the oath, as neither is required by law; unlike many other federal oaths which do include the phrase "So help me God." There is currently debate as to whether or not George Washington, the first president, added the phrase to his acceptance of the oath. All contemporary sources fail to mention Washington as adding a religious codicil to his acceptance.

It is important not to conflate two forms of administering, and taking, the oath of office. The first, now in disuse, is that the administrator, usually the Chief Justice, articulated the constitutional oath, requesting an affirmation, as in, "Do you George Washington solemnly swear....." At which point a response of "I do" or "I swear" completes the oath. It is reasonable to believe that this was the common procedure at least until the swearing in of Chester A. Arthur in 1881, where the New York Times article reports he responded to the question of accepting the oath with the words, "I will, so help me God."

It is the second, and current form of administration, where both the Chief Justice and the President articulate the oath, that appending "So Help Me God" is arguably a breach of the constitutional instructions. This is the contention of a Federal law suit filed in the District of Columbia by Michael Newdow on December 30, 2008. In this suit a distinction is made between the words spoken by the administrator, which must conform to the exact 35 words of the constitution, and the President, who has a right to add a personal prayer, such as "So Help Me God."

The earliest known source indicating Washington added "So help me God" to his acceptance, not to the oath, is attributed to Washington Irving, aged six at the time of the inauguration, and first appears 65 years after the event. Even if Irving's report is accurate, it would not by logic, law or intent alter the actual words of the oath, being more accurately described as a personal prayer by the President after completing the oath of office.

The only contemporary account that repeats the oath in full, a report from the French consul, Comte de Moustier, states only the constitutional oath., without reference to Washington's adding "So Help Me God" to his acceptance.

Evidence is lacking to support the claim that Presidents between Washington and Abraham Lincoln used the phrase "So help me God." A contemporaneous newspaper account of Lincoln's 1865 inauguration states that Lincoln appended the phrase "So help me God" to the oath. This newspaper report is followed by another account, provided later in the same year after Lincoln's death (April 15, 1865), that Lincoln said "So help me God" during his oath. The evidence pertaining to the 1865 inauguration is much stronger than that pertaining to Lincoln's 1861 use of the phrase. Several sources claim that Lincoln said "So help me God" at his 1861 inauguration, yet these sources were not contemporaneous to the event. Shortly after giving the speech, Lincoln stated that his oath was "registered in Heaven.", something some have taken as indicating he likely uttered the phrase "So help me God." Conversely, there was a claim made by A.M. Milligan (a radical Presbyterian minister who wanted the U.S. government to be officially Christian) that letters were sent to Abraham Lincoln asking him to swear to God during his inaugurations, and Lincoln allegedly wrote back saying that "God's name was not in the Constitution, and he could not depart from the letter of that instrument."

Other than the president of the U.S., many politicians (including Jefferson Davis, sworn in as president of the Confederate States of America in 1861) used the phrase "So help me God" when taking their oaths. Likewise, all federal judges and executive officers were required as early as 1789 by statute to include the phrase unless they affirmed, in which case the phrase must be omitted.

Since FDR, all presidents have added the phrase "So help me God."

Ancillary practices

The oath or affirmation is typically administered by the Chief Justice, but sometimes by another federal or state judge (George Washington was first sworn in by Robert Livingston, the chancellor of the State of New York in 1789, while Calvin Coolidge was first sworn in by his father, a Vermont notary public, in 1923). By convention, incoming Presidents raise their right hand and hold the other on a Bible or other book while taking the oath of office.

Franklin Pierce was the first president to use the word affirm rather than swear. Theodore Roosevelt did not use a Bible when taking the oath in 1901. Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, and Richard Nixon swore the oath on two Bibles. John Quincy Adams swore on a book of law. Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in on a Roman Catholic missal on Air Force One. Washington kissed the Bible afterwards, as some later Presidents did, but modern Presidents have not—except for Harry Truman, who bent and kissed the Bible upon taking the oath for the first time, on April 12, 1945, as well as at his second inauguration. Many times the President-elect's name is added after the "I"; for example, "I, George Washington, do . . ." Lyndon B. Johnson did not add his name when swearing his first oath of office; there is evidence that in all other inaugurations since Franklin Roosevelt's first, the name of the president was added to the oath. William R. King is the only president or vice president sworn into office on foreign soil. By special act of Congress, he was allowed to take his oath on March 24, 1853, in Cuba, where he had gone because of his poor health. He died 25 days later. Sarah T. Hughes is the only woman to administer the oath of office (she was a U.S. District Court judge who swore Lyndon Johnson into office on Air Force One after the Kennedy assassination).

Martin Luther King, Jr.


Martin Luther King, Jr.
(January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an African American clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the American civil rights movement. His main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States and he is frequently referenced as a human rights icon today.

A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president.

King's efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. There, he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history.

In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. By the time of his death in 1968, he had refocused his efforts on ending poverty and opposing the Vietnam War, both from a religious perspective.

King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and Congressional Gold Medal in 2004; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. national holiday in 1986.

Early life

Martin Luther King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the son of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. King's father was born "Michael King", and Martin Luther King, Jr., was originally named "Michael King, Jr.", until the family traveled to Europe in 1934 and visited Germany. His father soon changed both of their names to Martin in honor of the German Protestant Martin Luther. He had an older sister, Willie Christine King, and a younger brother Alfred Daniel Williams King King sang with his church choir at the 1939 Atlanta premiere of the movie Gone with the Wind.

Growing up in Atlanta, King attended Booker T. Washington High School. He skipped ninth and twelfth grade, and entered Morehouse College at age fifteen without formally graduating from high school. In 1948, he graduated from Morehouse with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology, and enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1951. King then began doctoral studies in systematic theology at Boston University and received his Doctor of Philosophy on June 5, 1955. A 1980s inquiry concluded portions of his dissertation had been plagiarized and he had acted improperly but that his dissertation still "makes an intelligent contribution to scholarship".

King married Coretta Scott, on June 18, 1953, on the lawn of her parents' house in her hometown of Heiberger, Alabama. King and Scott had four children; Yolanda King, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King, and Bernice King. King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama when he was twenty-five years old in 1954.


Populist tradition and Black populism

Harry C. Boyte, a self-proclaimed populist, field secretary of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and white civil rights activist describes an episode on his life that gives insight on King's influences:

My first encounter with deeper meanings of populism came when I was nineteen, working as a field secretary for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in St. Augustine, Florida in 1964. One day I was caught by five men and a woman who were members of the Klu Klux Klan. They accused me of being a “communist and a Yankee.” I replied, “I’m no Yankee – my family has been in the South since before the Revolution. And I’m not a communist. I’m a populist. I believe that blacks and poor whites should join to do something about the big shots who keep us divided.” For a few minutes we talked about what such a movement might look like. Then they let me go.

When he learned of the incident, Martin Luther King, head of SCLC, told me that he identified with the populist tradition and assigned me to organize poor whites.


Civil rights leader, theologian, and educator Howard Thurman was an early influence on King. A classmate of King's father at Morehouse College, Thurman mentored the young King and his friends. Thurman's missionary work had taken him abroad where he had met and conferred with Gandhi. When he was a student at Boston University, King often visited Thurman, who was the dean of Marsh Chapel. Walter Fluker, who has studied Thurman's writings, has stated, "I don't believe you'd get a Martin Luther King, Jr. without a Howard Thurman".

Gandhi and Rustin

Inspired by Gandhi's success with non-violent activism, King visited the Gandhi family in India in 1959, with assistance from the Quaker group the American Friends Service Committee. The trip to India affected King in a profound way, deepening his understanding of non-violent resistance and his commitment to America’s struggle for civil rights. In a radio address made during his final evening in India, King reflected, “Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. In a real sense, Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation.” African American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who had studied Gandhi's teachings, counseled King to dedicate himself to the principles of non-violence, served as King's main advisor and mentor throughout his early activism, and was the main organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. Rustin's open homosexuality, support of democratic socialism, and his former ties to the Communist Party USA caused many white and African-American leaders to demand King distance himself from Rustin.

Throughout his career of service, King wrote and spoke frequently, drawing on his experience as a preacher. His "Letter from Birmingham Jail", written in 1963, is a "passionate" statement of his crusade for justice. On October 14, 1964, King became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to him for leading non-violent resistance to end racial prejudice in the United States.

Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1955

In March 1955, a fifteen-year-old school girl, Claudette Colvin, refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in compliance with the Jim Crow laws. King was on the committee from the Birmingham African-American community that looked into the case; Edgar Nixon and Clifford Durr decided to wait for a better case to pursue. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, urged and planned by Nixon and led by King, soon followed. The boycott lasted for 385 days, and the situation became so tense that King's house was bombed. King was arrested during this campaign, which ended with a United States District Court ruling in Browder v. Gayle that ended racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

In 1957, King, Ralph Abernathy, and other civil rights activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The group was created to harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches to conduct non-violent protests in the service of civil rights reform. King led the SCLC until his death. In 1958, while signing copies of his book Strive Toward Freedom in a Harlem department store, he was stabbed in the chest by Izola Curry, a deranged black woman with a letter opener, and narrowly escaped death.

Gandhi's nonviolent techniques were useful to King's campaign to correct the civil rights laws implemented in Alabama. King applied non-violent philosophy to the protests organized by the SCLC. In 1959, he wrote The Measure of A Man, from which the piece What is Man?, an attempt to sketch the optimal political, social, and economic structure of society, is derived.

The FBI, under written directive from then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, began telephone tapping King in 1963. J. Edgar Hoover feared Communists were trying to infiltrate the Civil Rights Movement, but when no such evidence emerged, the bureau used the incidental details caught on tape over the next five years in attempts to force King out of the preeminent leadership position.

King believed that organized, nonviolent protest against the system of southern segregation known as Jim Crow laws would lead to extensive media coverage of the struggle for black equality and voting rights. Journalistic accounts and televised footage of the daily deprivation and indignities suffered by southern blacks, and of segregationist violence and harassment of civil rights workers and marchers, produced a wave of sympathetic public opinion that convinced the majority of Americans that the Civil Rights Movement was the most important issue in American politics in the early 1960s.

King organized and led marches for blacks' right to vote, desegregation, labor rights and other basic civil rights. Most of these rights were successfully enacted into the law of the United States with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

King and the SCLC applied the principles of nonviolent protest with great success by strategically choosing the method of protest and the places in which protests were carried out. There were often dramatic stand-offs with segregationist authorities. Sometimes these confrontations turned violent.

Albany movement

The Albany Movement was a desegregation coalition formed in Albany, Georgia in November, 1961. In December King and the SCLC became involved. The movement mobilized thousands of citizens for a broad-front nonviolent attack on every aspect of segregation within the city and attracted nationwide attention. When King first visited on December 15, 1961, he "had planned to stay a day or so and return home after giving counsel." But the following day he was swept up in a mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators, and he declined bail until the city made concessions. "Those agreements", said King, "were dishonored and violated by the city," as soon as he left town. King returned in July 1962, and was sentenced to forty-five days in jail or a $178 fine. He chose jail. Three days into his sentence, Chief Pritchett discreetly arranged for King's fine to be paid and ordered his release. "We had witnessed persons being kicked off lunch counter stools ... ejected from churches ... and thrown into jail ... But for the first time, we witnessed being kicked out of jail."

After nearly a year of intense activism with few tangible results, the movement began to deteriorate. King requested a halt to all demonstrations and a "Day of Penance" to promote non-violence and maintain the moral high ground. Divisions within the black community and the canny, low-key response by local government defeated efforts. However, it was credited as a key lesson in tactics for the national civil rights movement7]

Birmingham campaign

The Birmingham campaign was a strategic effort by the SCLC to promote civil rights for African Americans. Many of its tactics of "Project C" were developed by Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker, Executive Director of SCLC from 1960-1964. Based on actions in Birmingham, Alabama, its goal was to end the city's segregated civil and discriminatory economic policies. The campaign lasted for more than two months in the spring of 1963. To provoke the police into filling the city's jails to overflowing, King and black citizens of Birmingham employed nonviolent tactics to flout laws they considered unfair. King summarized the philosophy of the Birmingham campaign when he said, "The purpose of ... direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation".

Protests in Birmingham began with a boycott to pressure businesses to sales jobs and other employment to people of all races, as well as to end segregated facilities in the stores. When business leaders resisted the boycott, King and the SCLC began what they termed Project C, a series of sit-ins and marches intended to provoke arrest. After the campaign ran low on adult volunteers, it recruited children for what became known as the "Children's Crusade". During the protests, the Birmingham Police Department, led by Eugene "Bull" Connor, used high-pressure water jets and police dogs to control protesters, including children. Not all of the demonstrators were peaceful, despite the avowed intentions of the SCLC. In some cases, bystanders attacked the police, who responded with force. King and the SCLC were criticized for putting children in harm's way. By the end of the campaign, King's reputation improved immensely, Connor lost his job, the "Jim Crow" signs in Birmingham came down, and public places became more open to blacks.

Augustine and Selma

King and SCLC were also driving forces behind the protest in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1964. The movement engaged in nightly marches in the city met by white segregationists who violently assaulted them. Hundreds of the marchers were arrested and jailed.

King and the SCLC joined forces with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Selma, Alabama, in December 1964, where SNCC had been working on voter registration for several months. A sweeping injunction issued by a local judge barred any gathering of 3 or more people under sponsorship of SNCC, SCLC, or DCVL, or with the involvement of 41 named civil rights leaders. This injunction temporarily halted civil rights activity until King defied it by speaking at Brown Chapel on January 2 1965.

March on Washington, 1963

King, representing SCLC, was among the leaders of the so-called "Big Six" civil rights organizations who were instrumental in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. The other leaders and organizations comprising the Big Six were: Roy Wilkins from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Whitney Young, National Urban League; A. Philip Randolph, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; John Lewis, SNCC; and James L. Farmer, Jr. of the Congress of Racial Equality. The primary logistical and strategic organizer was King's colleague Bayard Rustin. For King, this role was another which courted controversy, since he was one of the key figures who acceded to the wishes of President John F. Kennedy in changing the focus of the march. Kennedy initially opposed the march outright, because he was concerned it would negatively impact the drive for passage of civil rights legislation, but the organizers were firm that the march would proceed.

The march originally was conceived as an event to dramatize the desperate condition of blacks in the southern United States and a very public opportunity to place organizers' concerns and grievances squarely before the seat of power in the nation's capital. Organizers intended to excoriate and then challenge the federal government for its failure to safeguard the civil rights and physical safety of civil rights workers and blacks, generally, in the South. However, the group acquiesced to presidential pressure and influence, and the event ultimately took on a far less strident tone. As a result, some civil rights activists felt it presented an inaccurate, sanitized pageant of racial harmony; Malcolm X called it the "Farce on Washington," and members of the Nation of Islam were not permitted to attend the march.

King is perhaps most famous for his "I Have a Dream" speech, given in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The march did, however, make specific demands: an end to racial segregation in public school; meaningful civil rights legislation, including a law prohibiting racial discrimination in employment; protection of civil rights workers from police brutality; a $2 minimum wage for all workers; and self-government for Washington, D.C., then governed by congressional committee. Despite tensions, the march was a resounding success. More than a quarter million people of diverse ethnicities attended the event, sprawling from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial onto the National Mall and around the reflecting pool. At the time, it was the largest gathering of protesters in Washington's history. King's "I Have a Dream" speech electrified the crowd. It is regarded, along with Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Franklin D. Roosevelt's Infamy Speech, as one of the finest speeches in the history of American oratory.

Stance on compensation

King giving a lecture on March 26, 1964

Martin Luther King Jr. expressed a view that black Americans, as well as other disadvantaged Americans, should be compensated for historical wrongs. In an interview conducted for Playboy in 1965, he said that granting black Americans only equality could not realistically close the economic gap between them and whites. King said that he did not seek a full restitution of wages lost to slavery, which he believed impossible, but proposed a government compensatory program of US$50 billion over ten years to all disadvantaged groups. He posited that "the money spent would be more than amply justified by the benefits that would accrue to the nation through a spectacular decline in school dropouts, family breakups, crime rates, illegitimacy, swollen relief rolls, rioting and other social evils". He presented this idea as an application of the common law regarding settlement of unpaid labor but clarified that he felt that the money should not be spent exclusively on blacks. He stated, "It should benefit the disadvantaged of all races".

"Bloody Sunday", 1965

King and SCLC, in partial collaboration with SNCC, attempted to organize a march from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery, for March 7, 1965. The first attempt to march on March 7 was aborted because of mob and police violence against the demonstrators. This day has since become known as Bloody Sunday. Bloody Sunday was a major turning point in the effort to gain public support for the Civil Rights Movement, the clearest demonstration up to that time of the dramatic potential of King's nonviolence strategy. King, however, was not present. After meeting with President Lyndon B. Johnson, he decided not to endorse the march, but it was carried out against his wishes and without his presence on March 7 by local civil rights leaders. Footage of police brutality against the protesters was broadcast extensively and aroused national public outrage.

King next attempted to organize a march for March 9. The SCLC petitioned for an injunction in federal court against the State of Alabama; this was denied and the judge issued an order blocking the march until after a hearing. Nonetheless, King led marchers on March 9 to the Edmund Pettus bridge, then held a short prayer session before turning the marchers around and asking them to disperse so as not to violate the court order. The unexpected ending of this second march aroused the surprise and anger of many within the local movement. The march finally went ahead fully on March 25. At the conclusion of the march and on the steps of the state capitol, King delivered a speech that has become known as "How Long, Not Long".

Chicago, 1966

King with President Lyndon Johnson in 1966

In 1966, after several successes in the South, King and others in the civil rights organizations tried to spread the movement to the North, with Chicago as its first destination. King and Ralph Abernathy, both from the middle classes, moved into the slums of North Lawndale on the west side of Chicago as an educational experience and to demonstrate their support and empathy for the poor.

The SCLC formed a coalition with CCCO, Coordinating Council of Community Organizations, an organization founded by Albert Raby, and the combined organizations' efforts were fostered under the aegis of The Chicago Freedom Movement. During that spring, several dual white couple/black couple tests on real estate offices uncovered the practice (now banned in the U.S.) of racial steering. These tests revealed the racially selective processing of housing requests by couples who were exact matches in income, background, number of children, and other attributes, with the only difference being their race.

The needs of the movement for radical change grew, and several larger marches were planned and executed, including those in the following neighborhoods: Bogan, Belmont Cragin, Jefferson Park, Evergreen Park (a suburb southwest of Chicago), Gage Park and Marquette Park, among others.

In Chicago, Abernathy later wrote that they received a worse reception than they had in the South. Their marches were met by thrown bottles and screaming throngs, and they were truly afraid of starting a riot. King's beliefs mitigated against his staging a violent event, and he negotiated an agreement with Mayor Richard J. Daley to cancel a march in order to avoid the violence that he feared would result from the demonstration. King, who received death threats throughout his involvement in the civil rights movement, was hit by a brick during one march but continued to lead marches in the face of personal danger.

When King and his allies returned to the south, they left Jesse Jackson, a seminary student who had previously joined the movement in the South, in charge of their organization. Jackson continued their struggle for civil rights by organizing the Operation Breadbasket movement that targeted chain stores that did not deal fairly with blacks.

Opposition to the Vietnam War

Starting in 1965, King began to express doubts about the United States' role in the Vietnam War. In an April 4, 1967 appearance at the New York City Riverside Church—exactly one year before his death—King delivered a speech titled "Beyond Vietnam". In the speech, he spoke strongly against the U.S.'s role in the war, insisting that the U.S. was in Vietnam "to occupy it as an American colony" and calling the U.S. government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today". He also argued that the country needed larger and broader moral changes:

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just."

King also was opposed to the Vietnam War on the grounds that the war took money and resources that could have been spent on social welfare services like the War on Poverty. The United States Congress was spending more and more on the military and less and less on anti-poverty programs at the same time. He summed up this aspect by saying, "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death".

Many white southern segregationists vilified King; moreover, this speech soured his relationship with many members of the mainstream media. Life magazine called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi", and The Washington Post declared that King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

King stated that North Vietnam "did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had arrived in the tens of thousands". King also criticized the United States' resistance to North Vietnam's land reforms. He accused the United States of having killed a million Vietnamese, "mostly children."

The speech was a reflection of King's evolving political advocacy in his later years, which paralleled the teachings of the progressive Highlander Research and Education Center, with whom King was affiliated. King began to speak of the need for fundamental changes in the political and economic life of the nation. Toward the end of his life, King more frequently expressed his opposition to the war and his desire to see a redistribution of resources to correct racial and economic injustice. Though his public language was guarded, so as to avoid being linked to communism by his political enemies, in private he sometimes spoke of his support for democratic socialism. In one speech, he stated that "something is wrong with capitalism" and claimed, "There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism."

King had read Marx while at Morehouse, but while he rejected "traditional capitalism," he also rejected Communism because of its "materialistic interpretation of history" that denied religion, its "ethical relativism," and its "political totalitarianism."

King also stated in his "Beyond Vietnam" speech that "true compassion is more than flinging a coin to a comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring". King quoted a United States official, who said that, from Vietnam to South America to Latin America, the country was "on the wrong side of a world revolution" King condemned America's "alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America," and said that the United States should support "the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World rather than suppressing their attempts at revolution.

Poor People's Campaign, 1968

In 1968, King and the SCLC organized the "Poor People's Campaign" to address issues of economic justice. The campaign culminated in a march on Washington, D.C. demanding economic aid to the poorest communities of the United States. King traveled the country to assemble "a multiracial army of the poor" that would march on Washington to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol until Congress created a bill of rights for poor Americans.

However, the campaign was not unanimously supported by other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Rustin resigned from the march stating that the goals of the campaign were too broad, the demands unrealizable, and thought these campaigns would accelerate the backlash and repression on the poor and the black. Throughout his participation in the civil rights movement, King was criticized by many groups. This included opposition by more militant blacks and such prominent critics as Nation of Islam member Malcolm X. Stokely Carmichael was a separatist and disagreed with King's plea for racial integration because he considered it an insult to a uniquely African-American culture. Omali Yeshitela urged Africans to remember the history of violent European colonization and how power was not secured by Europeans through integration, but by violence and force.

King and the SCLC called on the government to invest in rebuilding America's cities. He felt that Congress had shown "hostility to the poor" by spending "military funds with alacrity and generosity". He contrasted this with the situation faced by poor Americans, claiming that Congress had merely provided "poverty funds with miserliness". His vision was for change that was more revolutionary than mere reform: he cited systematic flaws of "racism, poverty, militarism and materialism", and argued that "reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced".


The Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated, is now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum

On March 29, 1968, King went to Memphis, Tennessee in support of the black sanitary public works employees, represented by AFSCME Local 1733, who had been on strike since March 12 for higher wages and better treatment. In one incident, black street repairmen received pay for two hours when they were sent home because of bad weather, but white employees were paid for the full day.

On April 3, King addressed a rally and delivered his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address at Mason Temple, the World Headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. King's flight to Memphis had been delayed by a bomb threat against his plane. In the close of the last speech of his career, in reference to the bomb threat, King said the following:

And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

King was booked in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel, owned by Walter Bailey, in Memphis. The Reverend Ralph Abernathy, King's close friend and colleague who was present at the assassination, swore under oath to the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations that King and his entourage stayed at room 306 at the Lorraine Motel so often it was known as the 'King-Abernathy suite.' King was shot at 6:01 p.m. April 4, 1968 while he was standing on the motel's second floor balcony. The bullet entered through his right cheek smashing his jaw and then traveled down his spinal cord before lodging in his shoulder. According to Jesse Jackson, who was present, King's last words on the balcony were to musician Ben Branch, who was scheduled to perform that night at an event King was attending: "Ben, make sure you play Take My Hand, Precious Lord in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty." Abernathy heard the shot from inside the motel room and ran to the balcony to find King on the floor. The events following the shooting have been disputed, as some people have accused Jackson of exaggerating his response.

After emergency surgery, King was pronounced dead at St. Joseph's Hospital at 7:05 p.m. According to biographer Taylor Branch, King's autopsy revealed that though only thirty-nine years old, he had the heart of a sixty-year-old, perhaps a result of the stress of thirteen years in the civil rights movement.

The assassination led to a nationwide wave of riots in more than 100 cities. Presidential nominee Robert Kennedy was on his way to Indianapolis for a campaign rally when he was informed of King's death. He gave a short yet empowering speech to the gathering of supporters informing them of the tragedy and asking them to continue King's idea of non-violence. On that night, Indianapolis was the only city which did not burn. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared April 7 a national day of mourning for the civil rights leader. Vice-President Hubert Humphrey attended King's funeral on behalf of Lyndon B. Johnson, as there were fears that Johnson's presence might incite protests and perhaps violence. At his widow's request, King's last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church was played at the funeral. It was a recording of his "Drum Major" sermon, given on February 4, 1968. In that sermon, King made a request that at his funeral no mention of his awards and honors be made, but that it be said that he tried to "feed the hungry", "clothe the naked", "be right on the [Vietnam] war question", and "love and serve humanity". His good friend Mahalia Jackson sang his favorite hymn, "Take My hand, Precious Lord", at the funeral. The city of Memphis quickly settled the strike on terms favorable to the sanitation workers.

Two months after King's death, escaped convict James Earl Ray was captured at London Heathrow Airport while trying to leave the United Kingdom on a false Canadian passport in the name of Ramon George Sneyd. Ray was quickly extradited to Tennessee and charged with King's murder. He confessed to the assassination on March 10, 1969, though he recanted this confession three days later. On the advice of his attorney Percy Foreman, Ray pleaded guilty to avoid a trial conviction and thus the possibility of receiving the death penalty. Ray was sentenced to a 99-year prison term. Ray fired Foreman as his attorney, from then on derisively calling him "Percy Fourflusher". He claimed a man he met in Montreal, Quebec with the alias "Raoul" was involved and that the assassination was the result of a conspiracy. He spent the remainder of his life attempting (unsuccessfully) to withdraw his guilty plea and secure the trial he never had. On June 10, 1977, shortly after Ray had testified to the House Select Committee on Assassinations that he did not shoot King, he and six other convicts escaped from Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee. They were recaptured on June 13 and returned to prison.

Allegations of conspiracy

Ray's lawyers maintained he was a scapegoat similar to the way that alleged John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald is seen by conspiracy theorists. One of the claims used to support this assertion is that Ray's confession was given under pressure, and he had been threatened with the death penalty. Ray was a thief and burglar, but he had no record of committing violent crimes with a weapon.

Those suspecting a conspiracy in the assassination point out the two separate ballistics tests conducted on the Remington Gamemaster recovered by police had neither conclusively proved Ray had been the killer nor that it had even been the murder weapon. Moreover, witnesses surrounding King at the moment of his death say the shot came from another location, from behind thick shrubbery near the rooming house - which had been inexplicably cut away in the days following the assassination - and not from the rooming house window.

Martin Luther King's & Coretta Scott King's tomb, located on the grounds of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site


In 1997, King's son Dexter Scott King met with Ray, and publicly supported Ray's efforts to obtain a new trial.] Two years later, Coretta Scott King, King's widow, along with the rest of King's family, won a wrongful death claim against Loyd Jowers and "other unknown co-conspirators". Jowers claimed to have received $100,000 to arrange King's assassination. The jury of six whites and six blacks found Jowers guilty and that government agencies were party to the assassination. William F. Pepper represented the King family in the trial. King biographer David Garrow disagrees with William F. Pepper's claims that the government killed King. He is supported by author Gerald Posner who has researched and written about the assassination.

In 2000, the United States Department of Justice completed the investigation about Jowers' claims but did not find evidence to support allegations about conspiracy. The investigation report recommended no further investigation unless some new reliable facts are presented. The New York Times reported a church minister, Rev. Ronald Denton Wilson, claimed his father, Henry Clay Wilson — not James Earl Ray — assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr. He stated, "It wasn't a racist thing; he thought Martin Luther King was connected with communism, and he wanted to get him out of the way."

King's friend and colleague, James Bevel, disputed the argument that Ray acted alone, stating, "There is no way a ten-cent white boy could develop a plan to kill a million-dollar black man." In 2004, Jesse Jackson, who was with King at the time of his death, noted:

The fact is there were saboteurs to disrupt the march. And within our own organization, we found a very key person who was on the government payroll. So infiltration within, saboteurs from without and the press attacks. …I will never believe that James Earl Ray had the motive, the money and the mobility to have done it himself. Our government was very involved in setting the stage for and I think the escape route for James Earl Ray.

FBI and wiretapping

King had a mutually antagonistic relationship with the FBI, especially its director, J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI began tracking King and the SCLC in 1957; its investigations were largely superficial until 1962, when it learned that one of King's most trusted advisers was New York City lawyer Stanley Levison. The FBI found Levison had been involved with the Communist Party USA, though the FBI considered him an inactive party member. Another King lieutenant, Hunter Pitts O'Dell, was also linked to the Communist Party by sworn testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The Bureau placed wiretaps on Levison's and King's home and office phones, and bugged King's rooms in hotels as he traveled across the country. The Bureau received authorization to proceed with wiretapping from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in 1963 and informed President John F. Kennedy, both of whom unsuccessfully tried to persuade King to dissociate himself from Levison. For his part, King adamantly denied having any connections to Communism, stating in a 1965 Playboy interview that "there are as many Communists in this freedom movement as there are Eskimos in Florida"; Hoover did not believe the statement and replied by saying that King was "the most notorious liar in the country." After King gave his "I Have A Dream" speech during the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, the FBI described King as "the most dangerous and effective Negro leader in the country".

The attempt to prove that King was a Communist was in keeping with the feeling of many segregationists that blacks in the South were happy with their lot but had been stirred up by "communists" and "outside agitators". Lawyer-advisor Stanley D. Levison did have ties with the Communist Party in various business dealings, but the FBI refused to believe its own intelligence bureau reports that Levison was no longer associated in that capacity. In response to the FBI's comments regarding communists directing the civil rights movement, King said that "the Negro revolution is a genuine revolution, born from the same womb that produces all massive social upheavals—the womb of intolerable conditions and unendurable situations."

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, March 26, 1964.

Later, the focus of the Bureau's investigations shifted to attempting to discredit King through revelations regarding his private life. FBI surveillance of King, some of it since made public, attempted to demonstrate that he also engaged in numerous extramarital affairs. Further remarks on King's lifestyle were made by several prominent officials, such as Lyndon Johnson, who once said that King was a “hypocritical preacher”. One incident that caught the FBI's attention was purported recording of a sexual encounter that took place at a 1964 party King was attending at the Willard Hotel in Washington D.C. The FBI presumed it was King who they heard engaged in a sexual encounter. Ralph Abernathy, a close associate of King's, stated in his 1989 autobiography And the Walls Came Tumbling Down that King was a womanizer and that he frequently used the services of prostitutes. In a later interview, Abernathy said he only wrote the term "womanizing", and did not specifically say King had extramarital sex. Arguments that King possibly engaged in sexual affairs have been detailed by history professor David Garrow.

The FBI distributed reports regarding such affairs to the executive branch, friendly reporters, potential coalition partners and funding sources of the SCLC, and King's family. The Bureau also sent anonymous letters to King threatening to reveal information if he did not cease his civil rights work. One anonymous letter sent to King just before he received the Nobel Peace Prize read, in part, "The American public, the church organizations that have been helping—Protestants, Catholics and Jews will know you for what you are—an evil beast. So will others who have backed you. You are done. King, there, is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significant [sic]). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy fraudulent self is bared to the nation." King interpreted this as encouragement for him to commit suicide, although William Sullivan, head of the Domestic Intelligence Division at the time, argued that it may have only been intended to "convince Dr. King to resign from the SCLC." King refused to give in to the FBI's threats.

In January 31, 1977, United States district Judge John Lewis Smith, Jr., ordered all known copies of the recorded audiotapes and written transcripts resulting from the FBI's electronic surveillance of King between 1963 and 1968 to be held in the National Archives and sealed from public access until 2027.

Across from the Lorraine Motel, next to the rooming house in which James Earl Ray was staying, was a fire station. Police officers were stationed in the fire station to keep King under surveillance. Using papered-over windows with peepholes cut into them, the agents were watching the scene while Martin Luther King was shot. Immediately following the shooting, officers rushed out of the station to the motel, and Marrell McCollough, an undercover police officer, was the first person to administer first-aid to King. The antagonism between King and the FBI, the lack of an all points bulletin to find the killer, and the police presence nearby have led to speculation that the FBI was involved in the assassination.


From the Gallery of 20th Century Martyrs at Westminster Abbey — l. to r. Mother Elizabeth of Russia, Rev. Martin Luther King, Archbishop Oscar Romero and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer

King's main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States, which has enabled more Americans to reach their potential. He is frequently referenced as a human rights icon today. His name and legacy have often been invoked since his death as people have debated his likely position on various modern political issues.

On the international scene, King's legacy included influences on the Black Consciousness Movement and Civil Rights Movement in South Africa. King's work was cited by and served as an inspiration for Albert Lutuli, another black Nobel Peace prize winner who fought for racial justice in that country. The day following King's assassination, school teacher Jane Elliott conducted her first "Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes" exercise with her class of elementary school students in Riceville, Iowa. Her purpose was to help them understand King's death as it related to racism, something they little understood from having lived in a predominately white community.

King's wife, Coretta Scott King, followed her husband's footsteps and was active in matters of social justice and civil rights until her death in 2006. The same year that Martin Luther King was assassinated, Mrs. King established the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia, dedicated to preserving his legacy and the work of championing nonviolent conflict resolution and tolerance worldwide. His son, Dexter King, currently serves as the center's chairman. Daughter Yolanda King is a motivational speaker, author and founder of Higher Ground Productions, an organization specializing in diversity training.

There are opposing views even within the King family — regarding the slain civil rights leader's religious and political views about homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people. King's widow Coretta said publicly that she believed her husband would have supported gay rights. His daughter Bernice believed he would have been opposed to them.

The King Center includes discrimination, and lists homophobia as one of its examples, in its list of "The Triple Evils" that should be opposed. Universally, moderate African-American civil/human rights activists and moderate gay rights activists support the middle view: gay rights is a private sexual matter between consenting adults. However, they contend gays' social issues should be equated to more grievous social injustices such as the now defunct slave trade, past Jim Crow laws and the brutal murder of 14-year old Emmett Till.

In 1980, the Department of Interior designated King's boyhood home in Atlanta and several nearby buildings the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. In 1996, United States Congress authorized the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity to establish a foundation to manage fund raising and design of a Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on the Mall in Washington, DC. King was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established by and for African Americans. King was the first African American honored with his own memorial in the National Mall area and the first non-President to be commemorated in such a way. The sculptor chosen was Lei Yixin. The King Memorial will be administered by the National Park Service.

King's life and assassination inspired many artistic works. In 1969 Maya Angelou published her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In spring of 2006, a stage play about King was produced in Beijing, China with King portrayed by Chinese actor, Cao Li. The play was written by Stanford University professor, Clayborne Carson.

George H. W. Bush signs Martin Luther King Day Proclamation

Martin Luther King Day

At the White House Rose Garden on November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor King. Observed for the first time on January 20, 1986, it is called Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Following President George H. W. Bush's 1992 proclamation, the holiday is observed on the third Monday of January each year, near the time of King's birthday. On January 17, 2000, for the first time, Martin Luther King Day was officially observed in all fifty U.S. states.

Awards and recognition

King was awarded at least fifty honorary degrees from colleges and universities in the U.S. and elsewhere. Besides winning the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, in 1965 King was awarded the American Liberties Medallion by the American Jewish Committee for his "exceptional advancement of the principles of human liberty". Reverend King said in his acceptance remarks, "Freedom is one thing. You have it all or you are not free". King was also awarded the Pacem in Terris Award, named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope John XXIII calling for all people to strive for peace.

In 1966, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America awarded King the Margaret Sanger Award for "his courageous resistance to bigotry and his lifelong dedication to the advancement of social justice and human dignity."King was posthumously awarded the Marcus Garvey Prize for Human Rights by Jamaica in 1968.

In 1971, King was posthumously awarded the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for his Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam. Six years later, the Presidential Medal of Freedom was awarded to King by Jimmy Carter. King and his wife were also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.King was second in Gallup's List of Widely Admired People in the 20th century In 1963 King was named Time Person of the Year and in 2000, King was voted sixth in the Person of the Century poll by the same magazine. King was elected third in the Greatest American contest conducted by the Discovery Channel and AOL.More than 730 cities in the United States have streets named after King. King County, Washington rededicated its name in his honor in 1986, and changed its logo to an image of his face in 2007. The city government center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is named in honor of King King is venerated as a saint by the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (feast day April 4) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (feast day January 15).

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Martin Luther King, Jr. on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.



(Thanks, Elissa, for the nudge to post a recipe for Migas!)

Tex-Mex dish traditionally served for breakfast but equally good for dinner!



37 min | 30 min prep


  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 6 green onions, sliced (include some of the green part)
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded,chopped and drained
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
  • 1 cup grated monterey jack cheese
  • 1 cup tortilla chips tortilla chips, broken into large,bite-size pieces (We sub Frito's Corn Chips)
  • hot sauce, to taste
  1. In a mixing bowl, add eggs, water, salt, and pepper to taste; whisk to combine.
  2. Melt the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat; tilt pan to swirl the melted butter around.
  3. When the butter foams, add green onions; stir/saute for 1 minute.
  4. Add in egg mixture; let set for 20 seconds.
  5. Cook and stir for 3-4 minutes or until almost set.
  6. Add in tomato, green chiles, and cheese; continue stirring/cooking until mixed well and cheese melts.
  7. Add in chips; stir to combine.
  8. Sprinkle hot sauce over the top if desired; serve.

The Most Famous American Letter


America’s Most Famous Letter

Abraham Lincoln signed it. A lot of scholars say he didn’t write it. Now, newly discovered evidence helps solve an enduring mystery.

By Jason Emerson

Executive Mansion, Washington, November 21, 1864.

Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Massachusetts:

Dear Madam: I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln.


In a records box in a back office in a house in the hills of Vermont, six letters about Abraham Lincoln’s famous “letter to the Widow Bixby” lay unknown and undisturbed. For how long is uncertain, although this author’s fingerprints made last March were the only ones visible in the thick chalky dust of years. The letters, received and written by Robert Todd Lincoln within a span of eight weeks in late 1925, point to a son’s knowledge—and a friend’s knowledge—about who really wrote the Bixby letter.

Considering that this is one of the most enduring and indefatigable mysteries in all Lincoln lore, how is this new discovery possible? The answer lies in the simple truth that scholars have long overlooked Robert Todd Lincoln, believing him a minor character in the Lincoln legend. He is perceived as cold and aloof, a Todd more than a Lincoln, and a son dissociated from his famous father. Many think that the naturally reticent Robert said little of consequence about his father and that everything of value he owned concerning him was given to the Library of Congress in 1919 or resides in Springfield, Illinois, at the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. None of this is true.

The Bixby letter is famous for its perfect use of the English language. Along with the Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural, it is one of Lincoln’s most revered literary legacies. The letter was published in the Boston Transcript on November 25, 1864, the same day Mrs. Bixby received it:

“Dear Madam,—I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

“I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

“I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.

“Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

“A. Lincoln”

Controversy has raged for 80 years about whether the President actually wrote these words. A widely accepted current theory holds that the true author was Lincoln’s personal secretary, John Hay, who was a skilled poet and journalist. In the July/August 1999 issue of American Heritage magazine, the Lincoln scholar Michael Burlingame defended this view at length, basing his verdict on Hay’s writings, the testimony of witnesses, and a textual analysis of the letter. Burlingame admits that while taken separately, none of these pieces of evidence “clinch the case,” when considered together they make a decisive argument.

If Hay, a proud, even vain man, wrote the letter, why would he have told casual acquaintances but not members of his own family?

One of the frequently cited pieces of evidence is a statement in Hay’s own words, written to William Herndon in 1866. Herndon, Abraham Lincoln’s former law partner, was at the time collecting material for a Lincoln biography and asked Hay for recollections of the war years. Halfway through his reply Hay stated that Lincoln: “wrote very few letters. He did not read one in fifty that he received. At first we tried to bring them to his notice, but at last he gave the whole thing over to me, and signed without reading them the letters I wrote in his name.”

Of course this implies that Hay wrote all of Lincoln’s correspondence. Hay proponents, however, continually leave the next sentence in the letter conspicuously absent: “He wrote perhaps half-a-dozen [letters] a week himself—not more.” This statement proves that Lincoln did in fact write some of his own letters, probably the most important ones. Could the Bixby letter be one of these?

Abraham Lincoln was among the most compassionate of leaders. He knew the awful pain of losing a loved one, especially a child; it had been just 2 years since his son Willie died and 14 years since his son Eddie’s death in 1850. That Lincoln also had a deep respect for life in general is evident in the number of death sentences he commuted during the war. As John Hay wrote in his diary in 1863, “Today we spent six hours deciding on Court Martials, the President, Judge [Advocate General Joseph] Holt, & I. I was amused at the eagerness with which the President caught at any fact which would justify him in saving the life of a condemned soldier.” Furthermore, the letter to Mrs. Bixby, a widow who was believed to have lost five sons, was not written on whim but was personally requested by the governor of Massachusetts, John A. Andrew. Considering all this, it seems unlikely that Abraham Lincoln would have delegated this particular task to his secretary.

After the Herndon letter, Hay proponents go on to mention the statements of five men—diplomats, journalists, and even Hay’s personal secretary—who claimed Hay had openly declared himself the author. The problem with these testimonies is that they all are second and thirdhand hearsay. The most often cited one comes from the Columbia University president Nicholas Murray Butler, who said in his autobiography that in 1904 Hay told a friend he’d written the letter and that the friend passed this information on to Butler in 1912. Not only was this secondhand information delivered eight years after the supposed telling, but Butler set it down more than a quarter-century after that, in 1940.

The most impressive witness is Spencer Eddy, Hay’s personal secretary, whose words would carry much weight given his closeness to Hay. The reality is weaker: a thirdhand statement. Catherine Beveridge, the wife of the Lincoln scholar Albert J. Beveridge and Eddy’s sister, stated in a memo in 1949 that her brother told her Hay was the author, a story “that he had presumably heard (or inferred) from some conversation with Mr. Hay or Mr. [Henry] Adams.”

F. Lauriston Bullard, a Bixby-letter historian, makes a point that bears repeating: Hay never told his children he was the author. Both Bullard and another Lincoln scholar, William E. Barton, specifically asked them and they reiterated that their father had never claimed authorship (although they also said he never denied it). There can be no doubt that Hay was a proud, even vain, man, as the glut of clippings about himself in his personal scrapbooks attests. So the question is reasonable: Why would he tell casual acquaintances but not his own family?

Two additional arguments by Hay proponents are subjective interpretations of printed matter and thus unprovable. They also seem to this writer suspect from the outset. First, they point to Hay’s “stylistic fingerprints” in the letter by his use of the words beguile, cherished, and gloriously and the phrases “I cannot refrain from tendering to you” and “I pray that our Heavenly Father”—words and phrases that Lincoln rarely wrote. Reading through the Bixby historiography, however, one can find as many arguments in favor of Lincoln’s literary style as one can find for Hay’s. Bullard cites half a dozen uses of “our Heavenly Father” or similar variations, while the enthusiastic Lincoln student Joe Nickell found nine instances of Lincoln’s using the verb to tender. The point then becomes not that Lincoln never used these words, merely that Hay used them more often.

The strongest textual argument, forwarded by Burlingame, is that Hay had an “inordinate fondness” for the word beguile and used it at least 30 times in his published writings, although it never appears any other time in Lincoln’s collected writings. There is, however, a strong rebuttal to this. When Nickell asked the scholar Jean Prival, a specialist in English linguistics and rhetoric, for a comparison of the Bixby text with the known writings of Lincoln and Hay, she found great generational differences in the two men’s syntax and vocabulary. The 55-year-old Lincoln had been deeply influenced by his intensive reading of Elizabethan literature; the 26-year-old Hay had absorbed many more modern influences. She concluded that the letter’s use of beguile is in the Elizabethan sense of “to divert,” while Hay’s meaning usually is closer to the contemporary use of “to charm or entice.”

The strongest evidence in favor of Hay is the fact that two newspaper clippings of the Bixby letter are in his personal scrapbooks. Burlingame sees their presence as a tacit admission of authorship: “It is difficult to understand why Hay would have pasted the Bixby letter in these scrapbooks, full of his own literary creations, unless he had composed it himself.” This is a compelling argument. Yet while the bulk of the scrapbook contents are known to be Hay’s, not everything in them can be traced to his authorship, and some of the clippings are definitely not from his hand.

Moreover, there is a second Hay scrapbook in the Library of Congress covering the same period of time as the book containing the Bixby letter, 1860–74, that is replete with articles about Abraham Lincoln. Still another oversized scrapbook is half-filled with Lincoln writings, including the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural. Certainly Hay did not write these, so why did he include them?

Hay began collecting memorabilia for a history of Lincoln’s administration as soon as he reached the White House in 1861; therefore he was gathering anything and everything of importance that newspapers ran about his subject. Perhaps more important, however, was Hay’s reverence for Abraham Lincoln. It’s evident throughout his letters but is made especially clear in his 1866 response to William Herndon: “I consider Lincoln Republicanism incarnate with all its faults and all its virtues. As in spite of some rudenesses, Republicanism is the sole hope of a sick world, so Lincoln with all his foibles, is the greatest character since Christ.”

Hay’s scrapbooks are of great importance to understanding him as a writer, and the assumption that they establish the Bixby letter authorship is not a feckless one. But it is certainly not conclusive.

There is one great gap in the historical record of the Bixby letter’s authorship. Considering that Robert Todd Lincoln was one of Hay’s closest friends and Abraham Lincoln’s son, would it not be prudent to check his papers to try to discover what he did or did not know? Yet few authors of Bixby-related articles even so much as mention his name in their essays.

The one substantial reference occurred in 1951, when Bullard published a letter from Robert Lincoln to Dr. James H. Canfield, then the librarian of Columbia University. At the time, during the Lincoln centennial in 1909, Columbia had mounted an exhibit that contained a copy of the letter, and Robert wrote Canfield: “I have long been desirous of what has become of the original ‘Bixby’ letter, which I regard very highly. Doctor [Nicholas Murray] Butler said there was some suspicion as to whether the copy . . . is not a forgery. I told him that once in conversation, John Hay and I discussed the ease with which such a forgery could be made in consequence of the possibility of anyone finding for such a use an authentic original in my father’s hand-writing of almost every word and certainly every letter in the ‘Bixby’ letter. . . . Last year, I learned that there was in Huber’s Museum, which is a combination of museum and continuous performance variety house in 14 Street a few doors east of the subway, the original ‘Bixby’ letter. Accordingly, I dropped in to see it, and found on a frame on the wall a much discolored letter which is either an original or a very clever forgery—Which I do not know. The proprietor of the museum was not there so that I could not make any inquiry as to where he got it. . . . I should be greatly obliged to you if you will ascertain from the owner, who loaned it for the exhibition, what he knows of its history.”

Incredibly, none of Robert Lincoln’s thoughts on the subject have ever been so much as cited in any Bixby historiography.

Canfield responded that the letter on display at Columbia University was the one from Huber’s Museum, but that upon examination by experts, it was clearly a lithographic copy. “I am not sure, therefore, that I can throw any light upon the present ownership of the Bixby letter,” Canfield wrote.

This exchange from almost a century ago had been the only known primary material about Robert Lincoln’s knowledge of the Bixby letter. Now, however, newly discovered letters in the archives of Hildene, Robert Todd Lincoln’s house in Manchester, Vermont, as well as those stored (and apparently ignored) in the Robert Todd Lincoln papers at the Chicago Historical Society do much to illuminate the subject. Incredibly, none of them has ever been fully published or even cited in any of the Bixby historiography.

A worldwide search for the original copy of the Bixby letter began in the summer of 1925 after The New York Times printed a story saying that the original letter was not at Oxford University, as had come to be universally believed. The story started a flurry of press activity as journalists tried desperately to find the sacred relic. They questioned the Library of Congress, the Illinois State Historical Society, Oxford University, the War Department, the Pension Bureau, the old State House in Boston—and Mrs. Lydia Bixby’s descendants. They concluded that the original was either lost or destroyed.

During this journalistic brouhaha, Robert Todd Lincoln received a telegram from the New York Evening Post:

newyork ny 457P aug 7 1925

robert todd lincoln

manchester vt

Frederick H Meserve [a prominent Lincoln authority and collector] has given us photographic copy of Bixby letter apparently establishing authenticity beyond doubt he does not know nor does anyone else whereabouts of the original he suggested you might have some knowledge of it or could tell us something about its history we would think it very kind if you could wire at our expense 200 words about this

newyork evening post

Lincoln replied the next day through his private secretary, Frederic N. Towers:


“At the direction of Mr. Robert T. Lincoln I beg to acknowledge receipt of your telegram of yesterday in which you inquire as to whether Mr. Lincoln has any knowledge of the present whereabouts of the so-called ‘Bixby letter’, and whether he would be willing to set forth such knowledge for publication.

“In reply Mr. Lincoln has directed me to advise you that he has no knowledge of the present whereabouts of the letter referred to. He has, however, among other things here a photographic copy of the letter, and, although he does not know the exact original of this copy, he says that it is certainly a reproduction of the original, which was in the handwriting of his father. Mr. Lincoln can say no more than this about the matter, however; and, in any event, would not care to make any statement for publication.”

A few days after the Post telegram, Lincoln received a letter from the Lincoln Club of Brooklyn asking him to “set at rest, once and for all, the current stories concerning the letter to Mrs. Bixby. . . . a word from you right now will do much to stem any impending criticism or questionings of the good faith of America’s best-loved son.”

Lincoln’s secretary’s response was similar to his statement to the Post:

“Mr. Lincoln does not know the present whereabouts of the letter; but he has here, among other things, a photographic copy of the original, which, he says, is unquestionably in the handwriting of his father. . . .

“Mr. Lincoln, however, does not wish to be drawn into a controversy or dispute as to the origin or authorship of the letter; but, I am sure, himself feels that there can be no question but that his father wrote it.”

A few weeks later an editor from the Boston Herald wanted to know about the Bixby letter:

“A letter I have from Charles Moore, acting chief of the division of manuscripts, Congressional Library, regarding the famous letter to Mrs. Bixby of Massachusetts, quotes you as follows: ‘Mr. Robert T. Lincoln believes the facsimile to be made-up and not in his father’s handwriting.’

“Daniel Kilham Dodge, the historian writes me in part regarding the letter, ‘Of more interest is the question of the authorship of the letter, which has been attributed to John Hay, who, according to his diary wrote many letters which Lincoln signed without reading. From another source I have heard that Mr. Hay imitated the President’s handwriting.’

“A handwriting expert who examined several facsimiles as well as a photograph of the alleged original, informs me that the writing and signature appears to be that of President Lincoln. In view of the above, would you be good enough to clear up for me the question; is the letter or facsimiles you saw, in the handwriting of President Lincoln, or that of John Hay or someone else. How does the script differ from the President’s writing?

“I am trying to locate the original letter. Can you give me any information as to where it might be, when and where it was last seen.

“In case you are unable to supply the required information have you any idea where I may be able to obtain it? An early answer will be greatly appreciated.”

Towers responded:

“I beg to advise you that inquiries concerning this letter have, from time to time, been received by Mr. Lincoln, to all of which he has responded in like manner, to wit, that he knows nothing of the whereabouts of the original; that he has a facsimile among his belongings here; that he does not know the origin of this facsimile; but that he knows it to be a copy of a document unquestionably in the handwriting of his father.

“Mr. Lincoln, however, has no desire to enter upon a discussion of the subject, either privately or publicly; and will appreciate it, therefore, if you will refrain from quoting him in connection with this matter. The contents of this letter are simply for your personal information.”

While these communications don’t prove whether Lincoln or Hay wrote the Bixby letter, they do show what Robert Todd Lincoln believed. But why did he believe it so strongly?

Before the great Bixby debate in 1925, many people tried to determine who wrote the letter and to find the original. Among them was Robert Lincoln. He began looking sometime between 1901 and 1905. He never found the letter. But during that time he looked at various “copies” of it, was approached by a man trying to sell the “original,” and consulted one of his closest friends, John Hay (then President Theodore Roosevelt’s Secretary of State), about its origins.

While Robert Lincoln was looking at various “copies” of the letter, he was approached by a man who wanted to sell him the “original.” He consulted his close friend John Hay.

The record of Robert Lincoln’s keen interest in the letter is preserved in his correspondence with a historian named Isaac Markens, who was writing a biography of the President. These letters, currently housed in the Chicago Historical Society, clearly refute the Hay authorship theory. Lincoln first mentioned Bixby in a letter he wrote on January 5, 1917:

“In regard to the Bixby letter there is a mystery which I have been unable to solve. . . . Briefly I can say that unfortunately I did not take up the question as to the existence or location of the original Bixby letter until after the death of Mr. [John G.] Nicolay [President Lincoln’s personal secretary, in 1901]; it was he and not Colonel Hay who did the work of compiling the two final documentary volumes [which included the Bixby letter] of their Biography. Colonel Hay died about ten years ago and before that I had received from the Republican Club of New York, a package of lithographed Lincoln letters which the Club had got up as a present to their guests at one of their Annual Lincoln Birthday Dinners; among these lithographes was that of the Bixby letter. I was a very busy man in those days, but on one of my visits in New York I made an effort to ascertain the location of the document from which the lithograph was made. . . . I finally secured an interview with one or two gentlemen of the Club who were on the dinner committee for that particular dinner; neither of them could tell me anything about the getting up of these particular souvenirs, but they promised that they would investigate the matter and communicate with me again; they never did so and in the pressure of my other affairs, this went out of my mind. Then there came to me from a man named Benson a curious letter which had some queer things about it which led me in acknowledging it not to use my own name, but to have my Secretary, Mr. Sweet, now dead, act for me. As I remember, Benson said that he owned the original Bixby letter and that it was pledged for a loan on $100, I think, made to him by a Brooklyn banker, and that it was his intention to present it to me. Sweet wrote him suggesting that he cause the letter to be sent to any bank in Chicago for me to inspect and that if I considered it genuine I would be very glad to pay his debt to the Brooklyn banker instead of having him give me the letter. I think Benson then replied that it was not possible for him to go to Brooklyn to arrange this for some time to come, but that in the meantime he being hard up, would like to have me cash a note of his for an amount which I now forget, but I think it was $250; this he enclosed to avoid delay and it was returned to him. I cannot remember other details, but being in Washington I showed Colonel Hay, in the State Department, this lithograph and told him the story; Colonel Hay knew nothing whatever of the source of the printed copy of the letter in the Nicolay and Hay book. He suggested a curious thing; namely, that my father’s hand writing was very easy to imitate. This I knew myself because several times as a boy to amuse myself I used to write his ordinary signature so well that I think it would have passed muster with himself. Colonel Hay went on to say that pretty nearly all the words in the Bixby letter could be found in photographs of genuine letters and that perhaps this lithograph had been made from a forged document. I think Colonel Hay’s suggestion a very shrewd one.

“I examined the Museum document as well as I could, it being framed in a case, and I came to the conclusion that it was simply one of the facsimile copies of the lithograph. . . . That is the end of my investigation. I do not remember having brought to my attention any other supposed lithograph of the letter. . . .

“Both Mr. Sweet and myself were strongly impressed with the feeling that Mr. Benson was not a gentleman with whom we would care to do business. . . .

“When I speak of a possible forgery I do not of course mean that there was not a genuine Bixby letter; I mean merely that a shrewd forger could from the printed copy in the Nicolay and Hay book, make an apparently genuine original. Personally I have no doubt of the authenticity of the letter.”

Markens, obviously fascinated by the Bixby business, sought to continue the discussion. Here is the most important letter in the Lincoln-Markens correspondence. On February 24, 1917, Robert Lincoln wrote:

“I think I have not acknowledged your letter of February 20th in regard to the Bixby letter. Your suggestion that neither Nicolay nor Hay probably had any special knowledge of the letter at the time is correct. Hay himself told me so; when I took the matter up Nicolay had died and it was he who had compiled the collection of papers. It is entirely possible that neither of them knew of the letter at all; my father had no letter books and copies of his letters and documents were only made in special cases, many such copies being in the papers I now have, mostly drafts in his own hand; it is entirely possible that my father wrote this letter at his desk, folded it, addressed it and gave it to General [William] Schouler [adjutant general of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts] without anybody else about him knowing of it.”

The letters prove that not only did Robert Lincoln believe his father had written the Bixby letter, but John Hay himself told Robert he’d had nothing to do with it.

What’s amazing about this letter is its statement that the man purported to be the author of the letter told his best friend —and his hero’s son—that he had no knowledge of it when it was written.

A year later Lincoln answered a series of Markens’s questions about his father. Two of his responses are relevant here:

“3. I heard nothing of this while in London [as President Benjamin Harrison’s minister to Great Britain], but I have in some way understood that in one of the college libraries, whether in Oxford or Cambridge I do not know, is hanging framed a lithographed copy of the Bixby letter. . . .

“4. His methods of office working were simply those of a very busy man who worked at all hours. He never dictated correspondence; he sometimes wrote a document and had his draft copied by either Nicolay or Hay; sometimes he himself copied his corrected draft and retained the draft in his papers; there were no letter press books at all; he never owned such a thing. When he preserved letters to himself, it was ordinarily done by replacing them in their envelopes with the writer’s name inscribed; it was not his general habit to keep copies of letters written by himself.”

Could this last sentence explain one reason why no copy of the original Bixby letter exists? As John Hay was enamored enough of himself and of his own literary creations to fill multiple scrapbooks after publication, would he not have kept a copy of such a luminous letter, especially since he had no way of knowing if it would ever be published or would disappear once it reached Mrs. Bixby?

Markens was interested in tracking down Benson, the purveyor of the phony Bixby letter. Lincoln, however, could offer no specifics:

“I have made a little search but have failed to light on the box having the Benson package. I do not think however that I could answer your inquiry from anything in it; I recall clearly that Benson seemed to be a wanderer and that my last news of him indicated that he had been a member of the Front-Hall servants party at the White House; when I had a talk with Colonel Hay about the lithograph, when he suggested to me the easy possibility of its having been made from a forgery. I had already become satisfied that Benson was ‘no good,’ and gave no more thought to him.”

The final pertinent letter in the LincolnMarkens correspondence, written in 1919, shows that Lincoln eventually came to believe the original Bixby letter lost:

“I have had my file of Benson papers sent me from Vermont and enclose to you an abstract of my relations with him, which ended some sixteen years ago; I have no idea of his address. I think that if he were still alive he would be trying to pull my leg in some way. . . .

“I have given up all hope of discovering the original letter.”

The letters quoted prove not only that Robert Lincoln believed his father had written the Bixby letter but also that John Hay himself told Robert he’d had nothing to do with it.

So we come to a satisfying conclusion: America’s greatest President wrote America’s greatest letter.

Jason Emerson, an independent historian in Fredericksburg, Virginia, is currently at work on a biography of Robert Lincoln.

As Bad As She Could Be”
Who was the Widow Bixby?
By Harold Holzer

Of all the hundreds of personal letters Abraham Lincoln sent during his lifetime, none of the recipients remains more deeply shrouded in mystery than Lydia Bixby of Boston.

Was she the prototype for the Gold Star Mother, the first “Mrs. Ryan.” (One recalls Gen. George Marshall reading the Bixby letter aloud to his staff in Steven Spielberg’s movie Saving Private Ryan to justify excusing the surviving Ryan brother from further military service.) Spielberg’s cinematic validation notwithstanding, did the original Mrs. Bixby legitimately earn President Lincoln’s pity by sacrificing five sons killed “gloriously on the field of battle,” as Lincoln wrote in his famous condolence letter.

Or was she a charlatan, a Confederate sympathizer, and perhaps even a professional madam—a charge unearthed by the historian Michael Burlingame in 1995—who somehow tricked the President into so memorably wasting his sympathy? According to the historian George C. Shattuck, one of Mrs. Bixby’s contemporaries remembered the “stout . . . motherly-looking” widow as a shifty-eyed schemer, “perfectly untrustworthy and as bad as she could be.” In the end, few of the stubbornly lingering questions about Lincoln’s letter or its controversial recipient were definitively answered by F. Lauriston Bullard’s charming 1946 book Abraham Lincoln & the Widow Bixby or by scholars trying to unravel the truth in the six decades since.

One thing is certain. If Mrs. Bixby was a fake, she certainly managed to convince a number of high-ranking public officials otherwise. Her documentation proved more than sufficient to persuade the adjutant general of Massachusetts, William Schouler, of her legitimacy. To Schouler, Mrs. Bixby was “the best specimen of a true-hearted Union woman” he had ever met, and he brought her case to the attention of the state’s governor, John A. Andrew. Equally impressed, the governor sent the War Department a request for a personal acknowledgment from no less than the President of the United States “taking notice of a noble mother of five dead heroes so well deserves.” Andrew was a loyal Lincoln ally. He had been a Lincoln delegate at the 1860 Republican National Convention and later became the first Union governor to respond to the new President’s call for troops after the firing on Fort Sumter. It is no surprise that Lincoln responded immediately to the governor’s request.

Lincoln’s condolence note was carried to “Mother Bixby” a few days later by Schouler himself, who evidently first made a wise detour to a Boston newspaper to make sure the letter would be set in type so it could be shared with the public that evening. Such a perfectly expressed credit to Yankee motherhood and Massachusetts patriotism promised a public relations coup. In the following days the letter was widely republished. But the original letter, and Mrs. Bixby too, promptly vanished from history.

We know now that the Widow Bixby either calculatingly exaggerated her claims of loss—seeking government remuneration to which she was not entitled—or simply did not know the true fate of her boys. In fact, of the five young Bixbys Lincoln was led to believe had been killed in the war, only two, it turned out, had actually died in battle (a grievous enough loss, to be sure). The third had received an honorable discharge (and may have been hiding at home), the fourth had deserted, and the fifth either had been captured and died as a prisoner of war or had deserted.

According to a faded 1949 clipping from the New York Sun now in the files of the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Lincoln’s masterpiece did little to “assuage” the allegedly grieving widow. Apparently Mrs. Bixby had migrated to Boston from Richmond, bringing with her a stubborn loyalty to the Old South, cherishing anti-Union sentiments she somehow managed to conceal from the pro-Union adjutant general, governor, and President. Her own granddaughter recalled that the widow, who died in 1878, was “secretly in sympathy with the Southern cause” and had “little good to say” about Lincoln. She apparently so “resented” the President’s condolence message that she “destroyed it shortly after receipt without realizing its value.”

If true, here was the final irony in the life of Lydia Bixby. Whether she was a grieving Union mother or a wily Rebel sympathizer, a proper old widow or the owner of a house of ill repute, she failed to preserve and profit from the one item that would have brought her fame and fortune, not to mention a hearty last laugh on the Union: the priceless original copy in Lincoln’s hand of the most famous condolence letter of the nineteenth century. From the thousands of alleged “facsimiles” sold over the years, the still mysterious Widow Bixby received not a penny.

Harold Holzer, co-chairman of the U.S. Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, is co-editor with David Herbert Donald of the new collection, Lincoln in the Times: The Life of Abraham Lincoln as Originally Reported in The New York Times (St. Martin’s Press).

Seven Deadly Sins

        Hieronymous Bosch Tabletop of the Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things (detail of Hell) c.1480 

The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, are a classification of the most objectionable vices that were originally used in early Christian teachings to educate and instruct followers concerning (immoral) fallen man's tendency to sin. They are: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. The Catholic Church divided sin into two principal categories: "venial", which are relatively minor, and could be forgiven through any sacramentals or sacraments of the church, and the more severe "capital" or mortal sin. Mortal sins destroyed the life of grace, and created the threat of eternal damnation unless either absolved through the sacrament of confession, or forgiven through perfect contrition on the part of the penitent. Beginning in the early 14th century, the popularity of the seven deadly sins as a theme among European artists of the time eventually helped to ingrain them in many areas of Christian culture and Christian consciousness in general throughout the world. One means of such ingraining was the creation of the mnemonic "SALIGIA" based on the first letters in Latin of the seven deadly sins: superbia, avaritia, luxuria, invidia, gula, ira, acedia.

There is nowhere in the Christian Bible that a specific list of the Seven Deadly Sins is given, although lists of virtues contrasted with lists of sins are found in certain books of the New Testament, such as the Epistle to the Galatians. The modern concept of the Seven Deadly Sins is linked to the works of the 4th century monk Evagrius Ponticus, who listed eight "evil thoughts" as follows (Refoule, 1967):

Gluttony; fornication; avarice; sorrow; anger; discouragement; vainglory; pride.

The first three of these sins, as Refoule explains, link to lustful appetite; anger links with the irascible; and vainglory and pride link with the intellect. Some years later, in 590 AD, Pope Gregory I (Pope Gregory the Great) would revise this list to form the more common "Seven Deadly Sins".

Listings of the sins since Gregory the Great

Listed in the same order used by both Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century, and later by Dante Alighieri in his epic poem The Divine Comedy, the seven deadly sins are as follows: luxuria (extravagance, later lust), gula (gluttony), avaritia (greed), acedia (sloth), ira (wrath), invidia (envy), and superbia (pride). Each of the seven deadly sins has an opposite among the corresponding seven holy virtues (sometimes also referred to as the contrary virtues). In parallel order to the sins they oppose, the seven holy virtues are chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility.

The identification and definition of the seven deadly sins over their history has been a fluid process and the idea of what each of the seven actually encompasses has evolved over time. This process has been aided by the fact that they are not referred to in either a cohesive or codified manner in the Bible itself, and as a result other literary and ecclesiastical works referring to the seven deadly sins were instead consulted as sources from which definitions might be drawn. Part II of Dante's Divine Comedy, "Purgatorio", has almost certainly been the best known source since the Renaissance.

The modern Roman Catholic Catechism lists the sins as: "pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia, ".

The sins

 Lust (Latin, luxuria)

Lust (or lechery) is usually thought of as excessive thoughts or desires of a sexual nature. Giving in to lusts can lead to sexual or sociological compulsions and/or transgressions including (but obviously not limited to) sexual addiction, fornication, adultery, bestiality, rape, perversion, and incest. Dante's criterion was "excessive love of others," which therefore rendered love and devotion to God as secondary. In "Purgatorio", the penitent walks within flames to purge himself of lustful/sexual thoughts and feelings.

Gluttony (Latin, gula)

(Albert Anker, 1896)

Derived from the Latin gluttire, meaning to gulp down or swallow, gluttony is the over-indulgence and over-consumption of anything to the point of waste. In the Christian religions, it is considered a sin because of the excessive desire for food, or its withholding from the needy.

Depending on the culture, it can be seen as either a vice or a sign of status. Where food is relatively scarce, being able to eat well might be something to take pride in (although this can also result in a moral backlash when confronted with the reality of those less fortunate). Where food is routinely plentiful, it may be considered a sign of self control to resist the temptation to over-indulge.

Medieval church leaders (e.g., Thomas Aquinas) took a more expansive view of gluttony, arguing that it could also include an obsessive anticipation of meals, and the constant eating of delicacies and excessively costly foods. Aquinas went so far as to prepare a list of six ways to commit gluttony, including:

  • Praepropere - eating too soon.
  • Laute - eating too expensively (washedly).
  • Nimis - eating too much.
  • Ardenter - eating too eagerly (burningly).
  • Studiose - eating too daintily (keenly).
  • Forente - eating wildly (boringly).

Greed (Latin, avaritia)

Greed (or avarice, covetousness) is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of excess. However, greed (as seen by the church) is applied to the acquisition of wealth in particular. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that greed was "a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things." In Dante's Purgatory, the penitents were bound and laid face down on the ground for having concentrated too much on earthly thoughts. "Avarice" is more of a blanket term that can describe many other examples of greedy behavior. These include disloyalty, deliberate betrayal, or treason, especially for personal gain, for example through bribery . Scavenging and hoarding of materials or objects, theft and robbery, especially by means of violence, trickery, or manipulation of authority are all actions that may be inspired by greed. Such misdeeds can include simony, where one profits from soliciting goods within the actual confines of a church.

Sloth (Latin, acedia)

More than other sins, the definition of sloth has changed considerably since its original inclusion among the seven deadly sins. In fact it was first called the sin of sadness or despair. It had been in the early years of Christianity characterized by what modern writers would now describe as melancholy: apathy, depression, and joylessness — the last being viewed as being a refusal to enjoy the goodness of God and the world God created. Originally, its place was fulfilled by two other aspects, acedia and sadness. The former described a spiritual apathy that affected the faithful by discouraging them from their religious work. Sadness (tristitia in Latin) described a feeling of dissatisfaction or discontent, which caused unhappiness with one's current situation. When Thomas Aquinas selected acedia for his list, he described it as an "uneasiness of the mind", being a progenitor for lesser sins such as restlessness and instability. Dante refined this definition further, describing sloth as being the "failure to love God with all one's heart, all one's mind and all one's soul." He also described it as the middle sin, and as such was the only sin characterised by an absence or insufficiency of love. In his "Purgatorio", the slothful penitents were made to run continuously at top speed.

The modern view of the vice, as highlighted by its contrary virtue of zeal or diligence, is that it represents the failure to utilize one's talents and gifts. For example, a student who does not work beyond what is required (and thus fails to achieve his or her full potential) could be labeled slothful.

Current interpretations are therefore much less stringent and comprehensive than they were in medieval times, and portray sloth as being more simply a sin of laziness or indifference, of an unwillingness to act, an unwillingness to care (rather than a failure to love God and his works). For this reason sloth is now often seen as being considerably less serious than the other sins, more a sin of omission than of commission.

The sloth, a South American mammal, was named after this sin by Roman Catholic explorers.

Wrath (Latin, ira)

Wrath (or anger or "Rage") may be described as inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. These feelings can manifest as vehement denial of the truth, both to others and in the form of self-denial, impatience with the procedure of law, and the desire to seek revenge outside of the workings of the justice system (such as engaging in vigilantism) and generally wishing to do evil or harm to others. The transgressions borne of vengeance are among the most serious, including murder, assault, and in extreme cases, genocide. Wrath is the only sin not necessarily associated with selfishness or self-interest (although one can of course be wrathful for selfish reasons, such as jealousy, closely related to the sin of envy). Dante described vengeance as "love of justice perverted to revenge and spite". In its original form, the sin of wrath also encompassed anger pointed internally rather than externally. Thus suicide was deemed as the ultimate, albeit tragic, expression of wrath directed inwardly, a final rejection of God's gifts.

Envy (Latin, invidia)

Like greed, envy may be characterized by an insatiable desire; they differ, however, for two main reasons. First, greed is largely associated with material goods, whereas envy may apply more generally. Second, those who commit the sin of envy resent that another person has something they perceive themselves as lacking, and wish the other person to be deprived of it. Dante defined this as "love of one's own good perverted to a desire to deprive other men of theirs." In Dante's Purgatory, the punishment for the envious is to have their eyes sewn shut with wire, because they have gained sinful pleasure from seeing others brought low. Aquinas described envy as "sorrow for another's good".

Pride (Latin, superbia)

In almost every list pride (or hubris or "vanity") is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and indeed the ultimate source from which the others arise. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to give compliments to others though they may be deserving of them, and excessive love of self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). Dante's definition was "love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbor." In Jacob Bidermann's medieval miracle play, Cenodoxus, pride is the deadliest of all the sins and leads directly to the damnation of the titulary famed Parisian doctor. In perhaps the best-known example, the story of Lucifer, pride (his desire to compete with God) was what caused his fall from Heaven, and his resultant transformation into Satan. Vanity and narcissism are prime examples of this sin. In Dante's Divine Comedy, the penitent were forced to walk with stone slabs bearing down on their backs in order to induce feelings of humility.

Biblical references

Proverbs 6:16–19

In Proverbs 6:16–19, it is stated that "(16) These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:" (quotes from King James Version (KJV) translation of the Bible). These are:

  • (17) A proud look,
  • a lying tongue,
  • and hands that shed innocent blood,
  • (18) A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations,
  • feet that be swift in running to mischief,
  • (19) A false witness that speaketh lies,
  • and he that soweth discord among brethren.

While there are seven of them, these sins are considerably different in outward appearance from the seven deadly sins list that arose later. The only sin which is clearly on both lists is pride. "Hands that shed innocent blood" could be taken to refer to wrath. However, it is possible to imagine a case where cold blooded murder of an innocent would be one of the "hated things" without necessarily being an example of wrath. Practices such as abortion, genocide, and euthanasia can be arguably covered under this umbrella of "hands that shed innocent blood".

The remaining five of the "deadly sins" do not have even this loose correspondence to the "hated things", even if it is easy to imagine how they might lead someone to acting in one of the ways described in "Proverbs". As previously stated, there is nowhere in the Bible where the traditional "seven deadly sins" are located or listed, although they are all condemned in various parts, along with several others. These "deadly sins" are not necessarily worse than any others that are listed. The New Testament shows that it only takes one sin, which is an act of disobeying God's law, to separate man from a perfect God, placing him in need of redemption and salvation.

Other Biblical references

The list in Proverbs is not the only list of sins in the Bible. It does list them as "seven", but it is far from being an exhaustive listing of sins. Another list of sins is given in the (New Testament) book of "Galatians" 5:19-21. That list reads: (19) Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, (20) Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, (21) Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.(KJV) Wrath is mentioned specifically, but linked with hate, includes the notions of hostility both acted upon and purely internalized.

Envy/Jealousy is part of the list in Paul's Epistle to the Galatians.

Greed is part of "selfish ambitions" from Galatians, but is also mirrored in Proverbs' "wicked plans."

Gluttony is evident in "drunkenness and revellings", but also implied as the contrary of the virtue in Galatians 5:23: "temperance" (self-control).

Sloth is not listed in Galatians, but it can be found in verses such as Proverbs 6:6-10, "How long will you sleep, O sluggard?" Laziness is addressed in many other verses, though not necessarily labeled obviously as sin. In I Corinthians 3:8, a man is to receive "according to his labors". Similarly in I Timothy 5:18, a laborer is worthy of his wages, with the implied converse being that the sluggard is not entitled to be fed or rewarded. He sins in living off others' labors.

Pride is mentioned in Proverbs 16:18: "Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." (KJV)

Catholic virtues

The Roman Catholic Church also recognizes Seven Virtues which correspond inversely to each of the seven deadly sins.

Vice   Virtue  
Lust Chastity
Gluttony Temperance
Greed Charity
Sloth Diligence
Wrath Patience
Envy Kindness
Pride Humility

Associations with demons

In 1589, Peter Binsfeld paired each of the deadly sins with a demon, who tempted people by means of the associated sin. According to Binsfeld's classification of demons, the pairings are as follows:

There are also other demons who invoke sin, for instance Lilith and her offspring, the incubi and succubi, invoke lust. The succubi sleep with men in order to impregnate themselves, so that they can spawn demons. The incubi sleep with women to lead them astray and to impregnate them with demon spawn.

Modern sins

On March 9, 2008 the Vatican newspaper published an interview with Bishop Gianfranco Girotti (head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican body which oversees confessions and plenary indulgences), in which he listed seven modern social sins. These "social sins" include environmental pollution, genetic manipulation, obscene wealth, infliction of poverty, drug trafficking, morally debatable experiments, and violation of the fundamental rights of human nature.

It is unclear to what extent these are intended to be new categories of deadly sin, and to what extent they are merely examples of sins. The American Catholic weekly America in its March 10, 2008 editorial blog has criticized the mass media's interpretation of the interview:

The Vatican's intent seemed to be less about adding to the traditional "deadly" sins than reminding the world that sin has a social dimension, and that participation in institutions that themselves sin is an important point upon which believers needed to reflect.

Cultural references

The seven deadly sins have long been a source of inspiration for writers and artists, from morality tales of the Middle Ages to modern manga series and video games.

Enneagram Integration

The Enneagram of Personality integrates the seven with two additional sins, deceit and fear. The Enneagram descriptions are broader than the traditional Christian interpretation and are presented in a comprehensive map.

Literary works inspired by the seven deadly sins

  • John Climacus (7th century) in The Ladder of Divine Ascent places victory over the eight thoughts as individual steps of the thirty-step ladder: wrath (8), vainglory (10, 22), sadness (13), gluttony (14), lust (15), greed (16, 17), acedia (18), and pride (23).
  • Dante's (1265–1321 A.D.) The Divine Comedy is a three-part work composed of "Inferno", "Purgatorio", and "Paradiso". "Inferno" divides Hell into nine concentric circles, four of which directly correspond to some of the deadly sins (Circle 2 to lust, 3 to gluttony, 4 to greed, and 5 to wrath, as well as sloth. The punishment of these two sins take place in the Stygian lake, the wrathful being punished atop the lake, attacking one another with the various members of their person, including fangs.. The slothful are punished underneath the lake breathing sighs in bubbles, singing a dolorous song, as told by Virgil in Canto VII:

This too for certain know, that underneath
The water dwells a multitude, whose sighs
Into these bubbles make the surface heave,
As thine eye tells thee wheresoe'er it turn."
Fix'd in the slime they say: "Sad once were we
In the sweet air made gladsome by the sun,
Carrying a foul and lazy mist within:
Now in these murky settlings are we sad."
Such dolorous strain they gurgle in their throats.

The remaining circles do not neatly map onto the seven sins. In "Purgatorio", the mountains scaled in seven levels and follows the sin sequence of Aquinas (starting with pride).

  • William Langland's (c. 1332–1386) Vision of Piers Plowman is structured around a series of dreams that are critical of contemporary errors while encouraging godly living. The sins are mentioned in this order: proud (pride; Passus V, lines 62–71), lechour (lecherousness; V. 71–74), envye (envy; V. 75–132), wrathe (wrath; V. 133–185), coveitise (covetousness; V. 186–306), glutton (gluttony; V. 307–385), sleuthe (sloth; V. 386–453) (using the B-text).
  • Geoffrey Chaucer's (c. 1340–1400) Canterbury Tales features the seven deadly sins in The Parson's Tale: pride (paragraphs 24–29), envy (30–31), wrath (32–54), sloth (55–63), greed (64–70), gluttony (71–74), lust (75–84).
  • Christopher Marlowe's (1564–1593) The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus shows Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Mephistophiles coming from hell to show Dr. Fastus "some pastime" (Act II, Scene 2). The sins present themselves in order: pride, greed, envy, wrath, gluttony, sloth, lust. [4]
  • Edmund Spenser's (1552–1599), The Faerie Queene addresses the seven deadly sins in "Book I (The Legend of the Knight of the Red Cross, Holiness)": vanity/pride (Canto IV, stanzas 4–17), idleness/sloth (IV. 18-20), gluttony (IV. 21-23), lechery/lust (IV. 24-26), avarice/greed (IV. 27-29), envy (IV. 30-32), wrath (IV. 33-35). 
  • Garth Nix's "The Keys to the Kingdom" is a seven-book children's series in which the main nemesis of each book is afflicted by one of the seven deadly sins.

Art and music

Film, television, comic books and video games

  • The original version of the film Bedazzled (1967) (remade in 2000) includes all seven sins, most notably Raquel Welch as lust, Barry Humphries as envy, and Peter Cook as Lucifer, representing pride.
  • In the film Se7en (1995), directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, a mysterious serial killer punishes transgressors of each of the deadly sins through his crimes.
  • In the film Serenity (2005), written and directed by Joss Whedon, and staring Nathan Fillion as futuristic spaceship captain Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds, there are two references to the "seven deadly sins". When The Operative kills the government scientist in the beginning of the movie he tells him that his sin is "pride". Later, when Mal is fighting The Operative, Mal tells him he is "a fan of all seven" (but at the moment, he chooses wrath).
  • In the Japanese manga and anime series Fullmetal Alchemist, each sin is used as an alias for a member of a group of powerful false humans called "homunculi".
  • In the manga and anime series Reborn! the members of the group of assassins Varia are named after each one of the seven deadly sins (such as Superbia Squalo, Superbia meaning pride in Latin; Lussuria, meaning Lust in Italian) or after the demons that represent the sins (such as Mammon and Belphegor).
  • The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins (1971) is a British film built around a series of comedy sketches on the seven deadly sins, and referencing the classic Western film The Magnificent Seven.
  • In the video game Overlord, the seven heroes that the protagonist must defeat are based on the seven sins.
  • The Seven Deadly Sins (traditionally given as "The Seven Deadly Enemies of Man") figure prominently in the mythos of Fawcett/DC Comics superhero Captain Marvel, and have appeared several times as supervillains in recent DC Comics publications.
  • In the manga and anime series Digimon, the Seven Great Demon Lords, each of whom represent one of the sins, are a major group of antagonists.
  • In the videogame Devil May Cry 3, the seven deadly sins are represented by a group of common enemies, as well as by seven infernal bells that the gameplayer must find. Fallen angels that personify the sins also feature heavily in the prequel manga, in which they are important in summoning the bell-containing tower in the first place.
  • In the Philippines TV series Lastikman each major villain represents one of the deadly sins.
  • In the Norwegian TV show De syv dødssyndende (The Seven Deadly Sins), Kristopher Schau attempts to invoke the wrath of God by carrying out each of the seven deadly sins. When Schau was talking about the show on the talk show Senkveld (Late Night), he said "If I don't end up in Hell, then there is no Hell." The program caused a great deal of public debate surrounding the issue of censorship.
  • In Matt Fraction's comic book Casanova, the series' issues are named, in Latin, for each of the seven sins, beginning with Luxuria.
  • In the game Rengoku II: The Stairway to Heaven, you go through eight levels of a tower, seven of them being named after each of the Seven Deadly Sins (the other tower is Paradise).
  • In the webcomic Jack, the seven sins are personified by anthropomorphs.
  • In the visual novel Umineko no Naku Koro ni, the seven deadly sins are represented by the seven Stakes of Purgatory and each of them are named after the devils corresponding to the sin.


The term polygamy (a Greek word meaning "the practice of multiple marriage") is used in related ways in social anthropology, sociobiology, and sociology. Polygamy can be defined as any "form of marriage in which a person [has] more than one spouse.

In social anthropology, polygamy is the practice of marriage to more than one spouse simultaneously. Historically, polygamy has been practiced as polygyny (one man having more than one wife), or as polyandry (one woman having more than one husband), or, less commonly as group marriage (husbands having many wives and those wives having many husbands). (See "Forms of Polygamy" below.) In contrast, monogamy is the practice of each person having only one spouse. Like monogamy, the term is often used in a de facto sense, applying regardless of whether the relationships are recognized by the state (see marriage for a discussion on the extent to which states can and do recognize potentially and actually polygamous forms as valid). In sociobiology, polygamy is used in a broad sense to mean any form of multiple mating. In a narrower sense, used by zoologists, polygamy includes a pair bond, perhaps temporary.

Forms of polygamy

Polygamy exists in three specific forms, including polygyny (one man having multiple wives), polyandry (one woman having multiple husbands), or group marriage (some combination of polygyny and polyandry). Historically, all three practices have been found, but polygyny is by far the most common. Confusion arises when the broad term "polygamy" is used when a narrower definition is intended.


Polygyny is the situation in which one man is either married to or involved in sexual relationships with a number of different women at one time. This is the most common form of polygamy. This was the most common form of polygamy practiced by Mormons in the 19th century, and practiced today by self-identified fundamentalist offshoots.


Polyandry is a practice where a woman is married to more than one man at the same time. Fraternal polyandry was traditionally practiced among nomadic Tibetans in Nepal and parts of China, in which two or more brothers share the same wife, with her having equal sexual access to them. Polyandry is believed to be more likely in societies with scarce environmental resources, as it is believed to limit human population growth and enhance child survival. A woman can only have so many children in her lifetime, no matter how many husbands she has. On the other hand, a child with many "fathers", all of whom provide resources, is more likely to survive. (In contrast, the number of children would be increased if polygyny were practiced, and a man had more than one wife. These wives could be simultaneously pregnant) It is a rare form of marriage that exists not only among poor families, but also within the elite

Group marriage

Group marriage, or circle marriage, may exist in a number of forms, such as where more than one man and more than one woman form a single family unit, and all members of the marriage share parental responsibility for any children arising from the marriage. Another possible arrangement not thought to exist in reality (on the social level), although occurring in science fiction (notably in Robert Heinlein'sThe Moon Is a Harsh Mistress), is the long-lived line marriage, in which deceased or departing spouses in the group are continually replaced by others, so that family property never becomes dispersed through inheritance.


Bigamy is the act or condition of a person marrying another person while still being lawfully married to a third person. Bigamy is listed (and sometimes prosecuted) as a crime in most western countries. For example, in the United States, by law, a married person is obliged not to marry again as long as their first marriage continues.

Serial monogamy

The phrase serial monogamy has been used to describe the lifestyle of persons who have repeatedly married and divorced multiple partners.

Patterns of occurrence worldwide

According to the Ethnographic Atlas Codebook, of the 1231 societies noted, 186 were monogamous. 453 had occasional polygyny, 588 had more frequent polygyny, and 4 had polyandry. At the same time, even within societies which allow polygyny, the actual practice of polygyny occurs relatively rarely. There are exceptions: in Senegal, for example, nearly 47 percent of marriages are multiple. To take on more than one wife often requires considerable resources: this may put polygamy beyond the means of the vast majority of people within those societies. Such appears the case in many traditional Islamic societies, and in Imperial China. Within polygynous societies, multiple wives often become a status symbol denoting wealth and power. Similarly, within societies that formally prohibit polygamy, social opinion may look favorably on persons maintaining mistresses or engaging in serial monogamy.

Some observers detect a social preference for polygyny in disease-prone (especially tropical) climates, and speculate that (from a potential mother's viewpoint) perceived quality of paternal genes may favour the practice there. The countervailing situation allegedly prevails in harsher climates, where (once again from a potential mother's viewpoint) reliable paternal care as exhibited in monogamous pair-bonding outweighs the importance of paternal genes.


Polygamy existed all over Africa as an aspect of culture or/and religion. Plural marriages have been more common than not in the history of Africa. Many African societies saw children as a form of wealth thus the more children a family had the more powerful it was. Thus polygamy was part of empire building. It was only during the colonial era that plural marriage was perceived as taboo. Esther Stanford, an African-focused lawyer, states that this decline was encouraged because the issues of property ownership conflicted with European colonial interest. It is very common in West Africa (Muslim and traditionalist).

South Africa

In South Africa, traditionalists commonly practice polygamy. The leader of the ANC, Jacob Zuma is also openly in favor of plural marriages, being married to numerous wives himself. The wives live in small houses in a circle around the master compound.


Polygamy is encouraged in countries such as Sudan, where President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has encouraged multiple marriages to increase the population.


The Chinese culture of Confucianism and thus the practice of polygamy spread from China to the areas that are now Korea and Japan. Before the establishment of the modern democratic mode, Eastern countries permitted a similar practice of polygamy.

South Asia

Polygyny is illegal in India for Hindus under the Hindu marriage Act. It has disappeared completely in urban areas and among the cosmopolitan middle class among Hindus. It has, however, been reported in rural areas and among the lower classes of Hindus. Polygyny, permitted under Islamic law, is present amongst some Muslims in South Asia. Polygamy is considerably more widespread among Hindus in Nepal than in India.


In Mongolia, there has been discussion about legalizing polygamy to reduce the imbalance of the male and female population.


Until polygamy was outlawed by King Rama VI, it was expected that wealthy or upper-class Thai men were historically recognized to maintain mansions consisting of multiple wives and their children in the same residence. Among the royalty and courtiers in the past, wives were classified as principal, secondary, and slave. Today, the tradition of minor wives still remains, but the practice is different from that of the past. Due to the expense involved, minor wives are mostly limited to the wealthy men. While a "proper woman" (Kulasatrii; Thai: กุลสตรี) must remain faithful to her husband, there were no equivalent rules in history mandating fidelity in the "virtuous man."

Regardless of the historical acceptance, male polygamy or plural marriage is no longer legally or socially acceptable in the contemporary Thai society. However, the practice of having "minor wives" (Mia-Noi: เมียน้อย) continues in modern days in secrecy from the "primary wife" (Mia-Luang: เมียหลวง). Almost all married Thai women today object to this practice, and indeed for many it has been grounds for divorce. Minor wives are viewed with contempt by the Thai society along the lines of being amoral women or home breakers.


Since the Han Dynasty, technically, Chinese men could have only one wife. However, throughout the thousands of years of Chinese history, it was common for rich Chinese men to have a wife and various concubines. Polygamy is a by-product of the tradition of emphasis on procreation and the continuity of the father's family name. Before the establishment of the Republic of China, it was lawful to have a wife and multiple concubines within Chinese marriage. An emperor, government officials or rich merchants could have hundreds of concubines after marrying his first wife. After the Communist Revolution in 1949, polygamy was banned via the Marriage Act of 1953.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, polygamy was banned in October 1971.  Some Hong Kong businessmen have concubines across the border in mainland China, but concubines do not have the legal or social status of wives and so this should not strictly be called "polygamy". Kevin Murphy of The International Herald Tribune reports the cross-border polygyny phenomenon in Hong Kong in 1995.

The traditional attitude toward mistresses is reflected in the saying: "wife is not as good as concubine, concubine is not as good as prostitute, prostitute is not as good as secret affair, secret affair is not as good as the affair you want but can't get" (妻不如妾, 妾不如妓, 妓不如偷, 偷不如偷不到).[citation needed]

Patterns of occurrence across religions


Marriage is considered a secular issue in Buddhism. According to Theravada Buddhism, polygamy is discouraged and extramatrial affairs are considered sinful. It is said in the Parabhava Sutta that "a man who is not satisfied with one woman and seeks out other women is on the path to decline". In Tibetan Buddhism, namely Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, it is not uncommon to take a consort in addition to a spouse, though it is namely for certain spiritual practices that the spouse may not be able/ready to participate in—or if the husband/wife are at different levels on their spiritual path. A consort is appropriate in such cases. Within this context, either the husband or wife, occasionally both, might take a spiritual consort. This is known as Consort Practice, and there are specific teachings and meditations that go along with it. Consort Practice is often very private, however, and not openly discussed outside of followers of Tibetan Vajrayana—which tends to be a very private form of Buddhism in general – hence it is not very well known. Husbands and wives also engage in Consort Practice together, monogamously.

The 2008 BBC documentary series "A Year in Tibet", however, recorded three distinct cases of polyandry in and around the city of Gyantse alone (the pregnant farmer's wife in episode 1, "The Visit"; Yangdron in episode 2, "Three Husbands and a Wedding"; and the young monk, Tsephun's, mother in episode 5, "A Tale of Three Monks"). In "Three Husbands and a Wedding", a 17-year-old girl is also shown being forced into a marriage that would have been polyandrous, except that the younger, 12-year-old, brother had to attend school on the wedding day (his parents hint that he will marry his older brother's new wife at a later date). The programs include statements from the women involved that indicate they did not enter the polyandrous marriages willingly, and commentary that indicates young women in Tibet are routinely forced by their families into polyandrous marriages with two or more brothers.

Polyandry (especially fraternal polyandry) is also common among Buddhists in Bhutan, Ladakh, and other parts of the Indian subcontinent.


Both polygyny and polyandry were practiced in many sections of Hindu society in ancient times. Concerning polyandry, in the ancient Hindu epic, Mahabharata, Draupadi marries the five Pandava brothers. Regarding polygny, Ramayan, father of Ram, king Dasharath has three wives, but Ram has pledged himself just one wife. The god-figure Lord Krishna, the 9th incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu had 16,108 wives which were his most sincere devotees. Historically, kings routinely took concubines (such as the Vijaynagara emperor, Krishnadevaraya. In the post-Vedic periods, polygamy declined in Hinduism, and is now considered immoral , although it is thought that some sections of Hindu society still practice polyandry, along with areas of Tibet, Nepal, and China. After independence from the British, religions in which polygamy was still practiced were allowed to continue. Under the Hindu Marriage Act, polygamy is considered illegal for Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs . However, Muslim men in India are allowed to have multiple wives. Marriage laws in India are dependent upon the religion of the subject in question.


Biblical practice

The Hebrew scriptures document approximately forty polygamists, including such figures as Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon, with little or no further remark on their polygamy as such.

In general, however, monogamy was considered the ideal state, with multiple marriage a realistic alternative in the case of famine, widowhood, or female infertility. One source of polygamy was the practice of levirate marriage, wherein a man was required to marry and support his deceased brother's widow, as mandated by Deuteronomy 25:5-10.

The Torah, Judaism's central text, includes a few specific regulations on the practice of polygamy, such as Exodus 21:10, which states that multiple marriages are not to diminish the status of the first wife (specifically, her right to food, clothing and conjugal relations). Deuteronomy 21:15-17, states that a man must award the inheritance due to a first-born son to the son who was actually born first, even if he hates that son's mother and likes another wife more; (though this is typically interpreted as referring to divorce), and Deuteronomy 17:17 states that the king shall not have too many wives. The king's behavior is condemned by Prophet Samuel in 1Samuel 8. Exodus 21:10 also speaks of Jewish concubines. Israeli lexicographer Vadim Cherny argues that the Torah carefully distinguishes concubines and "sub-standard" wives with prefix "to", lit. "took to wives."

The monogamy of the Roman Empire was the cause of two explanatory notes in the writings of Josephus describing how the polygamous marriages of Herod were permitted under Jewish custom.

Modern practice

In the modern day, Rabbinic Judaism has essentially outlawed polygamy. Ashkenazi Jews have followed Rabbenu Gershom's ban since the 11th century. Some Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews (particularly those from Yemen and Iran) discontinued polygamy much more recently, as they emigrated to countries where it was forbidden. The State of Israel has severely limited the ability for Jews to enter polygamous marriages, but instituted provisions for existing polygamous families immigrating from countries where the practice was legal.

Among Karaite Jews, who do not adhere to Rabbinic interpretations of the Torah, polygamy is almost non-existent today. Like other Jews, Karaites interpret Leviticus 18:18 to mean that a man can only take a second wife if his first wife gives her consent (Keter Torah on Leviticus, pp.96—97) and Karaites interpret Exodus 21:10 to mean that a man can only take a second wife if he is capable of maintaining the same level of marital duties due to his first wife; the marital duties are 1) food, 2) clothing, and 3) sexual gratification. Because of these two biblical limitations and because nearly all countries outlaw it, polygamy is considered highly impractical, and there are only a few known cases of it among Karaite Jews today.


Saint Augustine saw a conflict with Old Testament polygamy. He writes in The Good of Marriage (chapter 15) that, although it "was lawful among the ancient fathers: whether it be lawful now also, I would not hastily pronounce. For there is not now necessity of begetting children, as there then was, when, even when wives bear children, it was allowed, in order to a more numerous posterity, to marry other wives in addition, which now is certainly not lawful." He refrained from judging the patriarchs, but did not deduce from their practice the ongoing acceptability of polygamy. In chapter 7, he wrote, "Now indeed in our time, and in keeping with Roman custom, it is no longer allowed to take another wife, so as to have more than one wife living." [emphasis added]

The New Testament authors seem to prefer monogamy from church leaders. Paul writes in 1Timothy 3:2, " A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;" Something similar is repeated in the first chapter of the book of Titus.

However, the Roman Catholic Church has subsequently taught on more fundamental grounds that "polygamy is not in accord with the moral law. [Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive." (Catholic Cathechism, para. 2387, Vatican website). This is also the normal position among Protestant Churches, and it can therefore be said that the mainstream Christian position is to reject polygamy in principle.

Periodically, Christian reform movements that have aimed at rebuilding Christian doctrine based on the Bible alone (sola scriptura) have at least temporarily accepted polygamy as a Biblical practice. For example, during the Protestant Reformation, in a document referred to simply as "Der Beichtrat" (or "The Confessional Advice" ),] Martin Luther granted the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, who, for many years, had been living "constantly in a state of adultery and fornication," a dispensation to take a second wife. The double marriage was to be done in secret however, to avoid public scandal. Some fifteen years earlier, in a letter to the Saxon Chancellor Gregor Brück, Luther stated that he could not "forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict Scripture." ("Ego sane fateor, me non posse prohibere, si quis plures velit uxores ducere, nec repugnat sacris literis.")

"On February 14, 1650, the parliament at Nürnberg decreed that, because so many men were killed during the Thirty Years’ War, the churches for the following ten years could not admit any man under the age of 60 into a monastery. Priests and ministers not bound by any monastery were allowed to marry. Lastly, the decree stated that every man was allowed to marry up to ten women. The men were admonished to behave honorably, provide for their wives properly, and prevent animosity among them."

The modern trend towards frequent divorce and remarriage is sometimes referred to by conservative Christians as 'serial polygamy'. In contrast, sociologists and anthropologists refer to this as 'serial monogamy', since it is a series of monogamous (i.e. not polygamous) relationships. The first term highlights the multiplicity of marriages throughout the life-cycle, the second the non-simultaneous nature of these marriages.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, there has often been a tension between the Christian churches' insistence on monogamy and traditional polygamy. In some instances in recent times there have been moves for accommodation; in others churches have resisted such moves strongly. African Independent Churches have sometimes referred to those parts of the Old Testament which describe polygamy in defending the practice.


The history of Mormon polygamy begins with claims that Mormonism founder Joseph Smith received a revelation from God on July 17, 1831 that some Mormon men would be allowed to practice "plural marriage". This was later set down in the Doctrine and Covenants by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Despite Smith's revelation, the 1835 edition of the 101st Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, written before the doctrine of plural marriage began to be practiced, publicly condemned polygamy. This scripture was used by John Taylor in 1850 to quash Mormon polygamy rumors in Liverpool, England. Polygamy was illegal in the state of Illinois during the 1839-44 Nauvoo era when several top Mormon leaders including Smith, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball took plural wives. Mormon elders who publicly taught that all men were commanded to enter plural marriage were subject to harsh discipline. On June 7, 1844 the Nauvoo Expositor criticized Smith for plural marriage. The Nauvoo city council declared the Nauvoo Expositor press a nuisance and ordered Smith, as Nauvoo's mayor, to order the city marshall to destroy the paper and its press. This controversial decision led to Smith going to Carthage Jail where he was killed by a mob on June 27, 1844. The main body of Mormons left Nauvoo and followed Brigham Young to Utah where the practice of plural marriage continued.

In 1852 Apostle Orson Pratt publicly acknowledged the practice of plural marriage through a sermon he gave. Additional sermons by top Mormon leaders on the virtues of polygamy followed. Controversy followed when writers began to publish works condemning polygamy. The key plank of the Republican Party's 1856 platform was "to prohibit in the territories those twin relics of barbarism, polygamy and slavery". In 1862, Congress issued the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act which clarified that the practice of polygamy was illegal in all U.S. territories. The LDS Church believed that their religiously-based practice of plural marriage was protected by the United States Constitution, however, the unanimous 1878 Supreme Court decision Reynolds v. United States declared that polygamy was not protected by the Constitution, based on the longstanding legal principle that "laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices."

Increasingly harsh anti-polygamy legislation in the U.S. led some Mormons to emigrate to Canada and Mexico. In 1890, LDS Church president Wilford Woodruff issued a public declaration (the Manifesto) announcing the official discontinuance of polygamy. Anti-Mormon sentiment waned, as did opposition to statehood for Utah. The Smoot Hearings in 1904 spurred the LDS Church to issue a Second Manifesto against polygamy. By 1910 the LDS Church excommunicated those who practiced polygamy. Even so, many plural husbands and wives continued to cohabit until their deaths in the 1940s and 1950s.

Enforcement of the 1890 Manifesto caused various splinter groups to leave the LDS Church in order to continue the practice of plural marriage. Polygamy among these groups persists today in Utah and neighboring states as well as in the spin-off colonies. Polygamist churches of Mormon origin are often referred to as "Mormon fundamentalist" even though they are not a part of the mainstream LDS church. Such fundamentalists often use an 1886 revelation to John Taylor as the basis for their authority to continue the practice of plural marriage. The Salt Lake Tribune stated in 2005 there were as many as 37,000 fundamentalists with less than half of them living in polygamous households.


In Islam, polygamy is allowed for men, with the specific limitation that they can only have up to four wives at any one time. The Qur'an also states that men who choose this route must deal with their wives as fairly as possible, doing everything that they can to spend equal amounts of time and money on each one of them. If the husband cannot deal with his wives fairly, one is enough. Women on the other hand,are only allowed the one Husband. Although many Muslim countries still retain traditional Islamic law which permits polygamy, certain elements within some Muslim societies challenge its acceptability. For example, polygamy is prohibited by law in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Tunisia and Turkey.

Polygamy, and laws concerning polygamy, differ greatly throughout the Islamic world and form a very complex and diverse background from nation to nation. Whereas in some Muslim countries it may be fairly common, in most others it is often rare or non-existent. However, there are certain core fundamentals which are found in most Muslim countries where the practice occurs. According to traditional Islamic law, a man may take up to four wives, and each of those wives must have her own property, assets, and dowry. Usually the wives have little to no contact with each other and lead separate, individual lives in their own houses, and sometimes in different cities, though they all share the same husband. Muhammad, who had a monogamous marriage with Khadija for twenty five years till her death, married many of his wives because they were war widows who were left with nothing and took care of them. Thus, polygamy is an exception rather than the rule and is traditionally restricted to men who can manage things, and in some countries it is illegal for a man to marry multiple wives if he is unable to afford to take care of each of them properly.

In the modern Islamic world, polygamy is mainly found in traditionalist Arab cultures, Saudi Arabia, West and East Africa (In Sudan it is encouraged from the president) and the United Arab Emirates for instance, whereas in secular Arab states like Tunisia and non-Arab countries with Muslim population, Turkey for example, it is banned. However, polygamy is still practiced in Malaysia, a non-Arab Muslim country, but there are restrictions as to how it can be practiced. In traditionalist cultures where polygamy is still commonplace and legal, Muslim polygamists do not separate themselves from the society at large, since there would be no need as each spouse leads a separate life from the others.

Legal situation

Most western countries do not recognize polygamous marriages, and consider bigamy a crime. Several countries also prohibit people living a polygamous lifestyle.

In some States of the United States, the criminalization of a polygamous lifestyle originated as anti-Mormon laws, although they are rarely enforced.Polygamists may find it harder dealing with government agencies, such as obtaining legal immigrant status.

By country

Current proponents and opponents


David Friedman and Steve Sailer have argued that polygamy tends to benefit most women and disadvantage most men, under the assumption that most men and women do not practise it. The idea is firstly that many women would prefer half or one third of someone especially appealing to being the single spouse of someone that doesn't provide as much economic utility to them. Secondly, that the remaining women have a better market for finding a spouse themselves. Say that 20% of women are married to 10% of men, that leaves 90% of men to compete over the remaining 80% of women. Friedman uses this viewpoint to argue in favor of legalizing polygamy, while Sailer uses it to argue against legalizing it.

In the US, the Libertarian Party supports complete decriminalization of polygamy as part of a general belief that the government should not regulate marriages.

Individualist feminism and advocates such as Wendy McElroy also support the freedom for adults to voluntarily enter polygamous marriages.

In Uruguay the "Colorado Party" supports polygamy.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah, USA, is opposed to Utah's law against bigamy.

Those who advocate a Federal Marriage Amendment to the American Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage generally word their proposed laws to also prohibit polygamy. Many proponents of same-sex marriage are also in favour of maintaining current statutory prohibitions against polygamy, arguing that while same-sex marriages do not involve toleration of pedophilia amongst practitioners, the same is not true of most polygamists in the United States..

Stanley Kurtz, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, lamented the modern arguments increasingly being made by various intellectuals who call for de-criminalizing polygamy. Kurtz concluded, "Marriage, as its ultramodern critics would like to say, is indeed about choosing one's partner, and about freedom in a society that values freedom. But that's not the only thing it is about. As the Supreme Court justices who unanimously decided Reynolds in 1878 understood, marriage is also about sustaining the conditions in which freedom can thrive. Polygamy in all its forms is a recipe for social structures that inhibit and ultimately undermine social freedom and democracy. A hard-won lesson of Western history is that genuine democratic self-rule begins at the hearth of the monogamous family."


The Roman Catholic Church clearly condemns polygamy; the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists it in paragraph 2387 under the head "Other offenses against the dignity of marriage" and states that it "is not in accord with the moral law." Also in paragraph 1645 under the head "The Goods and Requirements of Conjugal Love" states "The unity of marriage, distinctly recognized by our Lord, is made clear in the equal personal dignity which must be accorded to man and wife in mutual and unreserved affection. Polygamy is contrary to conjugal love which is undivided and exclusive."

Currently the vast majority of Protestant congregations take the Catholic view on polygamy.

The illegality of polygamy in certain areas creates, according to certain Bible passages, additional arguments against it. Paul of Tarsus writes "submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience" (Romans 13:5), for "the authorities that exist have been established by God." (Romans 13:1) St Peter concurs when he says to "submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right." (1 Peter 2:13,14) Pro-polygamists argue that, as long as polygamists currently do not obtain legal marriage licenses for additional spouses, no enforced laws are being broken any more than when monogamous couples who similarly co-habitate without a marriage license.

At the present time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports enforcing laws against polygamy, although historically this denomination practiced polygamy which they considered to be a principle revealed by God, and fought vocally against those seeking to establish such laws. Today, the church will excommunicate any member found to be practicing polygamy.

Controversial Christian vegetarian activist and leader Nathan Braun implies a positive stance towards polygamy in his fourth edition of The History and Philosophy of Marriage.

Polygamy in fiction and popular culture

The quip "Bigamy is having one spouse too many. Monogamy is the same." is popularly misattributed to Oscar Wilde.

A popular joke with Mark Twain has Twain asked to cite a Scripture reference that forbids polygamy, and he responds with, "No man can serve two masters."

Science fiction, utopias, dystopias

A number of writers have expressed their views on polygamy by writing about a fictional world in which it is the most common type of relationship. These worlds tend to be utopian or dystopian in nature. For instance, Robert A. Heinlein uses this theme in a number of novels, such as Stranger in a Strange Land. Polygamy is practiced by the Fremen in Frank Herbert's Dune as a means to pinpoint male infertility. It is socially accepted as long as the man provides for all wives equally. Cultures described within the Dune novel series have intentional similarities to Islamic, Arabic, and other cultures – i.e. desert cultures. Similarly, the Aiel society in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series practice a form of polygamy, in which multiple women may marry the same man; in that fictional culture, women are the ones who propose marriage. Among Aiel, sisters or very close friends who have adopted each other as sisters, will often marry the same man, so that he will not come between them. Ursula K. Le Guin describes a planet O, where the cultural norm is a "sedoretu" or four-person marriage (a set combination of both genders and sexual orientations). Dan Simmons describes a culture of three-person marriages (any gender ratio) in his book Endymion. In David Weber's Honor Harrington series, the inhabitants of the planet Grayson practice polygamy (polygyny) due to the human colonists to the planet acquiring a genetic defect that gave rise to a large women-to-men birth ratio combined with a high infant mortality. Wen Spencer's science fiction novel A Brother's Price describes a society where men are very rare and protected, and multiple sisters typically marry one man

In the Star Trek television series Enterprise, the ship's physician, Dr. Phlox (who is a Denobulan) has three wives, each of whom has three husbands of her own (including him). One of his wives seemed to be interested in having extramarital relations with a human, which Phlox himself did not oppose, and even encouraged. It has also been stated that the Andorian species enter into group marriages (although whether this is due to societal custom or biological necessity has not been firmly established.) In the Sci-Fi television series Babylon 5 the Centauris allow for men to have more than one wife. In Star Wars Expanded Universe, it is explained that Cereans (like Ki-Adi-Mundi) have a much higher birth-rate of girls than boys. Thus, every male Cerean must have one wife and multiple "honor wives", to increase the chance of giving birth to another male. Jedi Cerean Ki-Adi-Mundi was allowed to marry multiple times, although Jedis were not supposed to marry at his time; but Ki-Adi-Mundi got a dispense of that norm.