‘Silence is not an option’: Super Bowl ad on antisemitism to feature MLK speechwriter

Feb 11, 2024 | History, Voices

When Clarence B. Jones joined Martin Luther King’s team as a speechwriter and lawyer in 1960, he knew that the Civil Rights Movement needed white allies. And so, at demonstration after demonstration, he would seek out the white attendees and ask them why they were there.

Many told him they were Jewish, and there to honor their grandparents who had died in the Holocaust.

“I went back and I told Martin,” Jones, 93, recalled in a Friday interview. “He said, ‘Are you kidding?’”

Forwarding the News

Thoughtful, balanced reporting from the Forward and around the web, bringing you updated news and analysis of the crisis each day.

[The Forward Report continues]

“With this ad, we hope to continue to spread Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of unity and equality at a time in which the country needs it most,” Kraft said in a statement.

A storied career

Jones spent years working with King, including by helping the civil rights icon draft his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. By 1968, when King was assassinated, Jones was dividing his time between advising King and working in finance, after becoming the first Black investment banking partner on Wall Street at Cogan, Berlind, Weill & Levitt.

He would later serve as a negotiator during the 1971 riot at Attica prison, and eventually came to own a share in the New York Amsterdam News, a Black newspaper in New York City. He married Charlotte Schiff, a leader of the Women’s Liberation Movement and the mother of Richard Schiff, the Jewish actor known for playing Toby Ziegler on The West Wing.

Richard Schiff recalled attending Black Panther Party meetings as a child. “I stood out a little bit,” he quipped to the Independent in 2007.

(Jones is currently married to Lin Walters.)


[The Forward Report continues]

“I’m glad that I have lived long enough to partner with Robert K. Kraft and FCAS to continue to spread the message to the widest possible audience,” Jones said in a statement released by Spill the Honey, which is also promoting the Super Bowl ad.

The script of the advertisement itself remains a closely guarded secret. The Canadian Jewish News detailed the filming of another advertisement reportedly planned to be aired during the Super Bowl, about a Massachusetts synagogue dealing with a bomb threat, but the Kraft foundation has only promoted news of the ad featuring Jones.

Views on Israel, racial justice

Jones has also been a staunch supporter of Israel, and expressed some contrarian views on contemporary racial justice advocacy. In a 2014 speech at the Israeli consulate in New York City, Jones defended Israel from claims that it was “racist” or “an apartheid state.”

View this Forward report from February 11th