Misremembering Dr. King: Revisiting the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Misremembering Dr. King: Revisiting the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Misremembering Dr. King: Revisiting the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Misremembering Dr. King: Revisiting the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Synopsis

We all know the name. Martin Luther King Jr., the great American civil rights leader. But most people today know relatively little about King, the campaigner against militarism, materialism, and racism- what he called the "giant triplets." Jennifer J. Yanco takes steps to redress this imbalance. "My objective is to highlight the important aspects of Dr. King's work which have all but disappeared from popular memory, so that more of us can really 'see' King." After briefly telling the familiar story of King's civil rights campaigns and accomplishments, she considers the lesser-known concerns that are an essential part of his legacy. Yanco reminds us that King was a strong critic of militarism who argued that the United States should take the lead in promoting peaceful solutions rather than imposing its will through military might; that growing materialism and an ethos of greed was damaging the moral and spiritual health of the country; and that in a nation where racism continues unabated, white Americans need to educate themselves about racism and its history and take their part in the weighty task of dismantling it.

Excerpt

Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most important moral voices of the twentieth century. Central to his work was the question of how we treat one another. His commitment to nonviolence as a tool for social change and his courageous leadership were driven by the conviction that each of us deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.

Dr. King has become an iconic figure in the pantheon of American heroes, MLK Day is a national holiday, and we have a memorial to him on the National Mall. But what was his dream, exactly, and have we really made any progress in pursuing it? With the commemoration in 2013 of the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, it is a good time to review the historical record in an attempt to recover a more accurate memory of what he stood for. Whether in the annual celebrations of MLK Day, or in the media coverage of the inauguration of the MLK memorial in the fall of 2011, popular memories of Dr. King are striking in their omissions. They rarely reference the antiwar activist who spoke about the dangers of increasing militarism, the man who warned against rampant materialism and advocated for a guaranteed minimum living wage for all Americans, or the man who spoke up for reparations to right the wrongs of excluding generations of African Americans from the American Dream.

His analysis of what was wrong with our society challenged deeply held values and called down the wrath of many. Dr. King asked demand-

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