Too often, all public discussion of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy makes him into a soft, non-threatening shell of who the man he actually was. But on the 40th anniversary of his assassination, I've actually been heartened to see the coverage of King's real and often very radical legacy, rather than simply focusing on his dreams of a legal grant of civil rights to African Americans. The Washington Post has a fantastic cover story on Dr. King today, and our own Kai Wright offers a significant testimony over on TAP Online as well. Then of course there's the push to reopen conversation about his proposals for addressing economic disparity, which I noted yesterday.
For King, the problems of racism, poverty and war were inextricably linked, and presented a united threat to equity and justice in this country and this world. While his quest achieved legal recognition of the rights that should be granted to all Americans, if he were still alive today, he would surely still have much to say about the ongoing realities of disparity in this country and the mentality that both perpetrates that disparity and facilitates unjust wars. It's an unfortunate thing that most Americans know only his "I have a dream" speech, and have never heard others that continue to have much salience today. Here's one of my favorites, his "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam" sermon given at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1967:
Here are a few other pieces to mark today's anniversary:
- From the Prospect archives: Peter Dreier recounts MLK's quest for human dignity, workers' rights, living wages, and social justice.
- Mother Jones's David Corn posts videos of Bobby Kennedy remembering the slain King.
- John McCain shows up at the motel where King was shot to apologize for initially voting against making King's birthday a national holiday.
- Van Jones reflects on the need to keep King's legacy alive by pursuing social justice, peace and ecological sanity.