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Martin Luther King


  • Originally published 10/22/2014

    MLK's Final Year: An Interview with Tavis Smiley

    For a full understanding of Dr. King, Mr. Smiley urges, Americans must get beyond the stereotype of a civil rights leader and see Dr. King in his full dimension as a human rights advocate with powerful ideas on community, peace and justice.

  • Originally published 08/23/2013

    Forgotten tape of King ‘thinking on his feet’

    There are hundreds of thousands of carefully preserved manuscripts and recordings that chronicle every speech, interview and public appearance made by one of America’s greatest orators, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At least one of his appearances, however, seems to have slipped through the cracks of time, only to be discovered nearly 50 years later in the archives of the New School.And it still seems as relevant today as it was back then.“I think America, somehow, must face her moment of atonement.” Dr. King said, in response to a question about “preferential treatment” for African-Americans. “Not just atonement for atonement’s sake, but we must face the fact that we’re going to pay for it somehow. If we don’t do it, we’re going to pay for it with the welfare rolls, we’re going to pay for it in many other ways.”...

  • Originally published 08/02/2013

    Sculptor removes phrase from memorial to King

    WASHINGTON — The Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin finished removing a contentious phrase on the memorial for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Thursday in preparation for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington at the end of the month.The phrase came from Dr. King’s “Drum Major Instinct” speech. It read, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.”Critics of the memorial, including the poet Maya Angelou, said the phrase did not show the true nature of the full quotation. The actual quotation was: “Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”...

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Lonnie G. Bunch III: On MLK’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham City Jail’

    Bunch is the founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture While we pause in 2013 to remember historic milestones – both fortunate and unfortunate – in the tumultuous fight for justice in America, some of those actions and messages of 50 years ago retain clear lessons for today. “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” written by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  50 years ago this month, was a powerful call to action then, and gives us talking points for today’s heated social and political discussions. And I need to underscore talking because King gave us a document that was so respectful and, so totally without rancor, pointedly answering his critics who thought the peaceful actions against injustice in Birmingham were unwise.  Today’s leaders in the loud, omnipresent, electronic public square need a refresher in King’s approach.

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Remembering "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"

    Martin Luther King in Birmingham Jail.Originally posted on the UNC Press Blog.When the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) staff received the handwritten “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and publicized it, the letter became almost instantly canonical. Long before the advent of social media, SCLC’s marketers swiftly put the letter before the wider public through the auspices of the Friends Service Committee, which initially wanted to title Martin Luther King Jr.’s missive “Tears of Love.” But the Reverend Wyatt T. Walker, SCLC’s chief strategist, insisted that it be titled in New Testament epistle fashion “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    Jonathan Rieder: Dr. King’s Righteous Fury

    Jonathan Rieder is a professor of sociology at Barnard College and the author of “Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation.”CHRIS ROCK caused a stir last Fourth of July when he tweeted, “Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks.” Mr. Rock’s tweet may not have topped the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.’s “God damn America” sermon, but both sentiments are of a piece, and both seem a far cry from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s appeal to the American dream and his embrace of “the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.”

  • Originally published 04/15/2013

    Towards a New History of the Civil Rights Movement

    LBJ signs the Voting Rights Act while Martin Luther King, Jr. looks on.Hilary Rodham Clinton awoke on the morning of January 3, 2008, exhausted and depressed. The New York Senator had started her quest for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination believing in its inevitability, only to be surprisingly blindsided by Barack Obama, a forty-six year old first term Senator. Only a few hours earlier, Obama had crushed Clinton in the Iowa caucus and now her advisors feared defeat in the upcoming New Hampshire primary. She was stunned while her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was furious. “[Obama’s] a phony,” Clinton insisted, “…he has no experience…What has he really done?”

  • Originally published 04/03/2013

    45 years after King was killed supporting them, Memphis sanitation workers fighting for jobs

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. — They rode the streets of Memphis in creaky, dangerous garbage trucks, picking up trash from home after home, toiling for a sanitation department that treated them with indifference bordering on disdain. In 1968 those workers took to the streets, marching with civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to demand better working conditions, higher pay and union protection.Forty-five years after King was killed supporting their historic strike, some of the same men who marched with him still pick up Memphis’ garbage — and now they are fighting to hold on to jobs that some city leaders want to hand over to a private company....

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Diane McWhorter: Good and Evil in Birmingham

    Diane McWhorter is the author of “Carry Me Home.”FIFTY years ago, Birmingham, Ala., provided the enduring iconography of the civil rights era, testing the mettle of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so dramatically that he was awarded the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize.During his protest there in May 1963, the biblical spectacle of black children facing down Public Safety Commissioner Eugene (Bull) Connor’s fire hoses and police dogs set the stage for King’s Sermon on the Mount some four months later at the Lincoln Memorial. And the civil rights movement’s “Year of Birmingham” passed into history as an epic narrative of good versus evil.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    Debate swirls over Martin Luther King’s monumental ‘content of their character’ quote

    “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”This sentence spoken by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been quoted countless times as expressing one of America’s bedrock values, its language almost sounding like a constitutional amendment on equality.Yet today, 50 years after King shared this vision during his most famous speech, there is considerable disagreement over what it means.The quote is used to support opposing views on politics, affirmative action and programs intended to help the disadvantaged. Just as the words of the nation’s founders are parsed for modern meanings on guns and abortion, so are King’s words used in debates over the proper place of race in America....

  • Originally published 01/16/2013

    MLK's dream still not fulfilled, son says

    As he looked across a room filled with civil rights veterans, White House officials and leaders from corporate America, Martin Luther King III said that the issues his father championed and died for have yet to be fulfilled in many communities across the country.“My heart is heavy today! A people who do not remember their history are doomed to repeat their mistakes,” said King, who spoke at a luncheon in the District, sponsored by the National Action Network, that was held on what would have been his father’s 84th birthday.The Rev. Al Sharpton, the group’s president, hosted events in Washington and New York on Tuesday in honor of the slain civil rights leader, but he told community leaders to beware of reducing King’s legacy to the commemorative events held around his birthday.“Martin Luther King can’t be reduced to a ceremony,” Sharpton said....

  • Originally published 01/16/2013

    King’s daughter, others say nonviolent message relevant as ever after Connecticut shootings

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. — While the nation struggles to agree on how to curb gun violence, followers of a man gunned down nearly 45 years ago think his wisdom offers an answer.The words of Martin Luther King Jr. and the role he set for churches in leading a nonviolent response to civil injustice are as applicable today as they were in the 1960s, say his younger daughter and other followers.Bernice King, chief executive of the King Center in Atlanta, recalls a sobering statement from her father: “The choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence, but nonviolence and nonexistence.”King’s lessons take on new urgency after one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, when a gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last month, killing 20 children and 6 adults....

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