This will be a very short diary. It will not contain any links or any scholarly references. It is about a very narrow topic, from a very personal, subjective perspective. The topic at hand is what Martin Luther King actually did, what it was that he actually accomplished. The reason I'm posting this is because there were dueling diaries over the weekend about Dr. King's legacy, and there is a diary up now ... entitled, "Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dream Not Yet Realized." I'm sure the diarist means well as did the others. But what most people who reference Dr. King seem not to know is how Dr. King actually changed the subjective experience of life in the United States for African Americans. And yeah, I said for African Americans, not for Americans, because his main impact was his effect on the lives of African Americans, not on Americans in general. His main impact was not to make white people nicer or fairer. That's why some of us who are African Americans get a bit possessive about his legacy. Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy, despite what our civil religion tells us, is not color blind. [more inside]
Fifty years ago this morning, Addie Mae Collins (age 14), Denise McNair (age 11), Carole Robertson (age 14), and Cynthia Wesley (age 14) lost their lives when a bomb set by the KKK went off in the basement of their church in Montgomery, Alabama. [more inside]
Robert Penn Warren's book Who Speaks for the Negro? was a collection of interviews with various men and women involved in the Civil Rights Movement published in 1965. Vanderbilt University has made all the interviews available as audio and transcripts, taken from the original reel-to-reel recordings. Among the interviewees were Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Septima Poinsette Clark, Ralph Ellison, Stokely Carmichael, James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin. On the page for each interview there are links to related documents, such as letters, photos and contemporary news articles.
The King Center archive launched a new web interface this year, featuring online access to thousands of historical documents relating to Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement.
The Washington Mall welcomes another hero. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial is unveiled. Sitting directly between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, "the composition of the [King] memorial utilizes landscape elements to powerfully convey four fundamental and recurring themes throughout Dr. King's message: justice, democracy, hope and love." [more inside]
Civil Rights Photographer Unmasked as Informer. This week, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis published the results of a two year investigation that revealed that iconic Civil Rights photographer Ernest Withers was also a paid FBI informant. The timing of the report is awkward.
It is not our role to take power. It is our role to make the powerful frightened of us. And that's what we've forgotten. Give up that dream! Chris Hedges talks neoliberalism and neofeudalism, the civil rights movement, Camden, Obama, Clinton, Tea Parties, moral nihilism, inverted totalitarianism and corpocracy, NAFTA, welfare reform, health care, labor, poverty, Yugoslavia, post-industrial capitalism, economic crisis, imperial collapse, socialism, and democracy, among other things. [more inside]
Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story: "People were told to read it, memorize it, and destroy it because if they were caught with it, they could be killed." The story of this influential comic book, which helped inspire the 1960 Woolworth's sit-in, is the subject of a new exhibition at Pittsburgh's Toonseum.
“…If you stand up straight, people can’t ride your back. And that’s what we did. We stood up straight.”
When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated April 4, 1968, he was helping sanitation workers in Memphis form a union. In 1967, SCLC initiated the Poor People's Campaign to unify the African-American civil rights movement with working people's movements more generally. In MLK's words, "It must not be just black people, it must be all poor people. We must include American Indians, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and even poor whites." [more inside]
Dora McDonald, Martin Luther King's private secretary from 1960 until his death, has died at age 81. While few have heard of Ms. McDonald, she was a very important figure in King's work, and was the one who had to tell Coretta Scott King that her husband had been murdered.
Remember Segregation - Founded in the core belief that segregation is, was and has always been wrong, this campaign is intended to make people stop, think and perhaps get a little uncomfortable in the process of realizing the modern day importance of Dr. King's life.
Thank Mahalia Jackson for King's "I have a dream." "On August 28, 1963, under a nearly cloudless sky, more than 250,000 people, a fifth of them white, gathered near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to rally for 'jobs and freedom.'... Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had originally prepared a short and somewhat formal recitation of the sufferings of African Americans attempting to realize their freedom in a society chained by discrimination. He was about to sit down when gospel singer Mahalia Jackson called out, 'Tell them about your dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream!' Encouraged by shouts from the audience, King drew upon some of his past talks, and the result became the landmark statement of civil rights in America--a dream of all people, of all races and colors and backgrounds, sharing in an America marked by freedom and democracy."
"I was there!" If you read the comments about Bob Doran's death threats against Clinton in this thread, you may get a kick out the photo of him "marching with Martin Luther King Jr." that's on Doran's site.