Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is considered a civil rights icon now. He has a monument in Washington, D.C., a federal holiday that we celebrate this week and is revered as a man who sought to bring a divided nation together. He is oft-quoted as the antithesis of the Black Lives Matter movement which some people consider divisive, anti-white and anti-police.
Yet in his time, King was as reviled as BLM is today. Tavis Smiley’s book Death of a King: The Real Story Of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Final Year shares the challenges King faced when he was struggling with what area of civil rights needed his focus most as the press, the President and even other civil rights leaders were distancing themselves from him.
Even King’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech has focused on the most conciliatory lines without referencing the rest of the speech, including some of his most incendiary rhetoric – the TV show black-ish notes this omission on their episode ‘Lemons’ about the reaction to the Trump victory.
This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
You can read the full speech HERE.
For those who wonder what King might have thought of a Trump presidency, his words on Barry Goldwater, a presidential candidate in 1964, may provide some clues.
On social and economic issues, Mr. Goldwater represented an unrealistic conservatism that was totally out of touch with the realities of the twentieth century. The issue of poverty compelled the attention of all citizens of our country. Senator Goldwater had neither the concern nor the comprehension necessary to grapple with this problem of poverty in the fashion that the historical moment dictated. On the urgent issue of civil rights, Senator Goldwater represented a philosophy that was morally indefensible and socially suicidal. While not himself a racist, Mr. Goldwater articulated a philosophy which gave aid and comfort to the racist. His candidacy and philosophy would serve as an umbrella under which extremists of all stripes would stand. In the light of these facts and because of my love for America, I had no alternative but to urge every Negro and white person of goodwill to vote against Mr. Goldwater and to withdraw support from any Republican candidate that did not publicly disassociate himself from Senator Goldwater and his philosophy.
It’s fair to say King spent his whole life fighting inequality and racism and died for his convictions. Viewed by some as a non-violent, turn-the-other-cheek, conciliatory to a fault kind of icon, he was considered dangerous and radical in his time and paid the price for it with his life.
What do you believe about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy? Do you think is being viewed as much of a radical today as he was during his time? Has the truth of his life and work been told? How do you remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?