Late civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. will forever be remembered as one of the most prominent voices in our fight for equality as Black Americans during the social unrest of the ’50s and ’60s. His ministry covered far-reaching topics, be it nonviolent activism or even Native American rights, but one of his core objectives was to educate the people on how to respect ourselves.
The N-Word has been one of the most debated subjects in our community, from who gets to use it all the way to if we as Black people should be adapting it as a “term of endearment” at all. The late great MLK Jr. had an opinion on the topic as expected, and it recently was revealed in a rare letter that’s currently at auction for $95,000.
The letter in question (seen above) is in address to a William A. Bennett in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Writing from his historic Southern Christian Leadership Conference headquarters on Auburn Ave in Atlanta, just three days after his 37th birthday on January 18, 1966, MLK Jr. gave an insightful take on the N-word in addition to th term “dark skinned.” He says the latter reflects “both our great heritage and our devotion to a brand of Americanism of the highest order,” while denouncing the former epithet as a word that “carries with it a meaning deeply rooted in the debilitating racist caste ordering of our society’s slavery epoch and segregation era.”
Read it in full below:
“Dear Mr. Bennett:
I appreciate the meaningful points raised in your letter to me concerning racial appellations. The words ‘dark skinned American’ constitute a vivid depiction of both citizenship and race just as you point out. I agree wholeheartedly with you that the import of that term is in salient contrast with the connotation attached to the word ‘n*gger.’ The word ‘n*gger’ carries with it a meaning deeply rooted in the debilitating racist caste ordering of our society’s slavery epoch and segregation era.
The term, ‘dark skinned American,’ often finds its way into my speeches and writings and, encouragingly, I notice it, too, in the usage of so many others. The use of that and similar appellations reflect both our great heritage and our devotion to a brand of Americanism of the highest order.
Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Those interested in looking into the auction of Martin Luther King Jr.’s newly-unearthed letter addressing the N-Word debate can head over to Moments In Time for the details.
With the late Reverend King forever in our hearts.
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