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  • 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 07/08/2013

    MLK's Forgotten Plan to End Gun Violence in Chicago

    Although fully ignoring the plights of poor urban areas was not quite what Daniel Patrick Moynihan meant when, in 1970, he encouraged President Richard Nixon to take a position of “benign neglect” around questions of racial justice, that has nevertheless been precisely what has happened. 

  • Originally published 06/26/2013

    Dana Milbank: Roberts’s Cynical Treatment of MLK in Voting Ruling

    Dana Milbank is a columnist for the Washington Post.The Roberts court chose a most cynical way to celebrate this summer’s 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.On Tuesday, the Supreme Court’s penultimate day in session before the Aug. 28 semi-centenary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the court’s conservative majority announced a 5 to 4 ruling that guts one of King’s greatest triumphs, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. (The Roberts court weakened another of King’s triumphs, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in a pair of 5-to-4 rulings on Monday.)

  • 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 04/04/2013

    William Hood: My Dinner With MLK

    William Hood is a professor emeritus of art history at Oberlin College and a visiting professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.FORTY-FIVE years ago, the Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr. went to a small dinner party in Atlanta, not far from the campus of Emory University. It was a quiet January night in 1968. I was one of the guests.Our hostess, Wanda White, was a young public-school teacher. In the fall of 1967, she worked with Mrs. King, helping with her schedule, as well as other personal and professional responsibilities. During a conversation, Wanda asked the Kings over for a low-key dinner. They accepted, and Wanda invited some of her close friends. (All of us were white.)My best friend, Larry Shaw, and I were invited to the dinner. He came from a long line of salt-of-the-earth skilled tradesmen anchored in Appalachian South Carolina and the red clay fields of Georgia. My father was a successful industrialist in Birmingham, Ala. We anticipated the approaching dinner with the empty-headed excitement of young people who rarely think beyond their own self-interest....

  • 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

    Clayborne Carson: Interview with Stanford

    Stanford historian Clayborne Carson has been researching and documenting the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. for nearly three decades.From Carson's trip to Washington, D.C., in 1963 to hear King give his famous "I Have a Dream" speech to his personal relationships with members of the King family, Carson's involvement with the American civil rights movement has been much more than an academic pursuit.In 1985, Coretta Scott King asked Carson to edit and publish her late husband's papers. Carson subsequently founded the King Papers Project, which is producing the definitive record of King's writings, from speeches and sermons to personal correspondence and unpublished manuscripts.Drawing from his personal journals and records, Carson offers a personal and candid account of his evolution from political activist into a self-described "activist scholar" in his new book Martin's Dream.In a conversation with Corrie Goldman of the Stanford Humanities Center, Carson talked about the book and his experiences.

  • 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 01/22/2013

    Martin Luther King Jr. honored as Obama, nation’s first black president, sworn in to new term

    ATLANTA — The youngest daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. hailed the inauguration of the nation’s first black president to a new term as one of the achievements made possible by the civil rights struggle her father helped lead decades ago.Bernice King spoke at an Atlanta service Monday on the federal King holiday, urging Americans to draw inspiration from her slain father’s nonviolent campaign after a difficult year of military conflicts abroad and natural disasters at home.“We pray that this day will be the beginning of a new day in America,” she said. “It will be a day when people draw inspiration from the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. It will be a day when people realize and recognize that if it were not for Dr. King and those who fought the fight fought in that movement, we would not be celebrating this presidency.”...

  • Originally published 01/21/2013

    Understanding the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King in 1964.In 1985, Dr. Clayborne Carson, a professor of history at Stanford University, received a phone call that changed his life. Coretta Scott King called and asked if he would edit the papers of her late husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Carson was initially reluctant, but eventually agreed to take on the monumental task. He has been studying the life of this American icon ever since. Under Dr. Carson’s direction, the King Papers Project has issued six volumes of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., -- a projected fourteen-volume edition of King’s most significant speeches, sermons, correspondence, publications, and unpublished writings.

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    Inauguration of first black president, federal holiday honoring King come to rare intersection

    ATLANTA — President Barack Obama plans to use a Bible that belonged to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as he takes his oath of office, a powerful symbol of this year’s rare intersection of the civil rights movement and the nation’s first black president.Monday is both Inauguration Day and the federal holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader. It is only the second time the two have fallen on the same day. Some say it’s only fitting the celebrations are intertwined.“It’s almost like fate and history coming together,” said U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who worked alongside King in the fight for civil rights during the 1950s and ‘60s and plans to attend the inauguration. “If it hadn’t been for Martin Luther King Jr., there would be no Barack Obama as president.”...

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