The following words used to be my bio on Myspace (before the new layout that made artist bio’s defunct):
“Everyone knows, even the smallest kid knows about Martin Luther King, can say his most famous moment was that “I have a dream” speech,” said Henry Louis Taylor Jr., professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Buffalo.
“No one can go further than one sentence,” he said. “All we know is that this guy had a dream, we don’t know what that dream was.”
At the time of his death, King was working on anti-poverty and anti-war issues. He had spoken out against the Vietnam War in 1967, and was in Memphis in April 1968 in support of striking sanitation workers when he was killed.
King had come a long way from the crowds who cheered him at the 1963 March on Washington, when he was introduced as “the moral leader of our nation” — and when he pronounced “I have a dream” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
By taking on issues outside segregation, he had lost the support of many newspapers and magazines, and his relationship with the White House had suffered, said Harvard Sitkoff, a professor of history at the University of New Hampshire who has written a recently published book on King.
“He was considered by many to be a pariah,” Sitkoff said.
But he took on issues of poverty and militarism because he considered them vital “to make equality something real and not just racial brotherhood but equality in fact,” Sitkoff said.
While there has been scholarly study of King and everything he did, that knowledge has not translated into the popular culture perception of him and the civil rights movement, said Richard Greenwald, professor of history at Drew University.
“We’re living increasingly in a culture of top 10 lists, of celebrity biopics which simplify the past as entertainment or mythology,” he said. “We lose a view on what real leadership is by compressing him down to one window.”…
By freezing him at that point, by putting him on a pedestal of perfection that does not acknowledge his complex views, “it makes it impossible both for us to find new leaders and for us to aspire to leadership,” Harris-Lacewell said.
She believes it’s important for Americans in 2008 to remember how disliked King was in 1968.
“If we forget that, then it seems like the only people we can get behind must be popular,” Harris-Lacewell said. “Following King meant following the unpopular road, not the popular one.”
I thought it was appropriate to share that today. Read the entire article that the excerpt came from by clicking here.