#5SmartReads - January 17, 2022
Dr. Kate Slater on what you DON'T know about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Kate Slater, Ph.D is an anti-racist scholar, educator, and a regular #5SmartReads contributor. You can follow her on Instagram here.
I’d urge everyone to take some time on MLK Day to read or listen to some of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s less-quoted speeches.
“The Other America” is as prescient today as it was when he first delivered it. MLK discusses racism, poverty, protest, and the myth of America as a meritocracy.
He states, “It’s a nice thing to say to people that you oughta lift yourself by your own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he oughta lift himself by his own bootstraps.”
Read the speech in its entirety or listen to the audio, which is even more powerful because of MLK’s oratorical brilliance.
The History of Martin Luther King Day by Erin Blakemore (History)
Did you know that Martin Luther King Day is the first holiday in United States history that celebrated the life of a ‘modern private citizen’?
Did you know that it took almost fifteen years of repeated legislative efforts to be signed in as a national holiday, and even then, it wasn’t celebrated nationally until 2000?
Did you know that many Southern states responded by combining MLK Day with a holiday celebrating Confederate leader Robert E. Lee?
This article provides a fascinating history of the controversy surrounding the establishment of MLK Day as a national holiday.
The Second Assassination of Martin Luther King by Ibram X. Kendi (The Atlantic)
“King’s nightmare of racism is being presented as King’s dream.”
This is a searing article about the ways in which Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words have been weaponized to discredit Critical Race Theory and push against teaching historically accurate accounts of racism in K-12 schools.
Even Though He Is Revered Today, MLK Was Widely Disliked by the American Public When He Was Killed by James C. Cobb (Smithsonian Magazine)
“Overly narrow historical memories typically serve a purpose, and in this case it is far more comforting to focus on Dr. King’s success in making a bad part of the country better than to contemplate his equally telling failures to push the whole of America to become what he knew it should be.”
This article pushes against the ways that much of America has sanitized the radical, visionary, and often-decried work of MLK (he vehemently opposed the Vietnam War, for example, and encouraged worker strikes as a means of non-violent protest), especially in the last few years of his life.
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Speech “Where Do We Go From Here?” (King Institute)
The first half of this speech describes the 1967 accomplishments of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); the second half could have been delivered in 2022. MLK’s words from sixty years ago about the need for a radical reimagining and rebirth of American society instead of “romantic illusions and empty philosophical debates about freedom” are particularly urgent today following the summer of 2020 and America’s ‘racial awakening’ (quotes on purpose!). I’d also highly recommend listening to this speech on YouTube.