Monday, January 16, 2012

The Forgotten King



The title of this post is intentionally ironic. Of course we are away from school today because Dr. Martin Luther King is commemorated by name with a national holiday. And just about everyone alive is familiar with King's "I Have A Dream" speech. However, as we finish the semester, having recently explored the writings of another notable civil rights activist, Frederick Douglass, we invite you to think about what you have previously learned about Dr. King as a younger student, in light of this particular speech. The subject of the talk was the Vietnam War, in an excerpt from a sermon given at Ebenezer Baptist Church, on April 30, 1967. Consider the public response to his words back then:

...after giving the speech...King was dropped from Gallup’s annual list of the most admired Americans and was ridiculed by the New York Times, among too many others. Soon after, he was murdered (Robert Scheer, Truthdig.com).

Although it is over 20 minutes long, you are encouraged to listen to as much of it as you can (it's audio only). We know what amazing multitaskers you are. Press PLAY and have it on in the background as you IM your friends and surf the net ;) Ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Why is this post titled, "The Forgotten King"?
  2. Why was this speech so controversial?
  3. How does it relate to our course themes?
  4. Can you make connections to today?
A full text version of this speech is available HERE.

6 comments:

Jasmine T. said...

I may be completely wrong but I think that this post was titled "The Forgotten King" for many reasons. It may be titled "The Forgotten King" because most people, myself included, just see Martin Luther King day as a day off and probably dont take even a second to think about all the things he has done in terms of equal rights for all. Another reason this post may be titled "The Forgotten King" is because that some of his ideals and goals have seem to be lost because there is still racial inequalities in the minds of people. Racial inequality is still prevalent in many areas of our society and Dr. King's goals havent truly been achieved.

Jasmine T. said...

I separated my responses to the different questions to amke it easier to read. But around 2:15 he says "That there are those seeking to equate dissent with disloyalty." And that connects really well to "The Crucible" and The Perilous Times/ Civil Liberties unit that we did because of the paranoia people had about dissent and the government's unjust limitation of civil liberties due to the fear of opposition.

sarahN. said...

I agree with Jasmine that one reason for the title is that some of the King's ideals he preached about such as racial equality have been lost. Or perhaps "are still lacking from society" is a better way of putting it, being that I don't think there has been a time in our society in which complete racial equality has existed. Another forgotten ideal in his speech is that we should not "equate dissent with disloyalty." It is clear that this is still an issue today when peaceful protesters are being pepper sprayed, as what occurred at UC Davis just last November.

AbbeyR said...

I also agree with Jasmine’s idea that King’s speech was titled, “The Forgotten King” because our society may not appreciate and focus on all that King has done in terms of equal rights. Equality is a major theme our American Studies class has studied this year. The theme comes up in the writings of Frederick Douglass. King’s speech also reminds me of the State of the Union Speech that Obama gave a few days ago. Both Obama and King state their opinions and ideas to make our world a better place.

Betsy P said...

Our ongoing discussion about the “prison-industrial complex” caused me to see “The Forgotten King” in a different light.

Specifically, when King declares, “the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations…are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins.” I found this line drew a sharp parallel to the issues facing the prison-industrial complex. It’s easier to "blind" ourselves from a broken system, than to construct a solution to the system. Just as King repeatedly said, “The truth must be told”—it’s time to see the (ugly) “truth” of the prison-industrial complex.

I think the post was titled “The Forgotten King” because after King spoke out against Vietnam War, society stopped listening because they didn’t want to see the “truth” or negative effects of the Vietnam War. The speech was controversial because “the truth” is hard to hear when it means the nation has to confront the problems “about themselves” —America.

I found the speech held a strong connection to the broken systems of America. Similar to how King described when America briefly held “a shining moment” with the poverty program (a shine that quickly diminished when the funds for rehabilitation were put towards the war) the 70s was brief moment when prisons appeared to have hope for change. Though just how MLK (and later echoed by Eisenhower’s Farwell Address) warned how, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”—America seems to be on the verge of a “societal death” (in terms of the prison industrial complex) as we have negated our focus (and funds) from “social uplift." In a sense, “The Forgotten King” resembles the 7 million “Forgotten Prisoners”—prisoners that will remain forgotten until policies “undergo a radical revolutions of values” (MLK)—“values” that have shielded society from the truth.

S. Bolos said...

Betsy,

Thank you for finally seeing the true significance of this post. Michelle Alexander's critique of the "Prison Industrial Complex" is directly related to King's philosophy. Just watch the parallels fly here:

"If we can agree that what is needed now...is not more tinkering or tokenism, but as King insisted forty years ago, 'a radical restructuring of our society,' then perhaps we can also agree that a radical restructuring of our approach to racial justice advocacy is in order as well" (260).