Monday, January 21, 2013

The Forgotten King

The title of this post is intentionally ironic. Everyone knows that we are away from school today because Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 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 wrap up 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 when you were 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,

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 message your friends and surf the net ;) Ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Why is this post titled, "The Forgotten King"?
  2. Why don't we Americans celebrate this speech?
  3. How does it relate to our course themes?
  4. Can you make connections to today?


Derek Hawley said...

I would hazard a guess that you named this post "The Forgotten King" because this is the side of him that no one remembers. Truth be told, I'd practically forgotten that the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War were happening in the same time period. People in general would doubtless prefer to recall Martin Luther King Jr as a man fixated on securing equality in America than as someone who sympathized with Communists. As we discussed during the Perilous project, communism has a much more negative connotation in the US than in most countries, and few are those who would choose to mentally equate them with an American hero.

Zach Peltz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alexis B said...

I think that this post could be titled The Forgotten King because Obama's inauguration was on Martin Luther King, Jr day. People might be more focused on that than on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Also, if he was dropped from "Gallup's annual list of most admired Americans", people must have stopped admiring him, probably because of what Derek said about how he was seen to be sympathizing with communists. People didn't wan't to remember that about him, so they forgot about that part of him and that is why this speech is not celebrated.

Also, Mr. Bolos said we should think about what we have previously learned about MLK. I remember NOT learning about this speech on Vietnam. I only remember learning about the "I Have A Dream" speech. I think teachers focus on that rather than the Vietnam speech for two reasons. First, little kids probably don't know anything about communism and Vietnam, so they wouldn't understand this speech. Second, the "I Have A Dream" speech presents Martin Luther King in the way we like to remember him, a great civil rights activist.

I think this speech relates to the War on Terror because like Vietnam, it cannot be won. There is always going to be communism and there will always be Islamic insurgents who don't like America. You can't get rid of either. How many lives and how much money do we want to invest into wars we cannot win?

Heidi Blumenthal said...

The title "The Forgotten King" contains a double meaning. I agree with my classmates, Derek and Zach, who have argued that one the meanings of the title is to emphasize the word "Forgotten" which might refer to Dr. King's Vietnam speech and radical viewpoints which opposed the government. But another meaning of this title relates more to the word "king". Yes it is his last name: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. Maybe the word "king" is referring to a ruler or group leader, so this title would mean, Martin Luther King: the forgotten leader. it's interesting to play with different meanings of words instead of just taking them in their literal sense.

We all think of MLK as a great leader. While he demonstrates that leadership by preaching equality for African Americans, he also demonstrates that being a leader sometimes requires saying things that are unpopular. And while this speech may be forgotten by many, in part because he was speaking out against the government in a perilous time, through this speech he is also demonstrating his leadership on a difficult issue about which he is passionate. He is exercising his First Amendment rights in an effort to lead the country down a different path.

Aj Watkins said...

I agree with peoples' idea about the title, and I think this has a strong connection to what we have learned about memory, specifically selective memory. Selective memory is only remembering certain attributes or characteristics of a certain person, generally something positive. So in the case of Dr. King, I think people remember him solely because of his powerful and inspirational speech that has been repeated through history over and over.

This also connects to what we learned about the real facts about certain issues. For instance, the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in its entirety like most believe. But we connect the major event to something that was almost accomplished, similar to how we associate the I have a Dream speech solely to Dr. King.

Lily Schroeder said...

Today, as we look at Martin Luther King Jr., we see his fight for civil liberties and equality among all races and religions. We do not see his opposition to his own country, though he stated he loved America. We, as Americans, choose to forget this side of King. In light of the Vietnam War, he stated the facts of America that the people do not want to hear. From today's perspective, it is a bad reflection on the New York Times having "ridiculed" King's statement because, at the time, he was the only one who had the courage to state the truth and stand behind it. King was completely ahead of his time and gave his audience a speech of what they had to hear, not what they would have wanted to hear. This is the side we have "failed" to remember. As Americans, we want to portray Martin Luther King Jr. as a leader or "king" because it sheds good light on America to have a great African American civil rights activist during the 1960s. But we choose to forget his words in which he is against America's own policy. The Forgotten King not only references the fact that this speech is little known to Americans, but maybe it also forces us to question if we have not given enough attention to this speech as a marker of his independent leadership and foresight for our country. There is a story and reason many of us do not know this speech.

I think it is interesting to reference Richard Blanco, the author and presenter of this year's inaugural poem "One Today," in many ways it is reminiscent of what King stood for. Like King, Blanco, even today, is considered a minority as he is Cuban; he is also gay. The poem inspires hope for our country and confronts some ideas that not everybody may share.

Sarah Henzlik said...

I agree with what Derek and Zach said. I think the post is titled "The Forgotten King" because this particular speech of Dr. King's discusses his lesser known viewpoints on world peace, justice and opposition to war. Prior to this speech, I was unaware that Dr. King publicly expressed major viewpoints concerning issues besides civil rights. Throughout the course, we have discussed the idea of American mythology and how WE as Americans want our story to be told, remembered and viewed. I think in the past, American mythology views Dr. King as solely a freedom fighter of the 1960's on a mission for change and equal rights for African Americans.

Looking at the text in the speech itself, I noticed the line, "Now, I've chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because... there comes a time when silence becomes betrayal,". Also throughout the semester, we have discussed how politicians and famous figures in the media carefully craft every word of their speech because of the significant impact it can have.I think Dr. King used the specific word, preach, to enhance his ethos as an orator and Baptist preacher.

Along the same lines, I think the reason that Dr. King chose to give a speech about the Vietnam War is that there is a direct correlation between the conflict over seas and the civil rights issues on America's home front. As I said above, 'when silence becomes betrayal' is definitely applicable to both issues. Silence, the act of not speaking up, held back the Civil Rights Movement in America and even kept unjust, classified information such as the Myilai Massacre of Vietnam under wraps for so long. I think he also used betrayal to say that if one doesn't voice their honest opinions about an issue, than they are directly hurting others and themselves. Dr. King was clearly a more complex man than American mythology characterizes him as.


In my time on this Earth, The Doctor has been more of a deified figure than a historical character. Almost all of the country believes that he was a perfect man, because his primary messages of equality and nonviolent protest could be accepted by so many. With this speech, he shatters the mascot-like caricature that many people saw by addressing a more controversial issue. In this speech, he is rather angry at the government, even though most people think of him as a man who can't be angry. This reminds me of Chesley Sullenberger's speech after he landed the plane in the Hudson River. He went to congress to speak out against the abysmal wages that pilots receive, and everybody in the room looked uncomfortable, since their favorite pilot hero had been replaced with a concerned citizen. (Link: