Saturday, January 26, 2008

Jackson on the politics of MLK's "shattered dream"

Thomas F. Jackson, author of the prizewinning recent book From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Struggle for Economic Justice, has a post on History News Network on the the political use of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy. He begins:
Democratic candidates have recently been cherry-picking lessons from the civil rights and voting rights campaigns of the mid-1960s. President Lyndon Johnson's achievement in building a bipartisan congressional coalition to secure passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was indeed monumental.
But Martin Luther King Jr. was no mere dreamer. As the civil rights revolution's most famous strategist and self-proclaimed "symbol," King stood at the forefront of a mass political movement with many leaders and agendas. Like Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans and their white allies organized, protested, and voted, forcing politicians to make hard choices and progressive commitments.
While debating the relative achievements of King and Johnson, the candidates are ignoring King's unrealized dreams and strategies for expanding democracy. After 1964, King argued that the nation's leadership needed to address challenges more intransigent than legal desegregation: unemployment, income inequality, poverty, voter disaffection, and racial apartheid in housing and education. King's "shattered dreams" remain our own.
Continue reading here.