A Hijacked Legacy

ImageAs Martin Luther King, Jr. Day approaches each year, we are reminded by the media of the legacy King left.  His message of racial equality is highlighted and discussed in churches, schools and civic meetings all over the world.  King truly was, and remains, an icon of the causes of social equality and justice.  However, his legacy is hijacked when an unfair emphasis is placed to imply his work was only for the sake of black Americans.  Martin Luther King, Jr. carried a burden in his heart for ALL people who faced discrimination or oppression or who lived in poverty, regardless of their ethnicity.  Most white people completely miss this and therefore do not take the time to understand him. 

King may have “had a dream”, but he was no dreamer; King was a “doer”.  In his 39 years, and more specifically his last 24 years, King did more to change the world than most people do in an adult lifespan tripling that.  King’s response to the evil forces causing discrimination, oppression and poverty was to resist them with non-violent and determined action.  King was an avid reader.  His moral and social convictions were influenced by Thoreau and Christian anarchist Leo Tolstoy and also the writings of Protestant theologians Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich.  King privately believed in democratic socialism because of it’s supposed equitable treatment of all citizens, however he rejected communism because it was atheistic, ethically relativistic, politically totalitarian and socially oppressive.  Still, many were convinced King was surrounded by communists, which led to President Kennedy ordering wire-taps to protect King and the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover tapping King’s phone calls in an effort to derail him.

In the last years of King’s life, his vision became more global.  Exactly one year before his death, King gave a speech in New York City in which he said  “A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say “This is not just.” – eerily prophetic.

It’s as if he somehow knew his life would be short.  In King’s April 3, 1968 ‘Mountaintop” speech at the Church of God in Christ’s World Headquarters at Mason Temple, he said the following;  “Well, I don’t know what will happen now……Like anybody, I would like to live a long life.  Longevity has its place, but I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. ….I’m not worried about anything.  I ‘m not fearing any man.  Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”.  King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.  At king’s funeral, his friend Mahalia Jackson, who shouted “Tell them about the dream!” during King’s famous 1963 Washington speech, sang his favorite hymn “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.”  King had once requested that at his funeral, it would be said that “he tried to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and love and serve humanity”. A fitting epitaph indeed.

© 2014 Curt Savage Media


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