On this anniversary of the birth of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., his legacy is in sure hands. His youngest daughter, pastor Bernice King, has taken over leadership of The King Center in Atlanta and is already doing great things. Notably, she has spent time working with youths in Ferguson to channel their rage and frustration over the Michael Brown shooting into positive action, just as her father helped channel black rage over social marginalization into a movement that fundamentally transformed America.
But Ms. King’s work needs to be viewed within the context of King’s overall message, or it might fall short of its intended impact. While a major thrust of King’s movement was to eradicate legal barriers to full participation in the American enterprise, his push for economic empowerment has been largely ignored, much to the detriment of those in whose name he fought and died.
When he came to Washington to deliver the “I Have a Dream” speech on the National Mall, he started out by decrying “the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.” Most of the push for civil rights since his passing has focused on eradicating discrimination and challenging the social stigma of racism. But in the very next sentence, King lamented the economic dislocation of Black America, calling it “a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.” Addressing the economic challenges of Black America was just as essential to King as the social challenges. In fact, they were inseparable.
Posted by Natasha Eldridge, Office of the Chairman