The Poor People’s Campaign was being organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) when Dr. King was murdered in Memphis while fighting for the rights of sanitation workers. King and SCLC believed that a living wage was a key to creating the “beloved community” and a basic human right.
Fifty years later, the fight continues. And I support it.
In the days following Dr. King’s assassination, Washington D.C. experienced the most destructive rioting in its history. I think that the disturbances which followed King’s murder are worth revisiting because of what they can tell us of the disparity between the promise of American life and its reality for many. I also think it is worth revisiting on account of the role of racism in shaping the physical, economic, psychological, and sociological landscape of urban and black life in the United States.
In the fall of 1968, the Washington Post put out a book on the riots which still stands as a valuable document that has helped me to understand a world I grew up adjacent to but also very far away from.
I am delighted that the London Free Press will be carrying my editorial on remembering Coretta Scott King and her children and recognizing the depths of their loss. The piece will appear tomorrow, the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. King’s murder. I will post it once it is available.
Next week is the 50th anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
One of the things that I think that has been neglected over the years is how Coretta Scott King and her four children were impacted by his death. I am currently working on an editorial on this topic and I am hoping that the London Free Press -or someone else- will run it.
In the meantime, I recommend watching this segment from 60 Minutes (11:37-24:52). Just before Christmas 1968, Mike Wallace went to the King household to see how they were faring.
As you probably know, accusations have been made that Parkland High School shooting survivor David Hogg is a paid actor; that his eloquent and circumspect statements are simply too polished for a young man to make. While I find this accusation both ridiculous and odious, I think it is an admission of something profound.
There is an art to speaking well, particularly when speaking of tragedy. Pericles is remembered for his Funeral Oration and Abraham Lincoln for the Gettysburg Address, another funeral oration. Many observers believe that the most eloquent words ever spoken by Robert Kennedy were those made the night he told a crowd that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been murdered. Dr. King himself so moved the great jazz saxophonist John Coltrane by his eulogy for the 4 Birmingham girls killed in their Sunday school in September 1963 that it is believed that Coltrane timed this recording to the cadence and tropes of King’s eulogy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiJ_0gp-T9A
I think that these accusations against David Hogg -made by Alex Jones- are a tremendously important reminder of the power of rhetoric. Once rhetoric was not an epithet thrown at political speech, it was a subject devoted to the art of speaking well and clearly about civic life. I think it is a mark of the debasement of our political speech that when a young man comes along and speaks in the great rhetorical tradition which is the inheritance of us all, that he is accused of being an actor; that is, an artist.
He is an artist. Because he is resurrecting civic speech. He is an artist because he is talking within that great tradition of shared mourning.