As I am sure anyone who would accidentally stumble upon this bog knows, today is the 40th anniversary of the assasination of Martin Luther King Jr. A somber time when people remember the tragedy of an untimely death is also an opportunity to remember the beauty of a life and a movement which animates that tragedy.
As a historian, I am often concerned at the ways the past is used and framed for understanding in the present. In the case of King, his legacy is often co-opted by those on both sides of the political spectrum. In either case, what we often hear are references to the mainstream messages of King–values of nonviolence, love they enemy, and peace. What we often overlook, are the radical messages undergirding even these “acceptable” values.
One year before his death, King delivered a speech at Riverside Church. It stands as a reminder of the political evolution of the man as well as the truly radical proposition serving as the foundation of all his struggles.