By Matthew E. Milliken
Jan. 25, 2014
Author’s note: Earlier versions of this post appeared on Jan. 21 and 22. The current version has been revised and expanded. MEM
On Monday, America honored Martin Luther King Jr. The civil rights pioneer, who would have been 85 were he still alive, was born on Jan. 15, 1929.
Civil rights scholar Michael Eric Dyson wrote the following about King in his 2000 book, I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., is, arguably, the greatest American ever produced on our native soil. Figures like Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson seized the national imagination while holding public office. By contrast, King helped to redefine our country’s destiny as a private citizen in a remarkable career that lasted a mere thirteen years. As a religious activist and social prophet, King challenged our nation’s moral memory. He bid America to make good on its promises of justice and freedom for all persons, promises that had been extended almost two centuries before. Part of King’s enormous genius was the ability to force America to confront its conscience. He also brilliantly urged America to reclaim a heritage of democracy buried beneath cold documents and callous deeds.