LEWIS: The true recognition of Martin Luther King Jr.

Cartoon illustrated by Deshantey Coleman.  

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., by this time 50 years ago, became unrecognizable, just as the Bible explains how Jesus’s disciples did not recognize him. There are many different accounts of one’s life by the people that are closest to them and each narrative will differ in style. Just like the possession of sacred doctrine and rhetoric of history has been and still today held by the oppressor. King’s legacy is controversially changing to suit whoever tells the story or coordinates the trajectory. 


Whatever people make of his life like Jesus, Oscar Romero and Muhammad it is unequivocal what King was put on this earth for. At the end of his life was a higher guidance that many failed to recognize. To understand you would have to look through his predecessors and study their struggle which King carried to his martyrdom. The one predecessor that definitely shaped King’s path is Howard Thurman. To fully walk and be guided by Thurman’s leadership will tarnish your very own leadership then erect the greatest morality seen today. 


During the civil rights era, between 1954 to 1968, over 100 men and women died for equality and against injustice. There were more controversial laws, in both, judiciary and government agencies that passed in U.S. history at one time. There was specific violence targeted, both metaphorically and objectively, on African Americans unlike any other era. In the midst of all this there was forced desegregation. Many great leaders took on different strategies to support or combat this old war. Influential civil right leaders would vividly explain the truth they have learned that is necessary for survival. At the end of their life, truth would define itself by leaders sacrificing institutional relationships, dogmatic manners, or careers. 


Malcolm X, who reached his prime by 1964, saw that racism was the biggest condition to destructing black identity, not “white folks.” His ideology changed from “white folks being the sole enemy of humanity” to racism. As soon as Malcolm changed who the enemy was his friends became his enemies through divisiveness. “Violence with violence,” the message that haunted that radical activist to his reasonable death. The consequences of Malcolm’s militant philosophy was forethought. Living by his aggressive ideology put him at odds with members of the Nation of Islam who ultimately murdered the 39-year old minister shooting him 15 times in front of his family. 


Fannie Lou Hamer, one of the greatest women that fought against Mississippi state laws, a state known for a long history of racism. Hamer was not a feminist, she was exactly what Ida B. Wells is to feminism during the Doldrum era. The narrator of a particular cause also defines the significance and importance of representation. Multiple scholars suggest political organizations would slap a label on black people, most specifically black women, to support their agenda. Often when the goal of the organization is reached they would turn and blame black people for their own unresolved problems. Both Hamer and Wells knew this to be true, so their fight was solely on the black experience. 


“All my life I’ve been sick and tired. Now I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” said Hamer when refusing to compromise with the Democratic Party. 


When Fannie Lou Hamer died, she died sick and tired. If Fannie Lou Hamer would have had half the education King had, it would have taken more than a bullet to stop her.


Everything leading up to King’s death was much more emphasized. By 1968 the movement was all King cared about. He had now lost weight, carried a gun, drunk and smoked more and was dealing with marital problems. Before you call King or the next man a hypocrite, not only did most blacks and whites turn their back on King, but he went broke funding the Civil Rights Movement. 


According to Paul Harvey, an American History professor at the University of Colorado,  he also carried his own well-thumbed copy of Thurman’s best known book, “Jesus and the Disinherited,” in his pocket during the long and epic struggle of the Montgomery bus boycott. King’s speeches and sermons became more indignant, “the whole world is doomed” if it does not deal with the evils affecting African Americans. King had dealt with an assassination attempt before. The difference was a changed philosophy influenced by Thurman’s teachings. His words also became more sacrosanct, “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…. And so I’m happy tonight; 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 stepped out on the balcony the next day from these last words in his speech knowing that he would live on. King change life living toward war, the neglect of true poverty, and racism.