Tag: Martin Luther King

50 Years After The April 4, 1968 Riots, Chicago’s Oldest Pharmacy Still Stands

Wednesday, April 4, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: Edwin Muldrow stands outside of Del-Kar Pharmacy in Chicago, one of the few businesses to survive the 1968 riots that followed King’s death. | Alexa Rogals 

Edwin Muldrow, the owner of Del-Kar Pharmacy in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood, can tell you what the area was like more than 50 years ago, when black-owned retailers, restaurants, barbershops, beauty salons, night clubs and laundromats contributed to a living, relatively self-sustaining local ecosystem.

Continue reading “50 Years After The April 4, 1968 Riots, Chicago’s Oldest Pharmacy Still Stands”

This Labor Day, Think About the Pullman Porter

Monday, September 4, 2017 || By Michael Romain || OPINION||  @maywoodnews

Feature image: A Pullman porter | Library of Congress/Public Domain

“The most influential black man in America for the hundred years following the Civil War was a figure no one knew,” writes author Larry Tye in his eye-opening 2004 book, “Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class.”

Continue reading “This Labor Day, Think About the Pullman Porter”

Activists Reflect on the First Black Presidency that Was


Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president, during President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January. | Wikipedia 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Last month, two days before the nation’s first black presidency was set to end, and on the day of Martin Luther King’s birthday, a crowd of roughly 40 people gathered inside of Dominican University’s Lund Auditorium to grapple with a dilemma of Barack Obama’s two terms.

The event was held in order to consider Barack Obama’s presidency in light of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. One of the most poignant moments of the roughly hour-and-a-half discussion was when the three-person panel tried interpreting the pardons and commutations the president had granted in his last few days in office.

On the day before the panel discussion, Obama had commuted the 35-year sentence of Army Private Chelsea Manning, who famously leaked sensitive classified material to WikiLeaks, and the 55-year prison sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera, a 74-year-old Puerto Rican political activist who was imprisoned for trying to overthrow the United States government, among other charges.

Both Manning and Rivera are considered traitors or terrorists by some and heroes and political prisoners by others, depending on where the critics line up along the left-right ideological divide. Neither, however, are associated with the radical black freedom struggle that King embodies and which, in large part, made Obama’s presidency possible, the panelists noted.

Dometi Pongo, a news anchor for WVON 1690, said his radio station had polled its predominantly black audience about which political figures they would want Obama to focus his mighty presidential pen on.

Many callers, Pongo said, suggested the president pardon the late Marcus Garvey, the early 20th-century Black Nationalist who was sent to jail in the 1920s for mail fraud, a charge that many of his supporters believe was politically motivated. Others named notable former Black Panthers — many now either serving long sentences or in exile — like Mumia Abu-Jamal, H. Rap Brown and Assata Shakur.

That Obama seemed poised to leave office without pardoning or issuing a commutation for a single prominent Black Nationalist had some blacks “wondering where the vindication is,” Pongo said, an assertion that prompted some applause and approving nods from the audience.

Pongo credited the outgoing president with his late-blossoming stance on the issue of mass incarceration and the hundreds of pardons he granted imprisoned African Americans, but he wanted to know why the president’s mercy toward transgender and Latino radicals didn’t extend to black radicals.

“If he released some of these black nationalists, would there be too much political blowback?” Pongo said.

“It’s a calibration of political capital and what is considered suitable political etiquette,” explained Salim Muwakkil, himself a former Black Panther and veteran journalist, who was working for the Associated Press in 1973 when Shakur allegedly murdered a New Jersey State Trooper during a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike. Shakur was subsequently convicted of first-degree murder and sent to prison before escaping to Cuba in 1979.

“I knew Assata and I knew the specifics of the crime and I knew that she was absolutely innocent,” Muwakkil said. “At the AP, objectivity was the byword. You had to be objective. They had to assure the facts were presented as plainly as possible, but I began to see that objectivity was really a ratification of the status quo. In order for something to have veracity we had to say ‘the police said’ after every sentence.”

The mask of objectivity worn by the AP, Muwakkil argued, was also worn by Obama, whose position of authority constricted his ability to buck the status quo that put radical black figures like Shakur beyond the pale of political acceptability.

That marginalizing of black radical figures from the 1960s and ’70s echoed a much larger paradigm set in place by Obama’s presidency, Muwakkil argued, adding that Obama’s historic two terms “stalled the progress of the black freedom movement and disrupted the dynamics of a protest tradition that has framed black activism for at least a century.”

“This outcome is not necessarily Obama’s intention or even his fault,” Muwakkil said. “The rupture of tradition caused by his victory was simply inevitable.”

Historically, he explained, black activists like King, W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson and Rosa Parks had cultivated adversarial relationships with political leadership. Over the last half-century, however, that relationship has changed.

“Obama’s victory represents the logical conclusion of a political strategy outlined 45 years ago … that designated politics as the next step in the Civil Rights Movement. Because of that strategy, I guess you can call it ‘black faces in high places syndrome,’ many of us have grown accustomed to conflating political campaigns with civil rights crusades.”

The result, the panelists and some in the audience seemed to concede, was a black presidency long on symbolism and hope, and short on political substance.

“I feel like every time it’s something with black people, it’s always, ‘That’s a little too far,’” said one panelist, a poet who goes by the name Authentic. “What’s not too far?” VFP

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Did One Woman’s 1966 Letter to Dr. King Predict the Plight of Suburbs Like Maywood?


Martin Luther King, Jr. in his study in Atlanta. | The King Center 

Monday, January 16, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

The letter is dated Aug. 8, 1966. It’s written by June Alder and is addressed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 366 E. 47th Street, Chicago.

Alder writes as a “white woman” who wants to express her “sorrow and ask [King’s] forgiveness for the hate and violence” he experienced during the Chicago Freedom Movement, a campaign launched in 1966 in order to bring awareness to housing discrimination and urban racism in the northern cities.

While marching through Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs like Cicero, King and his supporters were pelted with rocks and spat upon — the reactions of people, white people, who were just as terrified by the implications of integration as blacks were terrified by segregation’s harsh realities.

Mrs. Alder channels those fears compassionately and thoughtfully in her 1966 letter, which is also prescient, as it predicts the social conditions that would come after a decades-long period of white flight from areas that were slowly opening up to blacks — areas like Maywood and the surrounding suburbs.

This letter was easily accessed from the King Center’s digital archives, where anyone can plow through many of the nearly one million documents, including letters, speeches, handwritten notes and photos, that are associated with King’s rich life.

This MLK Day, experience the man for yourself by clicking here. VFP

Mrs. Alder’s 1968 letter to Dr. Martin Luther King


Maywood Fine Arts Wows at Trail Blazer Awards

Boykin Maywood Fine ArtsMFA dancers with Congressman Davis, pictured top left, and Commissioner Boykin. Photo by Michael Romain.

Friday, February 20, 2015 || By Michael Romain 

MFA Dancers captured the tragic and hopeful continuum of the black struggle in America in one moving dance routine

MFA dancersMaywood Fine Arts dancers received a standing ovation and wild applause after a rousing performance at a Feb. 19, awards ceremony held at the Sankofa Cultural Arts & Business Center  in Chicago’s Austin community.

The Leaving Their Stamp on Our World Trail Blazer Awards was sponsored by 1st District Commissioner Richard Boykin to recognize the achievements of his predecessor, former commissioner Earleen Collins; Congressman Danny K. Davis; and Keshia B. Warner, the principal of John Greenleaf Whittier Elementary School in Oak Park.

Before an audience of about 60 attendees–which included Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Vice President Barbara McGowan; 2nd District Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele; and 29th Ward Alderman Deborah Graham–MFA dancers evoked the struggles and achievements of prominent civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Forty-eight years ago, I opened up a school in Maywood,” said MFA co-founder Lois Baumann in remarks immediately after the dance routine. “I want to thank Dr. King for that, because  he was my inspiration,” she said.

During his remarks, Rep. Davis praised Lois and her husband Ernie Baumann, calling them “two of the most contributing members of the community… For many years, many years they’ve trained young people from the time they were near babies up to the point they become teenagers and young adults and adults–they’ve just been marvelous.” VFP

This Day In Maywood History (April 4, 1968): “Suburbs Spared Major Disorder”



King on balconyMLK Assassination

Friday, April 4, 1968

On this day in 1968, Maywood and surrounding communities were engulfed in the national wave of shock and grief following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., but the western suburbs experienced very little of the massive rioting and social disruption that had swept cities across America. Through looking at microfilm Proviso Herald archives stored in the Maywood Public Library, current residents of Maywood and Proviso Township old enough to remember can relive those times. For those not yet born, the archives provide a richly textured portrait into the past. The following are excerpts from various articles published in the Herald on November 11, 1968, more than a week after the assassination.

Suburbs Spared Major Disorder

Police and residents in Harlem cleanup in the wake of 1968 riot.

Sandy Dudley — Incredibly, the western suburbs remained free of violence during the riot-mad weekend which brought death and destruction across much of Chicago.

The rampage that swept across the nation after the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King in Memphis Thursday, blazed across the city and stopped just short of this area.

For the most part, Sheriff Joseph Woods’ riot squad was unneeded in the western suburbs during the blazing weekend.

The violence that flamed through Chicago for two days flared only occassionally in the tense Proviso and Montclare communities.

But Woods was ready to extinguish any spread of the disorders this week.

All suburban police chiefs and police personnel were deputized as members of his department.

“I have no intention of tolerating insurrection,” he declared to the HERALD Monday. “My men have orders to fight force with absolute force–and the rioters know it.”

Wherever a tense gathering was reported, Woods said, he deployed 20 to 30 men–”and the riioters dispersed fast.”

From a command post at Bedford, Woods put all his regular forces to work in two divisions on 12-hour duty shifts and assigned additional manpower to duty from dusk to 6 a.m.

His 200-man riot squad, “all fully trained deputies,” were on at night.

The number of arrests made by his police, he added, have filled Bridewell and the county jail.

Monday, he surveyed Soldier’s field to determine its suitability as a possible detention area.

“If need be, we can use the dressing and locker rooms and keep a couple of thousand there,” he said.

Suburban police copied Woods’ example, putting men on 12-hour shifts, calling in all off-duty policemen or putting all men on stand-by status.


Police clash with rioters in Chicago.

MAYWOOD, scene of repeated racial disorders during the year, remained comparatively quiet during the weekend until 9 p.m. Sunday.

At that time, Maywood police moved it to disperse several persons, holed up in a building at 10th and St. Charles, who were throwing bricks and bottles off a balcony.

“We blocked the area off,” Maywood police capt. Berner Kellough said, “and asked the sheriff for a van to cart them away.”

“They quit throwing things when they saw the area blocked off and the van coming.”

Otherwise, the community was “fairly well-behaved,” he said. Ten windows in the business and residential community were smashed, some in a “smash and grab operation, but we’ve had a wave of broken windows here lately,” he said.

Reportedly, a group of Negro boys were stopping motorists at 19th ave. and St. Charles on the Melrose Park border and insisting that the drivers turn on their car lights in reverence to King.

Police trail youth bands here in wake of bombings, damage

Large groups of boys roamed Maywood Tuesday night, according to the police capt. Berner Kellough.

“All my men were on duty,” he said, “and a squad car followed each group of five or more boys.”

Kellough said two fires were set, one at 139 S. 11th ave. and one at 10th and Oak. Garbage cans in front yards along 9th st. between St. Charles and Washington were set ablaze.

Bricks and rocks were thrown at firemen putting out the blazes, Kellough said.

Several windows were broken, including a big plate glass window at Heinz Mueller co., 1306 Madison.

Monday night the Maywood police dept. had 40 men on duty, supported by county police, Kellough said.

“We saw known agitators driving around and we followed them,” he said.

A series of five firebombs (gas filled pop bottles with wicks) were thrown about 9 p.m. Monday. Three exploded starting fires at Perry Graf. Corp., 15th and Madison; behind Burroughs at 19th and Madison, and in a garage at 15th and Washington.

No damage estimates were available from the Maywood fire department.

Behind a broken window at Irving school a firebomb was found that had failed to go off. Another one was found at the dist. 89 board of education building at 8th and Green.

Maywood leaders pay tribute to King; comment on future

Proviso clergymen and civil rights leaders paid tribute to the slain Rev. Martin Luther King this week.

Father John Tredrea, of Maywood’s Holy Communion Episcopal church, former member of Maywood’s Human Relations committee and now on the new Proviso Human Relations committee, said, “I hope the gospel he preached and lived will be lived by all men.”

At a loss for words to express his feelings, Rev. Wallace Sykes, of Second Baptist church, 446 S. 13th, said he felt the tragic death would have no effect on future disorder. “By that time, people will hold his death in a more sensible way. There will perhaps be riots, but they will be caused by those who are far removed.”

“If they do (riot), it probably won’t have anything to do with the death of Martin Luther. By the summer, people should be looking at his death in a more sober manner,” Rev. Sykes said.

The pastor of Maywood’s First Christian church, Eighth and Madison, Dr. K. Everett Munson, said King’s death was very tragic.

“My own personal feeling is that our country has responded to his message, the mesage of life and endeavor.”

Dr. Munson said, “The irony has gotten through to the majority of people. Many of my Negro friends here in Maywood feel despair at his death. I personally feel a great deal of hope in the coming together of races. I Believe we’re farther along in social help. The rebellious people have already acted.”

“The rest want to nail down their demands. They won’t be satisfied until they see action. I believe they must see a symbol of justice for  the man who killed Martin Luther King,” Dr. Munson said.

“Press, churches, synagogues have come together in a feeling of constant change. I know the city of Chicago has already begun plans for rebuilding.

“I recognize a threat in many instances that says these people will not let it happen unless they can hold a guiding hand in the rebuilding. Unless they can feel this, I’m afraid they will not let it happen.” VFP

The Socialist King

“Every fury on earth has been absorbed in time….as authority in one form or another. The deadliest blow the enemy of the human soul can strike is to do fury honor. Swift, Blake, Beethoven, Christ, Joyce, Kafka, name me a one who has not been thus castrated. Official acceptance is the one unmistakable symptom that salvation is beaten again. And is the one surest sign of fatal misunderstanding, and is the kiss of Judas”

— James Agee,  Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, 1941.

By Michael Romain

Screenshot 2014-01-20 at 2.23.25 PM

fter the bill that would make possible Martin Luther King Day passed the House of Representatives in 1983 by 53 votes, North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms first filibustered the legislation for 16 days, then presented a 400-page brief alleging that King was a communist. Helms, a tried and true racist, understood King’s fury much more intimately than do most of us honoring him today. Which is to say, Helms understood viscerally what King meant, what he stood for, which is why he abhorred him. King wasn’t a communist, but it was just the same for someone like Helms, whose free market conservatism complemented a cultural and social conservatism that utilized racism as a tool for undermining the labor movement.

If you were like Helms and believed that poor workers are individually responsible for their fates, but shouldn’t take pains to change the system that routinely exploits them; that blacks should just be grateful that they had the fortune to be shipped to America and let sleeping dogs lie; and that egregious economic inequality is necessary for the capitalist system to thrive, then King’s message that racial equality should be coterminous with economic equality was dangerous indeed.

And if you’re someone like Paul Ryan, who believes that ending unions and cutting food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Social Security will somehow help poor people in this country; or Mitt Romney, who believes that, even with the majority of wealth hoarded by the top one percent of the population, almost half of the country is comprised of freeloaders; or even a black prosperity preacher who holds his extravagance up as an object lesson to his congregation of aspiring consumers that ‘you too can have what I have if only you believe’–then Dr. King’s message is still dangerous.

But as James Agee so brilliantly noted, when we turn prophets and rebels who were threats to the established order in their heydays into saints and figureheads–we only aid the enemies of humanity who wish to purge the world of its prophetic and rebellious elements. We deal a great collective blow to King’s legacy every time we honor him as the man who gave the famous speech about his dream of a Utopia where whites, blacks, Jews and Gentiles shop together in harmony and live in colorblind suburban subdivisions and socialize in colorblind internet chat rooms and on colorblind dating sites and where every citizen, no matter his or her race, has the right to be equally overworked, underpaid, chronically sick, indebted and bored.

At the time of his assassination, King’s vision was comprised less of a post-racial Utopian dreamscape than a resounding prophetic indictment of a postwar economy built less on the most important needs of the majority of its citizens than on a morally empty ethic of consumption; a class-oriented society that utilized racism as a wedge to drive workers apart and prevent them from organizing in their best interests; and the often reckless, evil nature of America’s Cold War-style imperialism, most elaborately illustrated in the case of Vietnam. If you condensed the whole of King’s mature prophetic thought into a word or two and gave it a name, you wouldn’t do much better than to call it socialism.

Toward the end of his life, King’s allegiance to this radical social vision had taken its toll. As Michael Eric Dyson writes in his luminous ‘biocriticism’ of King, I May Not Get There With You:

“King paid dearly for his inevitable betrayal of Southern white interests, capitalist ideology, and black bourgeois beliefs. Financial support for his civil rights organization dwindled. Moral support for his war on economic inequality waned. And his antiwar protests caused him to be denounced by other black leaders. In 1967, for the first time in a decade, King’s name was left off the Gallup Poll list of the ten most admired Americans.”

In August 1965, at the Voting Rights Act signing ceremony held at the White House, President Johnson was “noticeably frosty” to King, notes Dyson. That’s because King had by then become a rather vocal opponent of Johnson’s conduct of the Vietnam War. Many black civil rights leaders thought King was wading into territory on which he was unfit and unqualified to comment.

President Johnson’s close friend, Thomas Dodd (father of longtime Democratic U.S. Senator and current lobbyist Chris Dodd), undressed King as “having ‘absolutely no competence’ in foreign policy and charged King with violating the Logan act prohibiting private negotiations with foreign powers.”

The President himself was a lot less formal, referring to King as “that goddamned nigger preacher.”Johnson felt King’s fury and told him so during what would become one of their last conversations. Johnson confessed that the reverend’s criticism of the Vietnam War “had the same effect on Johnson as if he had discovered that King had raped his daughter.”

King’s 1966 Chicago Campaign was met with similar criticism not only from the city’s white establishment, but also from many black preachers, who considered King’s presence too threatening for comfort. In 1965, after Rev. Clay Evans, pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church on the South Side, opened his pulpit to Dr. King (one of the few black preachers courageous enough to do so),  the bank loaning his church money to construct a new sanctuary withdrew the loan because the bank’s executive, a white man, considered King a troublemaker.

President Kennedy was so leery of King’s alleged communist associations–back then, prominent black leaders didn’t have to do much to attract the suspicion of being communist–that on May 20, 1963, during a White House meeting on civil rights, the President said, “King is so hot that it’s like Marx coming to the White House.” A month later, still nursing suspicions (which were not without substance) that two of King’s advisers–Jack O’Dell and Stanley Levison–were members of the Communist Party, President Kennedy and his brother Bobby urged the popular minister to get rid of the associates. King refused, prompting Attorney General Robert Kennedy to authorize the infamous wiretapping.

King’s stubborn resolve, despite the consequences, to his idea of democratic, or Christian, socialism had developed since childhood. Thomas F. Jackson, in From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Economic Justice, documents King Sr.’s “disdain for ‘slick businessmen’ who profited from housing segregation and the low wages they paid black workers. ‘The poor, black and white, were taught to hate each other,’ King Sr. recalled. ‘Businessmen made money from both.'”

In a sermon in 1940 to a Baptist association, King, Sr. quoted a scripture that’s perhaps central to the Social Gospel philosophy. King quoted “Jesus as he had quoted the prophet Isaiah in Luke 4:18: ‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and the recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.'” Daddy King’s son would carry this social Gospel with him throughout his intellectual development, adopting it to varying contexts and circumstances. And as King’s thinking matured, so would his conception of the prophet Isaiah’s directive.

When he got to Morehouse, King became somewhat infatuated by its president, Benjamin Mays, who wrote in 1940 that “a religion which ignores social problems will in time be doomed.’ King likely encountered the “dean of Negro leaders,” A. Phillip Randolph, the president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, vicariously through Randolph’s “Popular Front call to arms against global and American capitalism, fascism, and racism,” which the legendary labor leader issued at Morehouse while King was on campus.

According to Randolph, “Capitalism was turning into fascism to survive because ‘white and black, brown and yellow peoples’ were revolting globally against ‘property relations’ based on empire and coercion. ‘World financial materialism’ generated rampant militarism to protect the ‘economic spheres of influence, trade routes, and political suzerainty’ of imperial capitalist nations. The only alternative was socialism….”

Between 1948 and 1951, while attending Crozer Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, King’s social Gospel was influenced by his reading the work of Karl Marx over the 1949 Christmas break. According to Jackson, “J. Pious Barbour, a Baptist preacher, socialist, and family friend who welcomed King into his home for many conversations, recalled King’s growing conviction that ‘the capitalistic system was predicated on exploitation prejudice, [and] poverty.’ Marx got the economics of capitalism right and it was time for ‘a new social order,’ King told Barbour. ‘Capitalism carried the seeds of its own destruction,’ King wrote in his notes in the spring of 1951.”

King also read the works of Walter Rauschenbusch, particularly the 1907 book Christianity and the Social Crises. The great preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick’s paraphrasing of Rauschenbusch’s philosophy was “good enough for King to use in later writings and sermons: ‘Any religion which professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the social and economic conditions that scar the soul, is a spiritually moribund religion.'”

King’s discovery of what would become his favorite book on Ghandi, That Strange Little Brown Man Gandhiwritten by British cleric Frederick Fisher, opened him up to the inextricable linkage between imperialism and exploitative capitalism. Jackson quotes Fisher in describing that linkage, writing that Gandhi discerned “in ‘the system of war the seeds of its own destruction'” and perceived “‘in the private capital the destruction and subversion of spiritual values.'” 

King’s penchant for putting on what were literally acts of nonviolent social theater or high moral drama for the world to see was honed by reading about Gandhi’s examples. And there are many. Jackson writes, “King would have learned from Fisher that Gandhi made his vow of poverty while aiding striking Indian miners in South Africa…[Gandhi] was a ‘master dramatist’ on the world media stage, Fisher argues, describing the highly publicized Salt March of 1930 in defiance of Britain’s monopoly on salt production. King found the Salt March especially compelling.”

Although King would often mold his social Gospel to accommodate pragmatic concerns, his allegiance to what he would later himself term his ‘democratic socialism’ only strengthened as he aged. For instance, at times King could be mistaken for a Cold War liberal in his hope that “U.S. competition with the Soviets and Chinese Communists for the loyalties of the world’s ‘uncommitted peoples’ would compel the United States to end homegrown apartheid” and in his vocal denouncements of communism as a form of politics wherein the people are subordinated to an often oppressive state. King was a socialist, but he was no communist. Moreover, Michael Eric Dyson notes that King “never publicly admitted his democratic socialism for fear that it would alienate allies and give his enemies more ammunition to attack him.”

King’s socialist politics were perhaps most radicalized when he began to seriously confront the poverty of the Northern ghettos beginning in 1965. He couldn’t accept how a nation so wealthy and productive could tolerate such squalor and poverty. King’s philosophic answer to this paradox was rooted in democratic socialism. He demanded for a ‘revolution of values’ and a comprehensive restructuring of the economy–from one based on exploitative capitalism, egotistic individualism and the amoral profit motive to one based on broadly shared wealth, common values and justice for all (not just the few).

The King that died in Memphis on April 4, 1968, would have had much in common with the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Islamic protesters in Tahrir Square, the striking Walmart and McDonald’s workers and millions of others–angry and dispossessed. King’s message does not support castrated conceptions of colorblindness or the pure image of a moderate black preacher meek and mild. King’s democratic socialism was rooted in the fundamental protest against the notion that people can be free if you simply grant them civil rights on paper.

King’s conceptions of freedom and democracy weren’t all that ambiguous. We don’t get to superimpose our own meanings of the terms while interpreting “What King Meant.” There’s a right and a wrong way to do it. For guidance, we can start by taking King at his word:

“If you will judge anything here in this struggle, you’re commanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the worth and significance of those who are not in professional jobs, or those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight, that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity, and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth. One day our society must come to see this. One day our society will come to respect the sanitation worker if it is to survive. For the person who picks up our garbage, in the final analysis, is as significant as the physician. All labor has worth.” VFP