Misremembering Dr. King
Revisiting the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
Published by: Indiana University Press
We all know the name. Martin Luther King Jr., the great American civil rights leader. But most people today know relatively little about King, the campaigner against militarism, materialism, and racism—what he called the "giant triplets." Jennifer J. Yanco takes steps to redress this imbalance. "My objective is to highlight the important aspects of Dr. King's work which have all but disappeared from popular memory, so that more of us can really 'see' King." After briefly telling the familiar story of King's civil rights campaigns and accomplishments, she considers the lesser-known concerns that are an essential part of his legacy. Yanco reminds us that King was a strong critic of militarism who argued that the United States should take the lead in promoting peaceful solutions rather than imposing its will through military might; that growing materialism and an ethos of greed was damaging the moral and spiritual health of the country; and that in a nation where racism continues unabated, white Americans need to educate themselves about racism and its history and take their part in the weighty task of dismantling it.
Introduction: Memory and Forgetting
The Misappropriation of Memory
1. What We Remember
Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement
Dr. King and Nonviolence
2. What We Forget: Dr. King's Warning about the "Giant Triplets"
3. Why It Matters
Whose Problem? White America's Special Responsibility
A Challenge for All of Us
"This important book reminds us of Dr. King's blueprint for changing the social political economic structure of our culture and shows us how we have adopted ways of being, seeing, believing, and living that go contrary to the core message of Dr. King. It is important that today's youth understand the gap between the annual media hype on his birthday with what Dr. King actually said. We have used the auditory splendor of his "I Have a Dream" speech to induce a sort of hypnosis that covers up the fact that Dr. King was talking about making major changes in the social, political, and economic relationships that exist in this country; he was talking about restructuring a system that produces poverty. Jennifer Yanco reminds us that in this speech, Dr. King spoke about America's check to its people—a check that was returned, marked 'insufficient funds.' She catalogues some of the costs to our society of failing to make sure there are sufficient funds to honor the check—in terms of housing, jobs, education, and other social goods. Jogging our memories about Dr. King can provide today's youth with guidance for rebuilding our society to focus on love and respect for one's neighbors and where we begin again to take on the challenge of creating the Beloved Community Dr. King spoke of."~Melvin H. King, Emeritus, Urban Studies and Planning, MIT, and Former Massachusetts State Representative
"Recalls a Dr. King more militant and pointed in his critique of American society . . . . For many readers this will be something of a shock."~Jack M. Bloom, author of Class, Race, and the Civil Rights Movement
"Yanco's important book is a reminder that when we raise a transformative figure to a pedestal, we mustn't overlook their most challenging beliefs, even (or especially) if those beliefs force us to realize how far we still have to go."~Biographile
"A succinct eighty-one-page reminder that Americans currently experience collective amnesia when it comes to Martin Luther King Jr."~H-Net
"A lucid and eloquent analysis of the ways that Martin Luther King, Jr.'s messages and historical record have been sanitized and distorted."~Julia Mongo, World Music Director, WMBR, Cambridge, Mass.
"Dr. King is one of the most celebrated great leaders the world has ever known. In his short life, he rose to become the main icon in the fight for justice, equality and non-violence. Yet, many of us, especially the younger generations, do not know who he was or what he really stood for. In this well written and evidence-based book, Jennifer Yanco takes us through the life and legacy of Dr. King. The book is a clear and eloquent analysis of Dr. King's work. It brings back the truth about Dr. King's messages and compels us to seriously consider how we should go forward. It sets off by reminding us of what we collectively now remember. Then what is forgotten, chiefly Dr. King's Warning about the 'Giant Triplets' - militarism, materialism, and racism. To close, she discusses why all of this matters and why we are all challenged to decide and work on 'where do we go from here: chaos or community'. This comes at a crucial time when fallacies, biased records and information, disseminated via traditional and social media, dominate. History is distorted and the future towards a 'Beloved community' made more and more hopeless. Despite changes in the US administration like the election and two terms of President Obama, we still live in a world where hopes are repeatedly shattered. The challenge then is whether to become jaded and totally give in or are we '... willing to reclaim the memory of Dr. King as fierce advocate for justice who spoke truth to power and had the courage to resist the lure of easy violence...' In the words of Vincent Harding, will we really see King?"