Fifty years after the historic March on Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, many are reflecting on the King legacy.

David Levering Lewis writes in an update to the preface of his foundational work King: A Biography:

A half century beyond the March on Washington. . . . history should oblige Americans to pause to make an informed appreciation if the soaring democratic vision Martin Luther King shared with his nation that day in 1963. After fifty years of rote evocation of those lapidary phrases broadcast from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. it should not be too much to hope that something of the economics of empowerment implicit in “I Have A Dream” is heard above the thunder of ceremonial applause—that, as King charged, the Negro had been dealt a check “that came back ‘marked insufficient funds.’” If the deposit funds are still insufficient fifty years after the March on Washington and the Dream dreamt that long day, there are positive things to be said, nevertheless, about how far the nation has come. . . . More of us have also come to realize that the extreme inequalities under capitalism are ordained neither by God nor birth. For that wisdom we owe an incommensurable debt to Martin Luther King, Jr.

King: A Biography has just been released in a Third Edition.

 

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