A Q&A with Joseph Rosenbloom: What urgent mission brought MLK to Memphis in 1968 even as he was on the verge of launching his Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, DC? What happened in Memphis before King was fatally shot there on April 4? Redemption answers the questions more vividly and completely than any other published account.
By Martin Luther King, Jr.: As you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” I would take my mental ﬂight by Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magniﬁcence, I wouldn’t stop there. I would move on by Greece, and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality.
In the thirty-one hours leading up to his assassination on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was under extraordinary pressure. He was trying to redeem his reputation as a nonviolent leader of the civil rights movement after a march he’d led days earlier turned into a riot. At the same time, he was just launching his Poor People’s Campaign in Memphis, TN. Former investigative reporter Joseph Rosenbloom vividly recreates his final hours in Redemption: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Last 31 Hours. While revealing the physical and emotional toll the movement was taking on King, Rosenbloom introduces us to the cast of characters surrounding him. Meet the people who played key roles in the fateful hours of our nation’s foremost civil rights leader.
By Larissa Pienkowski: As the recent Women’s March(es), #MeToo movement, and countless global strikes and walkouts have made clear, women all over the world are responding to a globally fraught climate loudly and fearlessly. Some of these women take action through grassroots organizing and direct-action tactics, and some define survivorship for themselves through the arts—and still others resist by dedicating their careers and lives to fields that have been traditionally dominated by men.
By Martin Luther King, Jr.: As I came in tonight, I turned around and said to Ralph Abernathy, “They really have a great movement here in Memphis.” You are demonstrating something here that needs to be demonstrated all over our country. You are demonstrating that we can stick together and you are demonstrating that we are all tied in a single garment of destiny, and that if one black person suffers, if one black person is down, we are all down. I’ve always said that if we are to solve the tremendous problems that we face we are going to have to unite beyond the religious line, and I’m so happy to know that you have done that in this movement in a supportive role. We have Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, members of the Church of God in Christ, and members of the Church of Christ in God, we are all together, and all of the other denominations and religious bodies that I have not mentioned.
By Gayatri Patnaik: I had the very good fortune to meet Dr. Mary Frances Berry (MFB) when I was twenty-one years old and working at the University of Pennsylvania. Having recently graduated from college with one major and an excessive number of minors (three!), I was undecided about what to pursue in graduate school. I ended up in Philly, working in Penn’s history department, where, in addition to supporting the professors administratively, I was allowed to sit in on classes and lectures.
Women’s History Month not only celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political accomplishments of women. It reminds us that history is in the making, at this very moment, as the fight for intersectional gender equity continues. We must engage with the struggle to make the just society we want a reality. To that end, we offer the following list of recommended reading from our catalog for your perusal.
By Martin Luther King, Jr.: There are times, and I must confess it very honestly as many of us have to confess it as we look at contemporary developments, that I’m often disenchanted with some segments of the power structure of the labor movement. But in these moments of disenchantment, I begin to think of unions like Local 1199 and it gives me renewed courage and vigor to carry on . . . and the feeling that there are some unions left that will always maintain the radiant and vibrant idealism that brought the labor movement into being. And I would suggest that if all of labor would emulate what you have been doing over the years, our nation would be closer to victory in the ﬁght to eliminate poverty and injustice.
A Q&A with Annelise Orleck and Liz Cooke: On March 25, 2011, I stood in the Great Hall of the People in New York’s Cooper Union, where I had helped to organize the hundredth anniversary commemorations of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the disaster that killed 146 young workers and changed for a long time the way that US government agencies related to issues of workplace safety. We wanted to be sure that those who attended that day understood that while Triangle changed much for the better in the US for a long time, now workplace conditions had started to erode again, that there were still millions worldwide who worked in jobs that threatened their safety and even their lives.
By David L. Hudson, Jr.: Student activists engaged over the battle for civil rights and war protests changed the course of American history. Today, this feeling of student activism seems to be returning—its latest iteration inspired by the horrors of mass school shootings. To have their voices heard, students exercise their First Amendment freedoms of expression to speak out against a failure to change gun laws, petition government officials to amend laws, and assemble together peaceably to amplify their voices and concerns.
Black History Month is the time that connections need to be made between the ancestors of Black heritage and the living inheritors. As educator Christopher Emdin wrote on our blog, the stories of past battles should never be told as if they are over or conquered. The stories are alive and playing out today. The connections are more powerful when they’re grounded in the context of history. In the spirit of Emdin’s observations, we’re offering a list of recommending reading to bridge the past with the present.
By Martin Luther King, Jr.: We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. Alfred Adler, the great psychoanalyst, contends that this is the dominant impulse. Sigmund Freud used to contend that sex was the dominant impulse, and Adler came with a new argument saying that this quest for recognition, this desire for attention, this desire for distinction is the basic impulse, the basic drive of human life, this drum major instinct.
By Paul Ortiz: Racial capitalism is an economic system first theorized by Cedric Robinson building upon the work of the radical sociologist Oliver Cromwell Cox. As historian Robin D. G. Kelley noted, Robinson argued that capitalism in its earliest and subsequent iterations was dependent upon and entwined with “slavery, violence, imperialism, and genocide.” Through the twenty-first century, capital continues to generate “racial differences” between sectors of the working class in order to better exploit workers.
A Q&A with Mary Frances Berry: Black women going public about rape is not new. Harriet Jacobs, in her 1861 autobiography, denounced her rape by her master. Ida B. Wells, in 1892, denounced the rape of Black women and girls by white men in her newspaper along with the lynching of Black men for false accusations of raping white females. Other Black women, including Anna Julia Cooper and Fannie Barrier Williams, also sounded the alarm. The files of the Justice Department and the NAACP contain complaints of the rape of Black women throughout the Jim Crow Era. Recy Taylor, like Harriet Jacobs, went public and spoke out about her own rape by six white men.
“It is our common tragedy that we have lost [Martin Luther King, Jr.’s] prophetic voice but it would compound the tragedy if the lessons he did articulate are now ignored.” So wrote Coretta Scott King in the forward of Dr. King’s final book Where Do We Go from Here, his analysis of American race relations and the state of the movement after a decade of civil rights efforts. Each year, we honor his life and his legacy on his birthday. 2018 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death—a time for us to take account of our troubled times and truly pay attention to the message of his lessons.
2017 has been ragged and turbulent, charged with a fraught political climate spawned by a divisive presidential election. 2017 witnessed assaults on progress in racial justice, backlashes against environmental protections, and more. When we needed perspective and lucid social critique on the latest attacks on our civil liberties, our authors were there. We couldn’t be more thankful for them. They make the Broadside, which reached its tenth anniversary this year, the treasure trove of thought-provoking commentary we can turn to in our troubling and uncertain times. As our director Helene Atwan wrote in our first ever blog post, “It’s our hope that Beacon Broadside will be entertaining, challenging, provocative, unexpected, and—maybe above all—a good appetizer.” We certainly hope that’s the case for the year to come. Before 2017 comes to a close, we would like to share a collection of some of the highlights of the Broadside. Happy New Year!
By Martin Luther King, Jr.: This Christmas season finds us a rather bewildered human race. We have neither peace within nor peace without. Everywhere paralyzing fears harrow people by day and haunt them by night. Our world is sick with war; everywhere we turn we see its ominous possibilities. And yet, my friends, the Christmas hope for peace and goodwill toward all men can no longer be dismissed as a kind of pious dream of some utopian. If we don’t have goodwill toward men in this world, we will destroy ourselves by the misuse of our own instruments and our own power.
With the release of The Post, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, the story of the Pentagon Papers has rekindled public conversation about the importance of a free press. The papers divulged the history and facts of the United States’ political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967, which were kept a secret from the nation until Daniel Ellsberg leaked copies of the papers to the New York Times to publish as excerpts in June of 1971. The Washington Post began printing excerpts as well. The film’s release couldn’t have come at a more relevant time. Its historical dramatization of how an administration tried to stop the paper from printing parts of the reports speaks to what we see happening now: a president openly attacking news outlets and making accusations of “fake news.”
With the anticipation of a mouth-watering feast and time away from the office to lounge with family and friends, Americans come together for Thanksgiving. It’s the holiday where conversations about our national origins abound. But much of the US’s widely accepted origin story is skewed by the lens of settler colonialism and has silenced the voices of Native Americans. With Native American Heritage Month, observed every November since 1990, we can reflect on the history and contributions of Indigenous peoples. “Writing US History from Indigenous peoples’ perspective requires rethinking the consensual narrative,” historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz tells us in An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. “That narrative is wrong—not in facts, dates and details—but rather in essence.”
The recognition represented a profound, heartfelt act of retrospective justice, because Lay had been unjustly disowned in the first place. It was a symbolic rejection of what a previous slave-owning generation of Quakers had done and it was simultaneously an affirmation that Benjamin Lay’s values matter to the Abington congregation, in the present and for the future. I learned during my research that Lay dearly loved his fellow Quakers—at least those who did not own slaves—and that his exclusion was terribly painful to him. It was therefore deeply touching, 279 years later, to know that he has been brought back into the fold. This act would have meant everything to him.