What we don’t learn about Martin Luther King Jr.
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day – a federal holiday that was signed into law in 1983 and officially observed for the first time in January 1986. Today also eventually became a day of community and humanitarian service in honor of Dr. King’s statement that ‘everyone can be great because everybody can serve’. And in honor of Dr. King himself and his legacy, here are some things about Dr. King you might not know about.
State and federal surveillance has followed and tracked Martin Luther King, Jr., other prominent Civil Rights leaders, and Black Lives Matter supporters.
- J. Edgar Hoover was fanatically obsessed with taking Dr. King down and put a serious amount of man power behind that. It was to the point where the FBI seriously violated Dr. King’s privacy and the Bureau even tried to blackmail him into committed suicide.
- And this type of behavior isn’t limited to just Dr. King and has continued after Dr. King’s death. A group of activists in 1971 broke into an FBI field office and found documents that revealed an FBI counterintelligence program called COINTELPRO. This program did a whole lot of spying and dirty work against civil rights leader, critics of the FBI, activists, and many others.
- With that, Black Lives Matter supporters have also been targeted by state surveillance. A few months ago, it was discovered that the Criminal Justice Division of the Oregon Department of Justice had been tracking people who use the Black Lives Matter hashtag. And the NYPD seems to have also been crossing the line in its own Black Lives Matter Surveillance.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr worked on other issues as well. We so often associate Dr. King with the Civil Rights Movement and racial justice but he also worked on different issues.
- Dr. King was very much a Democratic Socialist. He was active in anti poverty work and wanted the government to eradicate poverty by providing a universal basic income – something he advocates for in his final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?
- He was also outspoken against the Vietnam War – his speech Beyond Vietnam was actually the most controversial one he made in his lifetime.
Coretta Scott King was an amazing activist and feminist in her own right.
- Mrs. King established The King Center in 1968 in Atlanta, Georgia as a living memorial and nonprofit dedicated to educating the world on the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Along with staff members of The King Center, Mrs. King spent years advocating and lobbying for a federal holiday to honor her late husband.
- Coretta King was also an early feminist and was involved in the fight for women’s rights along side racial justice. She played a significant role in the early years of the National Organization for Women and served as a commissioner on the National Commission of the Observation of International Women’s Year after being appointed by President Carter.
There’s so much more about Martin Luther King Jr, the people around him, and the Civil Rights Movement that we don’t usually learn in history class. And there are still plenty of myths about Dr. King that are unfortunately still present today. We (especially white people) need to have a more complete understanding of our history and the ways in which our government has been complicit in different things in order to not consistently repeat history. Bending and twisting history to downplay horrific and nasty parts of our history does nothing by attempt to alleviate our white guilt and it’s time that we as white people take action to help end the systemic white supremacy that this nation is built upon.