In history, we are taught to see Martin Luther King Jr. as a very important figure in the Civil Rights movement. In fact, he played one of the biggest roles, so we are taught. We know that he is a great leader, as he is very charismatic. One of the most important things he was able to do for the Civil Rights movement was communicate negro aspirations to white people. He was a controversial leader who challenged authority, but so were other people. In podcast 16, we learn that because Malcom X had prior connections to crime, MLK was seen as a better face for the movement. We also learn that Claudette Colvin was the first woman to refuse to move from the white section on a bus, not Rosa Parks. Colvin’s mother told her that Parks would be a better face for this movement because Parks was liked by white people; she had more straight hair, lighter skin, and wasn’t a teenager who got pregnant such as Colvin. While I have learned about Malcom X before, I had never heard Colvin’s name before this podcast. I am sure if I did more research on my own, I would have read about her, but I was never taught about her in my years of history. What I left wondering, is why do certain people get more attention than other’s? Maybe Rosa Parks was a better “face” for the movement, but it frustrates me that because Colvin didn’t look a certain way or have a perfect track record, she didn’t get any attention.
In Carson’s reading, it is discussed that if King never lived, eventually movement toward racial equality would have happened. This makes sense because all these other people had a role in the Civil Rights movement, but why then do they not get recognized. We know King is a charismatic leader, but Carson even tells us that King was very aware of his flaws. No one is perfect, so why does history teach us that King is this hero who had no flaws? Don’t get me wrong, he definitely did a lot for the movement, but we know other people did too.
One final thing that stood out to me in Carsons reading was a quote at the end. He writes, ” The notion that appearances by Great Men (or Great Women) are necessary preconditions for the emergence of major movements for social change reflects not only poor understanding of history, but also a pessimistic view of the possibilities for future social change.” Carson is basically saying that for social change to be possible, we don’t need someone who is “Great.” It can be someone who is ordinary, or has flaws. He also says that this belief that anyone who can lead social change has to be great, is a poor understanding of history. By this, Carson means that if that’s our belief, then we don’t have a full understanding of who leaders actually were. For example, we celebrate Columbus for coming to America, even though he forced Indigenous people off land that was theirs first. He’s not perfect, the same way most leaders in history aren’t perfect. This quote emulates the view that I took from today’s readings; not every leader is perfect, in fact some are far from it, but I am still left wondering why some people gain a heroic view in history, while others don’t.