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Blog Post 10/20

I find it interesting how King has almost become an American myth.  Carson mentions how MLK is a, “Black counterpart to the static, heroic myths that have embalmed George Washington as the Father of His Country and Abraham Lincoln as the Great Emancipator.”  I feel like it has gotten to the point where like Lincoln and Washington, we really aren’t taught what they actually did.  King is typically viewed as the “leader” of the Civil Rights Movement, however, “The myth emphasizes the individual at the expense of the black movement, it not only exaggerates King’s historical importance but also distorts his actual, considerable contribution to the movement.”  Carson mentions how many actions taken by Civil Rights activists are seemingly viewed as at the directive of Dr. King.  

Many of the activists looked up to King, but many other important leaders are overlooked because of his portrayal.  For example, “Local black leaders such as E.D. Nixon, Rosa Parks, and Jo Ann Robinson started the bus boycott before King became the leader of the Montgomery Improvement Association.”  This is detrimental to the Civil Rights Movement as a whole, because it’s important to recognize all the sacrifices these people made, not just Dr. King.  Carson uses the examples of the sit-ins and bus boycotts, MLK was not a leader of either of these actions, yet he gets credit as leading them.  

King’s importance however should not be discredited.  While he should certainly not be considered the sole leader of the Civil Rights Movement he was certainly an important figure.  The Civil Rights Movement’s success was in large part due to, “King’s wide range of skills and attributes prepared him to meet the internal as well as the external demands of the movement.”  King can definitely get credit for being an excellent leader, and he was able to mobilize both white and black people to support the movement.

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4 Comments

  1. Margot Roussel Margot Roussel

    I agree with you that it is important to not idolize King and instead recognize that he is just a man and that their were other Civil Rights leaders that helped push the movement forward. Additionally, the reading made the argument that when we treat King like a god people soon start looking for faults and I have seen this happen. Frequently when people mention King someone else mentions that he cheated on his wife. This kind of narrative is exactly what the article said would happen.

  2. Jeffrey Sprung Jeffrey Sprung

    I agree with Zinn’s point that the understanding of Martin Luther King’s efforts in the Civil Rights Movement are exaggerated by the American people, similarly to how the American people overestimate Washington’s efforts of gaining the United States freedom from Britain and Lincoln’s efforts of emancipating slaves. Although I recognize that MLK’s efforts in the Civil Rights Movement are overemphasized, I completely agree with your point that MLK should still be viewed as one of the greatest heroes and leaders in the history of the United States.

  3. William Coben William Coben

    i agree with Zinn’s argument that state MLK wasn’t necessarily all that the United States’ population made him out to be. Zinn consistently does a good job recognizing that there is much more to history than the knowledge of the common person, and that idea applies here as well. Zinn’s argument is very reminiscent of the arguments that he made about Washington and his contributions to the American independence efforts: he was important but wasn’t the only one.

  4. Alexander Barnett Alexander Barnett

    I agree with you. I feel that all we get taught about the Civil Rights Movement is MLK as if he was the only one contributing. While I know MLK had a huge impact, it seems wrong to mislead people to believe he was the only leader during the time,

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