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Blog Post 10/21 (Maggie Otradovec)

Langston Hughes asked “what happens to a dream deferred?” In the 1950s and 1960s, America found out: it explodes. This dream refers to aspirations of Black Americans who are suffering oppression. The civil rights movement is this explosion, the fight for equality and freedom from this oppression. Zinn describes the many faces and leaders of this movement throughout history, from Langston Hughes and other poets/writers (such as Countee Cullen, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Richard Wright) to Rosa Parks and Malcom X. Zinn also discusses Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most prolific leaders of the civil rights movement. 

Martin Luther King Jr. is inarguably one of the most influential people in American history. His actions led to great advancements in social justice for Black Americans, and his legacy lives on today as a sense of hope, more than just the national holiday or the monuments. Despite this, King was still just a man. He had faults, and he was a rather controversial leader, as described in Carson’s article, and the myths around him distort the real history.

Martin Luther King Jr. was not a “simplistic image designed to offend no one – 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,” (28). King did not single handedly lead the civil rights movement. Yes, he was wildly charismatic as a leader, but he was not the only one, and he wasn’t universally supported. Carson argues that King should be recognized “as a major example of the local black leadership that emerged as black communities mobilized for sustained struggles,” (31). He was a major player in the civil rights movement, but he was also just a man that was part of something greater than himself.

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  1. Margot Roussel Margot Roussel

    I really like your opening sentence. I think it is a nice play on the poems words and encompasses what happens during the time period. I do agree with your analysis that King is just a man and his greatness comes from being a part of something bigger than himself.

  2. Jeffrey Sprung Jeffrey Sprung

    I think Langston Hughes’ poem does an excellent job of alluding to and capturing the feelings of Black Americans during the Civil Rights Movement. Although I have read the poem before, I didn’t know that it referred to the rise (or explosion) of the Civil Rights Movement that occurred due to Black Americans dreams of equality and lack of oppression in the United States. Also, after reading the MLK article, I now understand that there were many other people responsible for the progress and success of the Civil Rights Movement. However, I will admit that it was strange to learn of this fact as I always perceived MLK as the hero and sole-driving force behind the success of the Civil Rights Movement due to his national holiday and infamous “I Have a Dream” speech.

  3. William Coben William Coben

    I agree with the last point that you mentioned that illustrates King’s importance but also talks about the unspoken heroes of the civil rights movement. History, along with sports, music, and many different things around the world tends to heroize one man rather than a collective group of individuals. Michael Jordan for example wouldn’t have been the champion he is without the guys that surrounded him, but he is the only one who is talked about. I believe that the same thing occurred in this instance. MLK was the hero and the face of the leadership, but there were many players that helped contribute to the victory.

  4. William Clifton William Clifton

    I find it so intriguing how we have such a misconception about the Civil Rights Movement. I really like how you talk about the relevance and value in what Martin Luther King did, but also talked about the people that are often forgotten. I think you can connect that to what we see in many parts of American history. They is always one person or group of people that gets remembered, yet often times we forget to share the other half of stories and of history.

  5. Carly Cohen Carly Cohen

    I agree that Martin Luther King Jr. was a piece of a big puzzle during the civil rights movement, however, I really believe he is a major piece. His impact goes far and beyond this time period, so we are made aware of how powerful he was as a leader. I do believe also that there were many invisible heroes during this time that did not get enough recognition.

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