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.