Skip to content

Isa Keetley Blog Post for 10/21

I found MLK: Charismatic Leadership in a Mass Struggle to be very interesting, specifically the idea of a “King myth”. Earlier on in class we discussed and debunked certain myths pertaining to the origins of the US, however I never thought we would be discussing the myth of a man like MLK Jr. However, while reading, I found myself agreeing with what the author was saying. It’s very important to emphasize that the black rights and civil rights movements would have happened without MLK. I think that in schools particularly, MLK is depicted as this fearless man who without him we wouldn’t have achieved freedom and ended segregation in our nation. He was a great man but he should not be idolized, the author writes, “Idolizing King lessens one’s ability to exhibit some of his best attributes or, worse, encourages one to become a debunker, emphasizing King’s flaws in order to lessen the inclination to exhibit his virtues,” which I believe is key to discussing King.

In Zinn’s “Or Does it Explode?” he discusses the government during these times and the steps they took to “help” the civil  rights movement. Zinn argues that the only goal of the government passing civil rights legislation wSa to “control an explosive situation” without making any real “fundamental changes” to society at large. This made me wonder what other sort of legislation has been passed to appease the people rather than to actually reform society. Obviously now, the Voting Rights Act and the rule that segregation was unconstitutional are completely upheld in our legal system and generally supported in society, but at the time of implementation they were not. Have we seen this sort of pattern in other points in history?

Published inUncategorized


  1. Margot Roussel Margot Roussel

    I found it very interesting to think about how the civil rights movement would have happened without Martin Luther King Jr because it was a grass roots movement and was being organized by many women and men spread out across the nation. However, I do want to push back because I think every movement needs a leader to inform the masses and have there be a central narrative to keep the movement organized.

  2. Jeffrey Sprung Jeffrey Sprung

    I agree with Zinn’s argument that the United States government passed civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 1960s to appease the public, but did not act on the legislation they passed in order to make much-needed progress and change for Black Americans. One prime example of the ineffectiveness of civil rights legislation occurred in 1954 when 75% of school districts in the South remained segregated after the Brown vs. Board of Education case, which ruled against the segregation of schools.

  3. William Coben William Coben

    Similarly to Jeffrey, I also agree with Zinn’s argument that the government passed civil rights legislation to avoid backlash and distrust from the public; but didn’t prioritize or act on their passed legislation to better the lives of black and minority Americans in the country.

  4. Carly Cohen Carly Cohen

    I found it very interesting as well as concerning that the governments main goal of this time was to “control an explosive situation.” This outlook on civil rights is incredibly selfish and does not put the citizens of America first. The government should have made the rights of all citizens no matter their skin color a priority and not tried to beat around the bush making small changes that don’t really benefit anyone.

Leave a Reply