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?