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At TIME, Prof. Kermit Roosevelt traces the evolution of MLK Jr.’s views on America through his speeches

January 19, 2022

Roosevelt maintains that King’s focus on Reconstruction should guide us forward.

The following is an excerpt from “How Martin Luther King, Jr. Changed His Mind About America,” an opinion piece written by Kermit Roosevelt, David Berger Professor for the Administration of Justice at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, for TIME:

More than fifty years after his death, Martin Luther King Jr. remains a towering figure in the history of American civil rights. As with most influential thinkers, there is a certain amount of ambiguity in the public understanding of King and his legacy. White Americans were very skeptical of King while he was alive, but as his reputation and popularity grew, advocates of very different positions tried to claim him for their own. Nowadays conservatives are fond of invoking his most famous speech, 1963’s I Have a Dream, with its vision of a world in where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Progressives are fonder of The Other America, a more radical speech from 1967, where he said that we may “have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words of the bad people and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say ‘wait on time.’”

Those two Kings are ones we know, but there are other Kings we need to listen to as well… . 

Read more at TIME.