Is Martin Luther King’s Message Relevant Today?

Apr 04 2008 Published by under Featured News

On April 6 at 8 PM ET/PT, the History Channel will mark the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King by airing a two hour special hosted by Tom Brokaw titled KING. What makes this special different from the countless others that have been done about Martin Luther King is that it will feature an interview with Martin Luther King III where he discusses carrying on his father’s legacy through a new anti-poverty campaign called, “Realizing the Dream.” The special will feature interviews from both close King confidantes such as Andrew Young, and others including Former President Bill Clinton, Harry Belafonte, Chuck D, Forest Whitaker.

Host Tom Brokaw said, “With every passing year we have a greater understanding of the magnitude of Dr. King’s achievements and the historic place he occupies in the pantheon of American heroes. As a young reporter in the South I was witness to his courage and his oratorical genius in the face of often violent resistance to the idea that every American should have equal rights. Revisiting that time and his place in it has been a deeply rewarding experience.”

Since his death, there have been numerous books and specials about King, but almost all of them have been solely historical in their focus. The interesting question is, how much of Dr. King’s message still applies to America today? We have an African American as the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination, but as recently as 2004 a black family earned 58% of what a white family did. Fewer blacks graduate high school than whites (Although this gap has narrowed).

All too often these specials treat King’s message as if it is a piece of history. I think that as the gap between the haves and have nots continue to reach record levels in our society, King’s message about poverty is more relevant now than ever before. It will be interesting to see if this new special will tackle the tough questions, or will it cover the same old historical ground? Judging from Tom Brokaw’s quote, I am betting on the latter, which is a shame because there is a relevant discussion here that would be well worth engaging in.

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