Martin Luther King Jr.'s untold legacy

TechNews Writer
Mon Jan 23, 2023

Martin Luther King Jr. is known for many things. The American school system teaches about him in a way similar to the “What is Martin Luther King, Jr., known for?” button on Britannica. It seems he often only gets a day or two of lessons, often in early January, and the usual extent of those lessons discuss segregation and the “I have a dream” speech he gave in the 1960s.  Britannica, the American school system, and even many politicians praise him for his non-violent forms of protest. But these discussions examine only a small part of his activism, wholly separate from his politics and even many of his other speeches. “I have a dream” was about an America that had moved past racism, but few know about his plan to get to that America.

Most notably left out of the discussion was the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. was a socialist. In a letter to Coretta Scott, accessible via Stanford University’s King Institute, he self-proclaimed that he was “[...] more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic.”  He continued this rhetoric in future speeches, recognizing the failures of capitalism to meet the needs of the masses. Beyond theory, he was also a great ally of labor and socialist-aligned project ideas, organizing against the imperialist war in Vietnam and advocating for free, advocating for open housing in Chicago, and marching on the picket line with striking workers.

It's also important to remember that Martin Luther King Jr. was not popular among Americans while he was alive. Segregation was an institution that had vested interests from politicians, Americans, and businesses alike. In 1966, a Gallup poll found that the politically charged Reverend was at a 32 percent approval rating, with 63 percent disapproving of him.  Even in 1958, before he had risen to complete national prominence, there was an attempt on his life via knife stabbing, perpetrated by a lady convinced that he was conspiring with communists against her, as reported by the New York Times. Local and state authorities were also aligned against Reverend King, as evidenced by the many times he was under custody of the state.

This hatred from many groups of Americans manifested itself in an infamous letter from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in 1963, accessible now after it was published by the New York Times in 2014. Internal memos within the agency had already marked Dr. King as a dangerous individual with regard to national security. I thoroughly recommend reading through the letter to readers who are okay with some sensitive themes, as it is riddled with blackmail obtained by government surveillance, in an attempt to get Martin Luther King to kill himself.



Appears in
2023 - Spring - Issue 1