Posts Tagged ‘Jr.’

Maya Angelou complained – and stone gives way. Words on MLK Memorial to be fixed.

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Just plain wrong. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Remember that cliché?  “It’s practically etched in stone.”  Meaning, fixed, immutable, can’t ever be changed.

Not so, when it comes to the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial on the National Mall.

Back in September, Maya Angelou kvetched about King’s words on the statue, saying it made King sound like “an arrogant twit.”  She was right. And she wasn’t alone:  Martin Luther King III told CNN: “That was not what Dad said.”

Here’s what’s one of the inscriptions, placed on one side of the statue says:

“I was a drum major for justice peace and righteousness.”

Here’s what King said on Feb. 4, 1968, two months before he was assassinated, in a sermon at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church about a eulogy that might be given in the event of his death:

“If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

According to the Washington Post, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has given the National Park Service 30 days — because “things only happen when you put a deadline on it” — to consult with the King Memorial Foundation, family members and other interested parties and come up with a more accurate alternative.

“This is important because Dr. King and his presence on the Mall is a forever presence for the United States of America, and we have to make sure that we get it right,” Salazar said.

“Get out the chisel, Washington!” I wrote.  And believe it or not, they did.

Martin Luther King quote goes viral: Fake? Not really…

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

His quote ... kind of

This quote went viral on the internet, following the killing of Osama Bin Laden:

‎”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Penn Jillette:  Not him

Penn Jillette: Not him

The citation was attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr., but a number of people came forward to debunk it.  A Salon article attributed the quote to famous magician Penn Jillette. Megan McArdle of The Atlantic wrote, “Out of Osama’s Death, a Fake Quotation is Born.” But when I (silly me) posted the quotation on my Facebook page and heard about kerfuffle, I found someone who indeed attributed the quote to MLK’s 1963  Strength to Love.

Who better to ask than Clay Carson and the folks at Stanford’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, home of the King Papers Project?  The crackerjack editorial team responded within minutes.

Here’s the real quote, from “Loving Your Enemies,” in Strength to Love:

The mysterious Ms. Dovey

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

“Mangled to a meme in less than two days,” concludes McArdle in a follow up piece.  Ground Zero for the brouhaha is Jessica Dovey, a 24-year old Penn State graduate who now teaches English to kids in Kobe, Japan.  Her Facebook page had the King citation, introduced with her own musings.  The quotation marks got lost in a tweet.

But thanks, Jessica, we like the thought.

Big on quotes himself

Postscript:  Just got an email of clarification from Tenisha Armstrong of the King Institute:

Just to follow up: I have not been able to substantiate the first part of the quote, but that doesn’t mean King did not say it. I did find a King quote that expresses a similar sentiment:

“This story symbolizes something basic about the universe. It’s meaning is not found in the drowning of a few men, for no one should rejoice at the death or defeat of a human being.” King, draft of Chapter VIII in Strength to Love, “The Death of Evil upon the Seashore,” in Papers 6:507.

The published version of the quote was a little different: “The meaning of this story is not found in the drowning of Egyptian soldiers, for no one should rejoice at the death or defeat of a human being.” King, “The Death of Evil upon the Seashore,” in Strength to Love.


Postscript on 3/5:  The previously unknown Jessica Dovey, with a photo taken from her Facebook page,  gets a Q&A in The Atlantic here.  Of all things.

Postscript on 3/5:  Stan Szczesny commented on John Donne‘s famous “No Man Is an Island” passage from his sermons in the comments section below.  Tenisha Armstrong of the MLK Institute’s editorial team replied with the following:

Quotable John

Thanks, Stan. Your rememberance of this apt quote by John Donne reminds me of how frequently King quoted from Donne’s work. The Donne quote you posted is from “Meditations XVII” (1624). In King’s 1960 sermon, “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life,” a version of which King had preached as early as 1954, he discusses how everybody is “tied in a single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, where what affects one directly affects all indirectly.” Of Donne, King says:

“Strangely enough I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way the world is made; I didn’t make it that way, but it’s like that. And John Donne recorded it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: ‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.’ And then he goes on toward the end to say: ‘Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind. Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’ Only by discovering this are we able to master the breadth of life.”

Quote from Volume 5 of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Threshold of a New Decade,” January 1959-December 1960, p. 577.

So where, exactly, is Martin Luther King’s stuff?

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Happy birthday, Martin Luther King Jr. But where’s all your stuff?

The answer is a complicated one, and “a cautionary tale,” according to Elena Danielson, author of The Ethical Archivist and sometime contributor to the Book Haven.

Principally, problems arise when collections are seen as windfalls and brain bling, rather than social and cultural responsibilities.

Here’s Elena’s story:  MLK got his PhD from Boston University and met his future wife Coretta in Boston.  The transfer of his papers to Boston University began “by an exchange of letters, a once-common practice.”  King intended to make a loan or deposit, that would evolve into a gift.  The terms were never finalized.

After his assassination in 1968, the family established the King Center in Atlanta.  Most pre-1961 are in Boston; most post-1961 papers are in Atlanta.

The problem is, Boston University isn’t a hotspot for academic research on civil rights.  Its special collection is famous for collector the papers of Hollywood figures, who jostle with King on its website.

That’s not all, of course: hundreds of letters and bits of paper are all over the country, many held privately.  For example, Harry Belafonte had several major King documents.  He tried to sell them at public auction in 2008, but withdrew them under protest.

Martin and Coretta in 1964

Coretta King tried to get Boston’s papers back, beginning in 1987.   Could a lawsuit be far behind?  James O’Toole, an expert archives witness, recommended consolidating the collection in Atlanta, and testified that at least one item had been lost in Boston, and that the university had not provided the appropriate levels of professional care.

Boston University won the case.  “The decision was narrowly based on property law that treated archives as objects, no different from a dispute over the ownership of furniture,” Elena writes.

The situation worsened with Coretta King’s death in 2006.  The estate put a large collection of King papers up for auction at Sotheby’s – “The commodification of the King legacy directly threatened its integrity,” Elena writes.  Public outcry resulted in a $32 million fund to keep the papers in Atlanta, housed at Morehouse College.

Believe it or not, this tangled story has kind of a happy ending.  There was another strand of activity:  In 1985, Coretta King asked Clayborne Carson of Stanford to edit King’s papers for publication.  The multi-volume edition brings together the scattered texts for researchers – volume 1 came out in 1992, and several more have been published since (14 in all are planned).

Coretta and Clay at Stanford in 1986

Carson turned the limited funding to good use by hiring a regiment of student research assistants – that is, a new generation of researchers.  Technology has reunited the the collection with high-tech images.  The “virtual collection” at Stanford augments the published volumes.

Clay is an affable kind of guy, a natural uniter.  Maybe peace and reconciliation are contagious:  “After decades of divisive competition, threats of auctions, and obstructed access, curators in Boston and Atlanta are cooperating, as envisioned by the archival code of ethics.  If the program proceeds according to this vision, the results could be remarkable,” she writes.  “This kind of documentation gets to the core of history as it happened.”

Elena’s point:  Archival ethics are about more than academic nitpicking.  “When papers preserve the shared remembrance of society, they become a shared cultural heritage.  In these cases the traditional archival concept of respect for the integrity of the collection is something more than a professional technicality.  Remembering is a core value.”

Happy Martin Luther King Day, everybody.

Postscript: Just found this video — Clay Carson speaking on what MLK would say about the USA today. Enjoy.