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Letter from a Lovelorn Pre-Radical: Looking Forward and Backward at Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Kevin Bruyneel

Abstract

In July 1952, 23-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. made the following statement: “So today capitalism has outlived its usefulness. It has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.”1 He did not say these words from the pulpit nor during one of the many political speeches he gave during his lifetime. He did not write them for a newspaper editorial nor any document produced for public consumption, such as his 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” But he did write them in a letter. It was a private letter to Coretta Scott, whom he had started dating earlier that year. The King, who wrote this letter, had just finished his first year of graduate school at Boston University and he was serving as the associate pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He was not yet Dr. King. He was not yet the public, political figure whose status and popularity in the dominant American collective memory is equal to, if not greater than, the nation’s most exalted presidents. Tracing King’s popularity from its lows to its present highs reveals that the transformation of King’s status in US history and in the nation’s collective memory is startling.

Keywords

Public Life Collective Memory Private Sphere Public Realm Private Realm 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 5.
    James Scott. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992): 4, 2.Google Scholar
  2. 14.
    Hannah Arendt. The Human Condition (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1958): 178.Google Scholar
  3. 15.
    Martin Luther King Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 23, 1963. Birmingham, AL. This letter can be accessed at The Martin Luther King Research and Education Institute website, sponsored by Stanford University. http://mlkkpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/resources/article/annotated_letter_from_birmingham/ (accessed: May 3, 2013).Google Scholar
  4. 16.
    King. “Where Do We Go from Here,” Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 10th Annual Convention, August 16, 1967. This letter can be accessed at The Martin Luther King Research and Education Institute website, sponsored by Stanford University. http://mlkkpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/kingpapers/article/where_do_we_go_from_here/ (accessed: May 5, 2013).Google Scholar
  5. 17.
    King. “Where Do We Go from Here,” August 16, 1967.Google Scholar
  6. 18.
    Nancy Hirschmann. The Subject of Liberty: Toward a Feminist Theory of Freedom (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003): 41.Google Scholar
  7. 19.
    King. “Where Do We Go from Here,” August 16, 1967.Google Scholar
  8. Edward Bellamy. Looking Backward, 2000 to 1887 (public domain book, Kindle version): 119 (e-book page). First published in 1888 (Boston: Ticknor & Co.).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ron Scapp and Brian Seitz 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin Bruyneel

There are no affiliations available

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