bearing the cross

From the epilogue of “Bearing the Cross” by David J. Garrow:

“By idolizing those whom we honor, ” writes black educator Charles Willie, one of King’s Morehouse classmates, “we do a disservice both to them and to ourselves. By exalting the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr., into a legendary tale that is annually told, we fail to recognize his humanity – his personal and public struggles – that are similar to yours and mine. By idolizing those whom we honor, we fail to realize that we could go and do likewise.”

Christine Farris, Martin Luther King Jr’s sister says she wants to “help to demythologize one of our heroes.” “My brother”, she emphasizes, “was no saint,” but “an average and ordinary man.” Indeed, many of King’s colleagues worry, as Vincent Harding puts it, that people today are turning King into a “rather smoothed off, respectable national hero” whose comfortable, present-day image bears little resemblance to the human King or to the political King of 1965-1968.

Ella Baker aptly articulates the most crucial point, the central fact of his life which Martin King realized from December 5 in Montgomery until April 4 in Memphis: “The movement made Martin rather than Martin making the movement.” As Diane Nash says, “If people think that it was Martin Luther King’s movement, then today they – young people – are more likely to say, ‘gosh, I wish we had a Martin Luther King here today to lead us.’ … If people knew how that movement started, then the question they would ask themselves is, “What can I do?”

I could write quite a bit about vast swaths of content that I hadn’t the faintest clue about that involved Martin, but when I got the epilogue, it just so completely resonated with me I felt like solely focusing on that. I highly recommend the book too.

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