I have very little direct memory of Dr. King. I remember when he was killed and, living in Alabama at the time, I remember the fear and uncertainty that followed. I also remember the hateful things that were said about him and his followers both before and after his death. It would have been very difficult to imagine there would eventually be a national holiday on his birthday.
I was just a ten-year-old boy trying to make sense of the world. I probably watched the newscast I’ve got linked below. My family, like most others in American, watched Walter Cronkite every night and, rightfully or wrongly, trusted him to tell us the truth. Somehow it was a comfort to get the worst of the news from Walter. He told us about Kennedy’s death, nightly updated the death toll of American soldiers in Vietnam, and here he was again with more bad news.
In the years that followed I began to trust the media less, to question the “truths” I was taught as a child and, with all that, to reassess the man who was Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s a long journey from George Wallace standing in the doorway to block integration of the University of Alabama to a national celebration of Dr. King’s birthday. We’ve got some things to be proud of as a nation. We’ve certainly got a long way to go on many fronts.
I think about race quite a bit. It’s hard not to for those of us who grew up in 1960s Alabama. Of course, I haven’t lived there in decades, so most of my current thoughts center on Knoxville, where I’ve lived for thirty years. I think we get pretty mixed marks on living up to Dr. King’s ideals for racial inclusiveness and equality. What do you think? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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