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The Meaning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day



Are we at last one nation, with liberty and justice for all? In this ebook, we reflect on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, and assess their efforts to overcome racial discrimination and to promote racial equality and integration. The first chapter explores the origins and traditions of the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration, with particular attention to the American character of the holiday. The second chapter presents powerful accounts of the black American experience during the era of racial segregation with a focus on showing the need for civil rights. The third chapter brings us to the Civil Rights Movement itself, evaluating the goals, strategies, and tactics of the Movement’s various leaders. The final chapter raises questions about the challenging and vexed issues left open in the wake of the successes of the Civil Rights Movement: equality; family, religion, and culture; and identity.

Each selection includes a brief introduction by the editors with guiding questions for discussion. Also unique to this collection is a never before published letter by coeditor Leon R. Kass about his and his wife Amy’s experience working with civil rights activists in Mississippi during the summer of 1965.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day: An American Holiday
The Origins and Traditions of Martin Luther King Jr. Day
A Brief History of the Civil Rights Movement
Dwight D. Eisenhower, “On the Situation in Little Rock
Lyndon B. Johnson, “To Fulfill These Rights”
Stevie Wonder, “Happy Birthday”
Ronald Reagan, Remarks on Signing the Bill Making the Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. a National Holiday
William Jefferson Clinton, Remarks on Signing the King Holiday and Service Act
Barack Obama, Remarks at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Dedication

The African American Experience and the Need for Civil Rights
Frederick Douglass, “The Civil Rights Cases”
W. E. B. Du Bois, “On Being Crazy”
Booker T. Washington, “My View of Segregation Laws”
W. E. B. Du Bois, “Of the Coming of John,” from The Souls of Black Folk 
James Baldwin, “Stranger in the Village,” from Notes of a Native Son
Ralph Ellison, “The Battle Royal,” from Invisible Man
Zora Neale Hurston, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me”
James Baldwin, From Notes of a Native Son
Langston Hughes, “One Friday Morning”
John O. Killens, “God Bless America”
Junius Edwards, “Liars Don’t Qualify” 

The Civil Rights Movement
The Movement and Its Goals
Freedom Songs
    “Lift Every Voice and Sing”
    “Onward, Christian Soldiers”
    “We Shall Overcome”
    “This Little Light of Mine”
    “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize”
    “Oh, Freedom”
Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream”
   LESSON PLAN: Anne Continetti, Key Themes in the “I Have a Dream” Speech
Diane Oliver, “Neighbors”
Zora Neale Hurston, Letter to the Orlando Sentinel
Martin Luther King Jr., “Eulogy for the Martyred Children”
Leon R. Kass, Letter on the Civil Rights Movement
Martin Luther King Jr., “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” 

Movement Tactics and Strategy
Martin Luther King Jr., “The Power of Nonviolence” 
   Appendix: “Commitment Card”
Lee Martin, “The Welcome Table”
Anthony Grooms, “Food That Pleases, Food to Take Home”
A Group of Clergymen, “A Call for Unity”
Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
Joseph H. Jackson, Address to the 1964 National Baptist Convention
Malcolm X, “The Ballot or The Bullet”
Diana Schaub, “Solve for X”

Civil Rights, Race, and the American Republic: Today and Tomorrow
Racial Discrimination and Affirmative Action
Earl Warren, Brown v. Board of Education
John G. Roberts, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District
Shelby Steele, “Affirmative Action,” from The Content of Our Character

The Pursuit of Equality
Kurt Vonnegut Jr., “Harrison Bergeron” 
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action”

Family, Religion, and Culture
Juan Williams, From Enough
Cornel West, “The Moral Obligations of Living in a Democratic Society”
Gerald Early, “Dreaming of a Black Christmas”
Alice Walker, “Everyday Use”

Henry Louis Gates Jr., “Growing Up Colored” 
John McWhorter, “How Can We Save the African-American Race?,” from Losing the Race
Stephen L. Carter, “The Black Table, the Empty Suit, and the Tie”
Shelby Steele, “Race-Holding,” from The Content of Our Character

ABOUT THE COVER: James Karales, Selma-to-Montgomery March 1965

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