Chamblee54

Dr. King And Mr. King

Posted in History, Library of Congress, Race, The English Language by chamblee54 on April 15, 2016

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PG stumbled onto a blog post about a speech. It was delivered August 28, 1963, by Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. You have probably heard the money quote many times, but how many have heard the entire 881 words. PG had not, and decided to take a look.

The speech is really a sermon. It is delivered with the cadence, and rhetorical flourishes, of the church. Dr. King was a minister. The Jesus worship church is a huge player in African America. The fact that slaves were introduced to this religion by their owners seems to be forgotten.

The term used is Negro. This was the polite word in 1963. The custom of saying Black started in the late sixties, at least partially inspired by James Brown. Negro began to be seen as an insult, along with the infamous N-word … which is really just a lazy way of saying Negro.

As the speech is working up to the climax, there is a line “But not only there; let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia!” Today, Stone Mountain is a middle class black community. DeKalb County is mostly black, and the political leadership is African American. This was a long way from happening in 1963.

Twelve weeks after Dr. King gave his speech, President John Kennedy was killed. Part of the reaction to this tragedy was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The next year saw the Voting Rights Act, and escalation of the war in Vietnam. It seemed that for every step forward, there was a half step back. People lost patience with non violence. America did not implode, but somehow survived. It is now fifty three years later.

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The other day PG stumbled onto a blog post, about a speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This address was deemed “the singularly most-important speech on race in the history of this country.”

PG admires Dr. King. He is also suspicious of superlatives. There were some comments made by Rodney Glen King III. The comments by Mr King were briefer, and tougher to live up to.

While thinking of things to write about, PG realized that he had never seen the actual quote by Mr. King. It is embedded above. When you see this video, you might realize that Mr. King has been misquoted. The popular version has him saying “Can’t we all just get along.” He did not say just.

Mr. King was known to America as Rodney King. His friends called him Glen. His comments, at 7:01, May 1, 1992, went like this:
““People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids? . . . Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it.”
The circumstances of the two comments could not be more different. Dr. King was giving the sermon of his life. There was an enormous crowd, both in person and on TV. His comments were scripted, rehearsed, and delivered with the style that he was famous for.

Mr. King, by contrast, had just seen the officers who beat him acquitted. Cities from coast to coast were in violent upheaval. Mr. King was speaking to reporters without benefit of a speech writer. What he said might be more important. This double repost has pictures from The Library of Congress.

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