Randall Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr.: The Prophet as Healer, Am. Prospect, Apr. 3, 2018, at 1.
Abstract: What should we focus upon in marking the 50th anniversary of this somber landmark? I suggest three things: the particulars of King's achievements as a liberal dissident; the trying circumstances he faced at the end of his life; and the virtues of his principal strategy and aim-coalition politics in the service of a decent, egalitarian, multiracial society. At the end of his career, then, King found himself assailed from the right and the left, from those who resented him for challenging pigmentocracy effectively, from those who alleged (mistakenly) that the civil rights movement had changed little on the ground, from those who complained that he had shown too little gratitude and loyalty to LBJ, and from those who charged that he did not adequately condemn American society. A vivid instance is the claim that King opposed affirmative action and kindred efforts to assist racially identified groups. On this side of the Second Reconstruction, having enjoyed for a generation the benefits won with heart-rending sacrifice by King and company, it is all too easy to forget or overlook that prior to the invalidation of de jure segregation, governments could lawfully separate people on a racial basis (which almost always meant consigning people of color to inferior facilities); that prior to the Civil Rights Act, people of color could lawfully be excluded from "private" public accommodations, work sites, hospitals, and unions; that prior to the Voting Rights Act, black voting was openly and brutally nullified by chicanery and violence in many places, including the very state-Alabama-that black voters recently rescued from the clutches of Roy Moore; that prior to Loving v. Virginia in 1967, all of the states of the former Confederacy made it a felony for blacks and whites to intermarry.