…Almost 50 years after his death, we remember MLK as the transcendent figure who helped lift the South out of Jim Crow. We also remember him as almost preternaturally calm in the face of great pressure and danger. […] He was a young man, still in his 30s—foisted onto the national stage with actors many years or decades his senior, suspect in the eyes of both younger and older civil rights leaders—and the burdens of leadership took their toll on him. […]
Since the age of 26, King had lived a mercilessly public life. He spent as much time, if not more, in airports and hotel rooms as he did at home with his wife and children. He faced relentless pressure to raise money, mediate internecine disagreements within the movement, speak before local civil rights groups and act as the national spokesman and government liaison for the black freedom movement. It was not the life that he chose. Rather, it was the life that chose him.
On his birthday, Americans celebrate King’s accomplishments and commemorate his martyrdom. It bears remembering, too, that he struggled with the role he played. And that he willingly surrendered life’s comforts—small and large—to give himself wholly to a country that didn’t, in his brief time here, fully appreciate him.
~ Joshua Zeitz, excerpts from The MLK History Forgot
Cover Source: The New Yorker by Kadir Nelson, a Los Angeles-based artist who painted this week’s The New Yorker cover, a tribute to the civil-rights leader. “My image is a celebration of Dr. King and his vision. What happened to his dream of racial and economic equality, and what is the impact of non-violent resistance over half a century later? It’s a conversation between the past, the present, and the future.”