I was born in 1966, in a state which entered the Union in 1889, and thus had always been a “free” state; some of the founders came here because they couldn’t legally own land in other states. Yet state history included two of the most prominent counties being named in honor of the pro-slavery President Pierce and Vice President King.
I learned about the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr and the Civil Rights movement in school, along with the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII. The internment had a lot more “hometown punch” because I attended school with kids whose parents and grandparents had been interned, many of them losing everything in the process. Toss in that my town was overwhelmingly white and the Asian-Americans outnumbered African-Americans by a large margin, and it was easy to view Jim Crow as from another world. (It wasn’t.)
As an adult I discovered A Knock at Midnight, which is a collection of sermons preached by the Reverend King. In that book I discovered a persuasive and powerful voice, and the kind of preacher I wish I had known. Much of the memories of him today focus on his social justice work, but he was a Christian minister first, and his leadership came from that tradition. A Knock at Midnight is also online here. If you would like to discover the Reverend King in a different way, this might appeal to you.
Oh – in 2005 Washington’s King County was “renamed” in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.