King and Perkins

April 04, 2011

Today marks the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Although his civil rights work is well known, that was just part of this struggle as he argued that the evils of economic exploitation and war were tied up with that of racism. King also has an important legacy on issues of religion and politics, as I argued in a piece earlier this year (and in my new book Presidential Campaign Rhetoric in an Age of Confessional Politics).

Recently, I read the book All Labor has Dignity, which is a collection of King's speeches on economic justice that was edited by Michael Honey. It offers a fascinating look at a side of King we often do not hear about today, which is unfortunate since King's prophetic voice is just as challenging on these issues as it was on civil rights. In fact, his arguments about economic justice continue to resonate with today's problems, as Benjamin Todd Jealous of the NAACP and Mary Kay Henry of the SEIU argue in a Washington Post column today.

Another challenging and excellent book I have recently read is Let Justice Roll Down by John Perkins. Raised by bootleggers, Perkins saw his brother die after being shot by a white police officer. Yet, rather than living a life of hate, Perkins became a Christian and a civil rights advocate. His autobiography is powerful as he tells of being nearly beaten to death by police and how he continued to press forward with love and hope.

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