Preparations are underway for the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, which culminated with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s landmark “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Among newsworthy items, the King Center has announced some of their plans, which will include partnering with the National Park Service to bring commemorative events to the Lincoln Memorial and the King Memorial.
Commensurately, a parade of books will roll out this year. One of the first is, “Martin’s Dream, My Journey and the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., A Memoir” by Dr. Clayborne Carson. The author spoke yesterday at the National Archives.
Carson began by noting this was his first lecture on his book tour. He also described how his perspective of Dr. King differed from some others. He was just 19 when that record-size crowd gathered on the National Mall. They had come from all walks of life, and some walked a great distance to be there. Carson related how he took a bus and hitchhiked all the way from New Mexico.
To read Dr. Carson’s bio is to be quite impressed. He is an historian who has taught at Stanford University since the 1980s. He serves there as the founding director of the MLK Research and Education Institute. He has edited the King Papers Project, written books, papers and plays, advised for TV productions, helped design the King Memorial, and traveled across the world.
Back in 1985, however, when Coretta King called him on the phone, and asked him to become the Senior Editor of the King papers, he was completely surprised. He had not written anything about Dr. King, and moving from the Bay Area to Atlanta seemed a huge obstacle.
But now, Carson has a lifetime of being close to King in a way perhaps no one else has. As an African-American, he can relate to the barriers King and others faced, and still do. As someone who has traveled the world to bring King’s message, he has a powerful wealth of experience.
Carson read from one the chapters of his new book. I’m not a big fan of this practice, but thankfully he stopped a few times to clarify points, and also pointed out that Julian Bond was in attendance. Carson also said he believe that the first time King used the Dream metaphor was in 1959 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
The Q&A was good, especially one lady who asked about the parts of his manuscript that the editor insisted on cutting out. Historians often shy away from sentiment, but I think the audience enjoyed it the most when he revealed his own humanity and struggles.
The desire within the King community is to parlay the 50th anniversary of The March on Washington into a more global perspective of King’s legacy. Carson’s book certainly fits right in with those goals, and is essential reading for the countdown to August 28.