In celebration of the life and work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Assistant Professor of Political Science Justin Rose has written an article contextualizing the activist’s legacy in contemporary American society. Published by the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), Rose’s essay appeared online on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 21.
The AAIHS is a scholarly organization that fosters dialogue about researching, writing and teaching black thought and culture.
Rose began his tenure at the Colleges in 2013. Co-Director of the Africana Studies program at HWS, his scholarly interests include African-American political thought, contemporary political theories of justice and urban politics among other topics.
His forthcoming book, The Drum Major Instinct: Martin Luther King, Jr’s Theory of Political Service (University of Georgia Press, 2019) explores how King transformed the Christian notion of service into a politically salient concept. Additional works by Rose have been published by the University of Georgia Press and Contemporary Political Thought.
Martin Luther King Jr. on Making America Great Again
By: Justin Rose
On February 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. stood before the congregation of Ebenezer Baptist Church, and preached his final sermon there—“The Drum Major Instinct.” Ominously, King admitted that he occasionally thought about “life’s final common denominator—that something we call death.” King, sensing that his days were numbered, went on to soberly dictate how he wished to be memorialized at the time of his death. He specifically forbade those who survived him from mentioning his Nobel Peace Prize or other superficial markers of success. Instead, he instructed those in attendance to only highlight the one thing he viewed as his singular accomplishment: “I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others…I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.”
As a Christian minister, King summarized his life in this manner, because he firmly believed that, “Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” According to King, Jesus taught that the drive to be great is an admirable instinct when greatness is evaluated by how much one serves others….
Read the complete article here.