As schools and other cultural institutions prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with service, ceremony, and perhaps a little sleeping in, "The Prophet Reconsidered," a book review in the latest issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, describes a rising trend in scholarship on the life and work of the slain civil rights leader–one that contradicts his current status as a widely accepted national icon. Reviewer Christopher Phelps writes:
. . . a new scholarly synthesis seems emergent four decades after the death
of King, one that draws upon decidedly bottom-up conceptions of the
civil-rights movement to reconsider King’s life and thought. Far from a
comforting, "normative" figure, King emerges in these studies, as
Thomas F. Jackson puts it in his very fine intellectual portrait From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice,
as "much more radical, earlier and more consistently, than he is
credited for being."
Wesley Hogan, writing for Reviews in American History goes even
further, claiming "Thomas Jaskon has launched a frontal assault on the
dominant culture’s cooption of King. . . .Jackson’s recovery of the
economic components of King’s vision is an essential intervention. It
can initiate a new and spirited conversation."
For another recent view of Jackson’s work, visit Too Much: A Commentary on Excess and Inequality.