Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Chicago Freedom Movement
Six times a year, the editors of the Oxford African American Studies Center provide insights into black history and culture, showing ways in which the past and present interact by offering specially commissioned featured essays, photographic essays, and a selected list of articles that will further guide the reader. The latest Focus On looks at Martin Luther King's 1966 Chicago campaign.
When people think of Martin Luther King, Jr., scenes of the South usually come to mind. Conversely, '60s activism in the urban north likely elicits images of Malcolm X or the Black Panthers, not the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Two years before his assassination, however, King spent a year bringing his philosophy of non-violent, direct action to Chicago's African American community.
King's very presence in the city highlighted the needs of African Americans in the North and the subtler forms of racism that existed there. By the end of his time in Chicago some victories had been won, but there were no dramatic changes in the status quo. Many of his demands still resonate today, and could have easily been articulated in the 21st century by another African American leader, Chicagoan Barack Obama.
More than forty years have passed and many African Americans still live in poverty in urban slums, surrounded by violence and without access to jobs or an adequate education. It is time to revisit and re-examine Dr. King's mission in Chicago.
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The following entries have been selected to help guide readers who want to learn more about MLK's Chicago effort. (Access to the following articles is available only to subscribers.)