MLK Was More Than a Dreamer

It's troubling how the civil rights legend's revolutionary message has been hijacked.

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Lincoln's nonviolent gadfly was Douglass. In his famous speech "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" delivered in 1852, Douglass said, "I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common ... Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? ... There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him."

In the 1960s, Kennedy and Johnson's nonviolent gadfly was King himself. What gets lost in characterizing King as a "dreamer" or defining him by his "dream" is the clear understanding and appreciation of the horrific social, legal and cultural nightmare that African Americans were living through in 1963 when he delivered the famous address.

The best way to pay tribute to King and his total sacrifice is to understand what he stood for and what he died for. We must keep him in context. We must wake up from the dream and apply his vision in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of our much too recent past and to make today a better reality.

Dr. Wilmer Leon is the producer-host of the national talk radio show Inside the Issues With Wilmer Leon and a teaching associate in political science at Howard University. You can reach him at Follow him on Twitter.  

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Rare Images of Martin Luther King Jr.

See the civil rights legend as both a family man and a revolutionary in these stunning photos.