A Post for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, 2019

[NOTE:  Last year at this time, I published a post for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday that focused on my contribution to an assembly commemorating King’s career and significance given at my school on January 16, 1987.  This post might have suggested to readers that Atlanta’s Finest Prep School (AFPS) had already successfully made the transition from neglecting King’s contributions to honoring them regularly, but no. . . . And the “problem” was, of all things, academic.]

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Biography and A&E)

In those days, we scheduled first semester final exams for early in January, after the obligatory Christmas break that carried us from late December into the New Year. This meant, of course, that even if AFPS wished to honor Dr. King around the time of his birthday celebration, we were limited because of the need to use whatever time we had in early January to review with our students in preparation for their semester exams.

During the 1999-2000 academic year, I served as Interim Chair of the History Department.  When the time came for me to put out the department’s newsletter for January 2000, giving short shrift to Dr. King and his contribution to modern American history, even if our excuse was an “academic” one (i.e., “We simply can’t take the time to honor Dr. King because to do so would interfere with our paramount task of preparing our students for final exams”), was gnawing at me.  So, at the conclusion of an editorial recounting my memories of the events on April 4-5, 1968, I added this paragraph:

At this school, where all our students and a growing number of our faculty have no living memory of Dr. King and what he did, we certainly teach about him at the appropriate point in our various courses.  Nevertheless, the King holiday and the week of activities related to it are no cause for celebration here.  Instead, we use the time to study for, take, and grade final exams. Rather than join the rest of the country each year in wrestling with the question of King’s place in the American story, we hold ourselves aloof, prisoners of an academic calendar that requires us to conclude the Fall semester after Christmas.  Dr. King deserves better, and so do we.

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I know you’re probably ahead of me here, but my impassioned editorial plea had no immediate effect on AFPS’s schedule.  A few years later, though, we did opt for moving final exams back to before Christmas, again for academic reasons.  This opened January for serious consideration of Dr. King’s place in the American pantheon. And we all benefited from the move.

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As you know if you’ve followed this blog for a while, one of the topics I emphasize is “The South and Civil Rights.”  This year I’d like to call your attention to two of those posts which, I believe, might help you reflect on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his place in modern American history:

https://georgelamplugh.com/2013/04/01/race-and-history-matter/

https://georgelamplugh.com/2015/01/01/civil-rights-and-wrongs-reflections-on-the-rev-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-and-his-legacy/

I hope you enjoy them.

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For those interested in reading more of my reflections on history, here are links to my books on the subject:

REABP CoverRancorous Enmities and Blind Partialities:  Parties and Factions in Georgia, 1807-1845 (University Press of America, 2015)

Pursuit Cover

In Pursuit of Dead Georgians:  One Historian’s Excursions into the History of His Adopted State (iUniverse, 2015)

Politics on the Periphery:  Factions and Parties in Georgia, 1783-1806 (University of Delaware Press, 1986)

About georgelamplugh

I retired in 2010 after nearly four decades of teaching History at the "prep school" level with a PhD. My new "job" was to finish the book manuscript I'd been working on, in summers only, since 1996. As things turned out, not only did I complete that book, but I also put together a collection of my essays--published and unpublished--on Georgia history. Both volumes were published in the summer of 2015. I continue to work on other writing projects, including a collection of essays on the Blues and, of course, my blog.
This entry was posted in Age of Jim Crow, American History, Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Education, Historical Reflection, History, History Teaching, Martin Luther King, memoir, Prep School, prep school teaching with a PhD, Retirement, Southern History. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Post for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, 2019

  1. Donald Bortz says:

    As always George this is excellent! Thank you so much.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. admiral17(RB) says:

    Boss, I think you need to put this together and get it in the ol’ Westminster magazine. As you and I both know, the number of people who remember the bad old days revolving around equality, equity, and the religious wars are down to almost zero. Keep ’em coming.
    RB

    • Heck, I’ll go ya one better: I’ve been in my “anecdotage” for so long now (eight years and counting), with a blog at my fingertips that I’ve cranked out quite a few pieces on life and the Big W. Maybe I should combine all of ’em in a modest tome about those years. . . .As always, thanks for the comment!

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