Another MLK Scholar Weighs-In on the Garrow Article


Jason Miller, an English professor at North Carolina State University and a King scholar, defends David Garrow’s controversial article on MLK’s moral indiscretions.  (See our coverage of Garrow’s article here).

Here is a taste of Miller’s article at The Conversation:

It’s natural to want to defend King – to say, “let’s wait and see.”

Others might try to argue that abuse precedes abuse, and that the long legacy of slavery still informed the actions of these revered black clergy who subconsciously became like their oppressors. This legacy, of course, often included white men raping black women and sometimes disowning their children.

But I don’t think any filter of rationalization can soften this portrait of King. I’m not prepared to wait eight years, and I’ve halted my two scholarly projects about King.

I’ve also started thinking about what happens next.

What will the next Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations look like? Will other details emerge? Will more women come forward? Will community centers, schools and streets need to be renamed? Will statues come down, or will they remain – and give fodder to those who justify keeping Confederate monuments?

King espoused nonviolence. If these memos are true, such a stance feels hypocritical.

The narrative has just changed. And if scholarship and true biographical research matters at all, one thing is clear: These FBI memos may have forever damaged King’s legacy.

Read the entire piece here.

2 thoughts on “Another MLK Scholar Weighs-In on the Garrow Article

  1. Perhaps the release of this information will also help to end the tendency to wrap our heroes in hagiography. These revelations substantiate long-standing rumors. Indeed, they are more than disappointing. At the same time, all human beings, including Christians, are complex beings with many sides to them that no one will ever know or understand, not even themselves. King’s vision and work for civil rights is not diminished by the fact that he was a sinner guilty of unconscionable sins. Sadly, sins that were not unusual or exceptional in the church. Did you here the preacher’s eulogy of Aretha Franklin and his account of her sexual abuse at the hands of her famous, preacher father?


  2. Ralph Abernathy took a lot of heat for writing about KIngs “extramarital relations” in his 1989 autobiography. It looks like the FBI records are confirming Abernathy’s statements.

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