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50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s Assassination: The Acton Institute’ uses and abuses of Dr. King Part III

April 6, 2018

In January, while celebrating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Acton Institute took the opportunity to misuse the legacy of Dr. King by saying that he denounced Communism. We made the point that this was both an opportunistic ploy by the right-wing think tank, but it also completely ignored King’s record on economic matters. We made it clear that Dr. King would emphatically reject the neo-liberal capitalist stance of the Acton Institute.

On Wednesday, the Acton Institute once again, misused the legal of Dr. King, specifically by presenting false information and significant omissions about his assassination. In an article entitled, the 5 Facts about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the pro-capitalist think tank completely mis-representing Dr. King’s legacy.

Point # 1 states that it was the second time that someone had attempted to kill Dr. King. This is misleading, since it completely ignores the dozens and dozens of death threats against Dr. King over the years, threats to bomb his home, his church and anytime her traveled by bus or by plane. These numerous other assassination attempts are well documented in Michael Eric Dyson’s book, April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Death and How it Changed America. The Acton Institute claim also completely ignores the fact that the FBI had also been threatening Dr. King.

Points #2 and #5 say that it was James Earl Ray who murdered Dr. King. This information has been highly contested by numerous investigators, including William Peppers in his book, An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King. In fact, Peppers points out that local law enforcement and even the federal government played a role in the assassination of Dr. King.

In Point #3, the Acton Institute merely states some of the details of where Dr. King was shot, both where he was standing and where the bullet entered his body. There doesn’t seem to be any real value in sharing this “fact,” as it is not terribly relevant.

Point #4 makes a statement about the fact that there were riots and looting all across the country as a reaction to the murder of Dr. King. While this is true, the “fact” does not provide much context and only cites one source on the fact that riots took place all across the country. The Acton fact fails to mention that Dr. King had been saying for years that riots were the language of the unheard:

I contend that the cry of “black power” is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.

Lastly, there is a complete omission by the Acton Institute writer when it comes to presenting facts about why Dr. King was in Memphis in the first place. The Civil Rights leader was in Memphis to support the sanitation workers who were on strike, demanding better wages, better working conditions and the right to organize a union.

Dr. King stated in a speech he gave in Memphis:

You are demanding that this city will respect the dignity of labor. So often we overlook the work and the significance of those who are not in professional jobs, of those who are not in the so-called big jobs. But let me say to you tonight that whenever you are engaged in work that serves humanity and is for the building of humanity, it has dignity, and it has worth. You are reminding not only Memphis, but you are reminding the nation, that it is a crime for people to live in this rich nation and receive starvation wages.

Just as we stated previously, Dr. King’s position on economic and racial justice would be in complete conflict with what the Acton Institute promotes, which is the virtues of Capitalism.

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