The New Jim Crow

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Character Analysis

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a minister and activist who is undoubtedly the most well-known figure to emerge from the Civil Rights Movement. Born in 1929 and assassinated in 1968, King’s messages of love, cooperation, altruism, and justice are frequently invoked by individuals across the political spectrum. This has led some contemporary racial justice activists—including Alexander—to point out that, particularly in the years leading up to his death, King’s vision was far more revolutionary than many people today seem to want to admit. Alexander argues that, rather than simply wanting a “colorblind,” racially harmonious world, King wished to radically restructure American society in order to bring justice to its poorest and most marginalized members.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Quotes in The New Jim Crow

The The New Jim Crow quotes below are all either spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr. or refer to Martin Luther King, Jr. . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Justice vs. the Law Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the New Press edition of The New Jim Crow published in 2012.
Chapter 1 Quotes

Genuine equality for black people, King reasoned, demanded a radical restructuring of society, one that would address the needs of the black and white poor throughout the country. Shortly before his assassination, he envisioned bringing to Washington, D.C. thousands of the nation's disadvantaged, in an interracial alliance that embraced rural and ghetto blacks, Appalachian whites, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Native Americans, to demand jobs and income––the right to live. In a speech delivered in 1968, King acknowledged there had been some progress for blacks since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but insisted that the current challenges required even greater resolve and that the entire nation must be transformed for economic justice to be more than a dream for poor people of all colors.

Related Characters: Martin Luther King, Jr.
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

Alexander has described the legal wins achieved during the civil rights movement, which she claims constituted “undeniable” progress. Yet while civil rights victories helped to end Jim Crow segregation, they fell significantly short of reaching racial justice. In this passage, Alexander describes the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr. for an “interracial alliance” that would work to achieve justice for poor people of all races. Alexander’s words highlight an aspect of King’s work that is often overlooked in contemporary references to his legacy.

While many people today emphasize King’s commitment to nonviolent interracial organizing, few include the crucial addendum that King wanted this to be in service of the “radical restructuring of our society.” Although King was assassinated before he could turn this vision into reality, Alexander argues it is now time to pick up where he left off and institute the radical change described here.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Character Timeline in The New Jim Crow

The timeline below shows where the character Martin Luther King, Jr. appears in The New Jim Crow. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Foreword
The Illusion of Progress Theme Icon
Violence, Surveillance, and Social Control Theme Icon
...Angela Davis, and Glenn Loury, and that The New Jim Crow embodies “the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. ” The book was written during Obama’s presidency, and although this period saw some progress,... (full context)
Chapter 1: The Rebirth of Caste
Justice vs. the Law Theme Icon
The Illusion of Progress Theme Icon
Racial Castes, Stereotypes, and Hierarchies Theme Icon
Violence, Surveillance, and Social Control Theme Icon
Myth, Dishonesty, and Conspiracy Theme Icon
...pushes for economic justice, most black people would remain trapped in the cycle of poverty. Martin Luther King, Jr. was particularly adamant that genuine racial equality would require a “radical restructuring of society” involving... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Fire This Time
Justice vs. the Law Theme Icon
The Illusion of Progress Theme Icon
Racial Castes, Stereotypes, and Hierarchies Theme Icon
Violence, Surveillance, and Social Control Theme Icon
Alexander evokes the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. , who claimed that winning in “the court of public opinion” was more important than... (full context)
Justice vs. the Law Theme Icon
The Illusion of Progress Theme Icon
Racial Castes, Stereotypes, and Hierarchies Theme Icon
Violence, Surveillance, and Social Control Theme Icon
Myth, Dishonesty, and Conspiracy Theme Icon
...way forward, ignoring race is the far more dangerous move. Alexander reminds the reader that Martin Luther King, Jr. argued that racial “blindness and indifference” actually plays a more powerful role in creating racial... (full context)
Justice vs. the Law Theme Icon
The Illusion of Progress Theme Icon
Racial Castes, Stereotypes, and Hierarchies Theme Icon
Alexander argues that in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. attempted to shift the civil rights movement into a “human rights movement” with “revolutionary potential.”... (full context)