Stamped

by

Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

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Martin Luther King Jr. Character Analysis

The preacher and activist Martin Luther King Jr. was the most prominent leader of the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. He led numerous protests, marches, and nonviolent actions, but he’s best remembered for the Birmingham campaign and the “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington, both in 1963. His work is largely credited with convincing Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, Kendi and Reynolds argue that his legacy is also widely misunderstood. King is often viewed as an assimilationist who wanted to win white acceptance, desegregate the U.S., and build a color-blind society. While some of this was true early in his life, by the time of his assassination in 1968, he was actually an antiracist socialist who focused on building economic and political power in the Black community. He saw that desegregation mostly benefited Black elites, so he started focusing on economic justice and policy change instead. When he died, he was organizing the Poor People’s Campaign to establish an “economic bill of rights,” including affordable housing and a universal basic income.

Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes in Stamped

The Stamped 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:
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Little, Brown Books for Young Readers edition of Stamped published in 2020.
Chapter 20 Quotes

King closed the day with what’s probably the most iconic speech of all time—“I Have a Dream.” But there was bad news. W. E. B. Du Bois had died in his sleep the previous day.

Indeed, a younger Du Bois had called for such a gathering, hoping it would persuade millions of White people to love the lowly souls of Black folk. And, yes, the older Du Bois had chosen another path—the antiracist path less traveled—toward forcing millions to accept the equal souls of Black folk. It was the path of civil disobedience that the young marchers […] had desired for the March on Washington, a path a young woman from Birmingham’s Dynamite Hill was already traveling and would never leave.

Page Number: 164-165
Explanation and Analysis:
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Martin Luther King Jr. Character Timeline in Stamped

The timeline below shows where the character Martin Luther King Jr. appears in Stamped. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 20: Home Is Where the Hatred Is
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
History and the Present Theme Icon
Power, Profit, and Privilege Theme Icon
After Du Bois, the Atlanta preacher Martin Luther King, Jr. soon became the civil rights movement’s most visible leader. Meanwhile, Black students led sit-ins at... (full context)
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
History and the Present Theme Icon
How Racist Ideas Spread Theme Icon
...President Kennedy asked Congress to pass another civil rights law. At the March on Washington, Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and led a moment of silence for... (full context)
Chapter 21: When Death Comes
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
History and the Present Theme Icon
Power, Profit, and Privilege Theme Icon
...on Black empowerment and pride. Then, Malcolm X was assassinated. Leaders like James Baldwin and Martin Luther King, Jr. honored him, and antiracists everywhere mourned him. Alex Haley published Malcolm X’s influential autobiography, which... (full context)
Chapter 22: Black Power
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
History and the Present Theme Icon
How Racist Ideas Spread Theme Icon
...Student Union at UC-San Diego. Across the country, Black students organized for social change, and Dr. King started building a Poor People’s Campaign to call for an “economic bill of rights” for... (full context)
Racism vs. Antiracism Theme Icon
History and the Present Theme Icon
How Racist Ideas Spread Theme Icon
Then, Dr. King was assassinated. In response, the Black Power movement grew exponentially. The singer James Brown told... (full context)