On January 18, Martin Luther King Day, the Maryland Humanities Council recalls that we began our Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Remembrance and Reconciliation special initiative in 2007 with the question “Where are we 40 years after Dr. King’s assassination?” As Marylanders looked back to consider Dr. King’s legacy and assess how far we have come–as individuals, as communities, and as a nation–our nation elected Barack Obama as President. When the first person of color took the oath of our nation’s highest office, we as a people felt uplifted that the scourge of racism had been ameliorated sufficiently to achieve this result.
In November 2009, at MHC’s culminating program for the Dr. King initiative, “Music of the Movement: A Sustaining Voice,” an audience member questioned if we today live in a post-racial society, now that Obama is President. Program participant Congressman John Lewis answered, “We have come very far since the days of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. But too many people today are left out and left so far behind. We have to continue to agitate, to push–we all have roles to play…”
As we continue to play out these roles, will we look back to the election of 2008 as a new defining moment in the long history of the struggle for racial equality? When MHC asks in 2048, “Where are we 40 years later?” will we view Obama’s election as a benchmark of success equal in symbolic importance to the 1968 assassination of Dr. King?
Let us know what you think.