WKMS Honors Martin Luther King Jr. With Back to Back Special Presentations

Jan 15, 2021

Sounds Good will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by honoring the minister and activist's legacy with two special presentations from PRX on Monday, January 18th. 

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day special programming on Monday, January 18th, is as follows:

11 am: Constant Wonder: MLK Day Special

We all know of Martin Luther King Jr.'s major contribution to the discourse about non-violence. Who planted the seeds of his thinking? It turns out that you can trace at least one strand of his intellectual development by way of Quakerism, back to one of the earliest American abolitionists. We'll learn about Anthony Benezet and also about an early freedom rider, Elizabeth Jennings. 

One of the earliest American opponents of slavery and proponent of the rights of African Americans was a French immigrant named Anthony Benezet (1713-84). He rose to prominence in the Quaker antislavery community, transforming Quaker antislavery sentiment into a broad-based transatlantic movement.

He translated ideas from diverse sources -- Enlightenment philosophy, African travel narratives, Quakerism, practical life, and the Bible -- into concrete action. Benezet founded the African Free School in Philadelphia. Such future abolitionist leaders as Absalom Jones and James Forten studied at Benezet's school and spread his ideas to broad social groups. 

12 noon: Open Source: Reviving the King

Martin Luther King Jr. comes to seem larger in his absence these last 50 years, himself a cosmos, in Walt Whitman speak, containing multitudes -- and not contradictions so much as multiples. He was a midnight-oil Ph.D. intellectual, ever self-consciously the descendant of slaves. He was at first a reluctant leader, drafted to mobilize an alliance of plain Black and poor people, who made him their captain of a sanctified social revolution. He became a sure strategist of Napoleonic ambition, in non-violence and personal non-anger. At the same time, he became a saint by the Christian standard that he'd taken up the cross of Jesus Christ on a path to assassination, knowing he would only save his life by losing it. 

The civic heroism of Martin Luther King Jr. marks a peak in any story of 20th Century America. The basics are familiar: At his death by assassination 50 years ago -- he was just 39 -- Dr. King had been the incandescent voice in a 15-year civil rights movement that wrote race out of our law. He is remembered for it on the holiday calendar, in monuments and street names and avenues in hundreds of cities and towns across the land, on postage stamps around the world. This hour, we're listening for what's not on the MLK stamps or in the civic books: the religious conviction, the radicalism about wealth and power, the short lifetime crammed with reading, writing, philosophizing. 

The labor historian Michael Honey strikes a keynote for all of us: if we know Dr. King by his "I have a dream" speech on the Mall in Washington in 1963, we may well be missing the man and the point. 

Listen to WKMS' holiday programming on-air or online at WKMS.org. You can also ask your smart speaker to "play WKMS."