Texas Tech University

Expert: Martin Luther King's Vision Makes Progress, Still Not Fulfilled

Emily Gardner

January 16, 2015

King's message of interracial harmony is still relevant today.

As Martin Luther King Day approaches Monday (Jan. 19) and in light of recent racially divisive events, the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the release of “Selma,” King's message of interracial harmony is still relevant today.


Karlos Hill, assistant professor of history, (806) 742-3744 or karlos.hill@ttu.edu

Talking Points

  • The 50th anniversary of the marches in Selma, Alabama, and the movie based on them
  • The controversy surrounding Martin Luther King's depiction in “Selma” and the film's contributions
  • King's theoretical reaction to “Selma”
  • King's theoretical reaction to recent events
  • The effect of King's legacy as a result of recent events


  • “The film, 'Selma,' brings the story of the civil rights movement to a new audience, particularly a younger generation who have no relationship to that past. It also brings King's message to a new generation who have no deep familiarity with King and what he stood for. That's the contribution the film is making. It's exposing the history of that march and King's message to a new generation.”
  •  “Listening to the filmmaker talk about it, the message I think she is trying to make is to connect the struggle for civil rights to a much broader struggle for human rights. We should think about the quest for African-American civil rights in much more universal terms than we typically do and think about it not just as an African-American story, but as an American story. When we think about the film in that regard I think it's going to have a powerful impact on how people think about the era and how people think about today in the wake of Eric Garner's death. The film couldn't have come out at a better time than right now.”
  • “We tend to talk about and reflect on King a lot because he's one of the very few people in American history who have a federal holiday, and so we are always talking about King in one way or another. There's a lot that could be said about him and his meaning, but I think, the most important thing to talk about right now in relationship to King is Ferguson, Missouri, is Tamir Rice, is Eric Garner, because for people out there looking for 'What do we do? Where do we go next?' one place they can look is to King. King has a clear philosophy for how you go about creating social change.”
  • “Whether it's Eric Garner, whether it's Michael Brown, whether it's Tamir Rice, whether it's other instances where unarmed African-Americans were shot and killed by police officers, King would have been critical of those things because African-Americans disproportionately fall victim to police brutality or the use of excessive force, and King would recognize that it's a systematic problem. Because of those things, he would have spoken out against them.”
  • “There has been progress, and King is a big part of that change, that progress. But that doesn't mean his vision has been fulfilled. There is still much work to be done, and issues like the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases illustrate that. It's not tarnishing King's message the least bit, what it's showing is his vision hasn't been fulfilled and perhaps more than any time before, we need to hear King's message and King's voice of calm, his voice of what he would consider creating the beloved community.”

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