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History As It Happens

May 23, 2023

Martin Luther King Jr. had serious problems with American capitalism. He considered himself more of a democratic socialist as he demanded the federal government spend billions to eradicate poverty, and as he worked to build a multiracial working-class movement. Today, as the share of American workers in labor unions continues to decline and as income inequality worsens, one wonders if the country will undergo a national reckoning on class as it has with regard to race. Over recent years Americans have been debating the role of race and slavery in national origins, but there’s been relative silence when it comes to class issues. This problem extends to popular remembrances of King. His crusade to end racism and legal segregation overshadows these other aspects of his philosophy and legacy. In this episode, historian Thomas Jackson discusses the importance of MLK’s economic outlook in his overall civil rights agenda.