Jan 20, 2023 - Atlanta, GA
Eddie Glaude, Jr., Ph.D., chair of the department of African American Studies, and James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Princeton University helped to kick off Georgia Tech’s Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration as the keynote speaker for the 12th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture, held on January 12.
Glaude frequently appears in the media as a columnist for TIME Magazine and as an MSNBC contributor on programs like “Morning Joe” and “Deadline Whitehouse with Nicolle Wallace.” He also regularly appears on Meet the Press on Sundays. A former president of the American Academy of Religion, his writings examine religion in Black communities, the difficulties of race in the United States, and the challenges we face as a democracy.
Kicking off this year’s month-long MLK Celebration, the lecture was sponsored by Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and the division of Student Engagement and Well-Being. The celebration’s theme “Cultivating Action: Working Together to Achieve a Beloved Community,” highlights the work still required to achieve Dr. King’s vision.
Glaude shared the nuances of Dr. King’s philosophy and beliefs and challenged attendees to use their power to help prevent the collapse of everything that Dr. King died for.
“In December of 1962, before the March on Washington, or the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Dr. King spoke at a conference centered on the ethics of integration in Nashville, Tennessee,” Glaude shared. “He maintained that there had been a systematic effort to dismantle segregation; however, even if desegregation was 100 percent successful, the relationship between human beings in this country would remain deeply problematic.”
He also shared Dr. King’s view on the difference between desegregation and integration.
“In Dr. King’s view, desegregation was a negative formulation,” he said. “Integration, King said, is the positive acceptance of desegregation and the welcome participation of Negroes into the total range of human activities–integration is genuine intergroup, interpersonal interactions.”
Glaude spoke of Dr. King’s last months before he was murdered, noting that this is a version of Dr. King that is far less celebrated.
“On February 23, 1968, Dr. King spoke at an event celebrating the 100th birthday of W.E.B. DuBois. Afterward, one of his closest advisers said that he’d never heard Dr. King read something so badly,” said Glaude. “Instead of commanding the room and using his oratory skills to empower the crowd, he just read his speech and was done.”
A few years removed from the euphoria of the March on Washington in 1963, and the historic "I Have a Dream" speech, Dr. King was now faced with the uncertainty of his moral vision for the country, according to Glaude.
“Dr. King had come to understand the depths of American racism, yet underestimated how deeply rooted racism was in the habits of American life,” he continued. “He was clear–unless we are honest with ourselves, tell the truth about who we are and what we’ve done, we will never solve the problem of racial injustice in this country.”
For more information about Georgia Tech’s MLK Celebration events throughout January, visit diversity.gatech.edu/2023-mlk-celebration-and-commemorative-event-series.