Lincoln, Spielberg, JKF, MLK and the “second” emancipation proclamation

Published on 15 January 2013 by in Civil Rights, General, The King Years


Washington MonthlyThe current (January 2013) issue of The Washington Monthly Magazine contains a short article by Monthly editor Haley Sweetland Edwards and me, prepared as an interview during these past few hectic weeks.

I am especially pleased to have this article published to coincide with the release of my new book, The King Years. Long ago, when I was a graduate student who had not yet even thought of a writing career, the Monthly published excerpts from the diary I kept as an awed voter registration worker in southwest Georgia during the summer of 1969.

Those experiences in civil rights work and journalism opened new paths for me, and in the summer of 1970, on completing my graduate work, I took my first full-time job as an editor for The Washington Monthly. Its founder, Charlie Peters, became a lifetime mentor for me (and many others) in politics and journalism.

The current Monthly article tells one of many small stories buried in our forgetful history of the civil rights era: how Martin Luther King tried and failed to get President John F. Kennedy to abolish racial segregation by executive order in January of 1963, on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery.

Lincoln’s historic work to end slavery is very much remembered in contemporary culture through Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated film, Lincoln. The unsuccessful collaboration between MLK and JFK is only a minor echo of that history, but it is well worth remembering in this month of poignant anniversaries about racial politics in 1863, 1963, and 2013. They are sketched in last week’s publication blog for The King Years.

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