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198 MIN READ TIME

MLK Now

ON FEBRUARY 23, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., took to the stage at a sold-out Carnegie Hall. He had not come to rally the flagging spirits of bloodied civil rights demonstrators, shake loose the pennies of liberal philanthropists, or even to testify to God’s grace. A more solemn task was at hand.

King was the keynote speaker for a centennial celebration of W. E. B. Du Bois’s birth, following remarks by Ossie Davis, James Baldwin, Jack O’Dell, Cynthia Belgrave, Pete Seeger, and Eleanor McCoy. Arguably the greatest political thinker and propagandist black America ever produced, Du Bois spent his last days in relative ignominy in Ghana, his passport canceled by the U.S. State Department in retaliation for anti-nuclear, anti-racist, and socialist politics. Du Bois died on the eve of the 1963 March on Washington, denied the chance to witness the moral authority of the civil rights movement crystallize before the world.

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