beyond the dream: martin luther king jr. / dr. john henrik clarke


Unlike the passionate leftist Libertarian Black social democrat elder Playthell George Benjamin, we are absolutely in love with Dr. John Henrik Clarke and his Africana Studies methodology rooted in what he called historical geography. (RELATED: "The World War Against African History Since 1968 / John H. Clarke")

Sure, he too may have been "passionate" about a subject like Malcolm to the point of turning a somewhat grumpy elder like Benjamin off, but that sounds personal. Let's be honest, anyone who writes a book with Stanley Crouch and counts Fanon and Cruse as his ideals-of-sorts is a grumpy old Black man. Praise the lord for his brilliant mind and sharp use of English. But as good students, we'll stick to the entire field of facts. Here's a significant one: the library in the photo above is called the John Henrik Clarke Africana Library at Cornell University in Ithica, New York. In this audio below, titled King: Beyond The Dream, Dr. Clarke puts the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in broad historical geographical context.

Partial Transcript: "Let's deal with something that is a part of most of us; the starvation of the ego. Our egos are sometimes so starved we wanna take a bow sometime in life. We want a little pat on the back ... a decent hug... sometime in life. You stand by someone who you think is getting all of those things. You're in the light but not in the limelight. You think, why not me? Faith, God, nature that deals out charisma to people is very stingy. Marcus Garvey had it, Malcolm X has it... Du Bois, the greatest intellectual with the greatest body of knowledge of any Black person that ever lived in the Western world... but had no charisma. No sparkle. He dulls out in front of your eyes... yet he never found that vocabulary, that communicated to the lowliest man in his audience and the highest man simultaneously without talking down or up to either one of them. Malcolm X, could do it, Marcus Garvey could do it, and Martin Luther King could do it.

When Malcolm X spoke the next day his message was so clear you could whistle to it. When King spoke you remember he spoke so pretty and spoke so well but you wasn't too clear about what he said. But you know he said it so beautifully.

The style.

Some people have style and they can get away with things by virtue of style.

British oppression in the West Indies had given the West Indies... If you wanna argue with me about whether your slave master was worse than my slave master I'll concede. The American master is not only an oppressor he's an oppressor with no style no form no pretense. He's crude. He'll cut your throat with a jagged knife, he ain't even gonna clean the knife. The English man will clean the knife because it's good and proper. He got style.

Sometimes nature gives to certain people charisma without giving them a program worth listening to. Some people got charisma and no message. Generally people with the charisma have a message.

Martin Luther King got to the rallies on time, made the speeches on time, did what was asked of him on time. Seeing him with three women talking doesn't mean that he had a relationship with three in one night. It's an exaggeration for anyone to assume that you can do justice to three in one night in the first place. [laughter] And if someone saw him with three and reported him it could be that he envied not being able to attract one. [laughter]

I do not dignify rumors to the point of convicting people on the basis of rumor.


All history is a current event. Everything that ever happened continues to happen. The first man that sneezed is still influencing the atmosphere. And the kid who first threw a pebble in the ocean is still influencing it and will influence if for all times to come. We came out a holistic society where everything related to everything and everybody. We were not individuals. We were asked, 'what group do you belong to, is this the territory of your tribe, did your King send you over here? Everybody belonged to somebody and everybody had a responsibility to everybody else.'

A cat on the street who tells you, 'every thing is everything' he don't know how philosophical that really is. Everything is a part of a total unit.


The woman has already started agriculture. She peeped man's hand.

"I'm going on the hunt"

"No we got enough food right here you stay home."

So for many years he became a vegetarian.

No prostitution... no basis for some of the degenerative things in our society (today). No word for 'jail.' No word in their language that meant 'jail.' How can you call him primitive? He hasn't got a 'jail.' Hasn't got a psychiatrist. Never had a head shrink. The white psychiatrist don't know that we can have a perfect sex life, get along with mama, and still be crazy about something else. When he go out of his mind he go out for another reason. This is why western psychiatry doesn't fit our case cause they don't know what to say to us and they don't know how to cure the case. What is the black man mad about? You have impinged on his ego.

The Society of the Psychiatrist is the problem. You've created a society that says upward mobility is for a certain group of people. You have trained a man that you said had enough talent, but you say he doesn't have enough talent to get to a certain level. The humiliation of being bossed by someone less talented than he is... when he comes home to his beloved and can't explain it to her, what's he gonna do? She says, 'baby quit the job, you'll find another one.' But the company is nice, things are in order, bills are being paid. She advises him to stick it out.

I'm still talking about MLK beyond the dream because I'm talking about people and Martin Luther King was a part of a people. We let certain things happen to him after his death that shouldn't have happened.

He didn't need a holiday. If he needed a holiday we could have gave him a holiday... something that is distinctly ours. They created a holiday and created a personality that fit into the holiday and their emphasis is on non violence: 'here's a colored man that decided not to hit us so we take a day off to keep his memory.'

He was revolutionary in a special kind of way...

As morally high as it is I can go along with it only so far.

King did not seek the leadership of the SCLC.

Dixon decided... this is the forgotten man, a Pullman Porter named Dixon.

He was the activist.

The man that not only did not believe in non violence but wouldn't leave his house without his piece in his back pocket. Everybody knew he had it including the police and nobody crossed his path.

And that's the one you never should tangle with.

He told Abernathy to tell King, 'I think you better head this movement' because this was a college town; Montgomery (Alabama). The black people there were very serious about people who use the English language well.

And he wasn't about to change his English to suit anybody.

He was rough and he intended to stay rough. But he was the activist. He had planned this (non violent) 'attack on the bus' with one woman and just as the day she was to get on the bus came, he discovered she wasn't married to the father of her child.

He personally could care less about this situation because illegitimate is a word that we didn't invent. It's a word that comes out of white sociology.

If a child comes down and is born the human way that child is legitimate. Whether the mother is married to the father is another caliber of social matter and we're sorry about that, but that has nothing to do with the children. When my grandfather died and left a few sum of money nothing big, he wanted all the money to go to the children in the family under the age of 12, whether the father was married to the mother or not. My sum was only $70. He had migrated to Chicago... Birmingham... all of those children got a little piece. He made no distinction between who was married and who was not married so long as (s)he was related in blood.

Dixon knew the whites would make (write) bad (newspaper) copy if they found out she wasn't married to the father of her child.

Freedom had to be planned, this is no accident. This is freedom planning.

So when they picked Rosa Parks, they picked someone who couldn't be challenged in no kind of way. He worked. She worked, was a seamstress in the community her reputation was 'pure.'

You have to understand the difference between the African ... the African, if one keeps her word, we'll look at her and say her mouth is sweet and pure.

You (the West) got a concept of virginity that comes out of the conference at Nicaea (350 A.D.)... a definition of this religion that came from the people who have defiled and betrayed the religion. And you have accepted a definition of morality that comes from a people who betrayed this religion.

We have to begin to define religion and personality by our own measurement. Our measurement tends to deal with reality more than other measurements.

This is why at an early age in human history we dealt with woman in a manner that not only guaranteed her equality in society but made her one of the first female gods in history.

We did not feel insecure with a woman riding at the head of an army and the rest of the army all men... You cannot measure yourself by his yardstick because he changed the rules of the world to aggrandize himself at your expense.

We must find our definitions of things. King dared to believe in something that other people had betrayed. Their concept of the Judeo-Christian ethic differs radically from ours. If we conduced ourselves in religion in the manner that they did the church wouldn't be worth going into.

When they pawned the religion on us, we became the true believers in the faith and we still bring to it a sense of humanity over and above.

We are too hung up with 'I Got a Dream' speech.

We quite forget that he also had a plan. Challenged his government. Brought up the problem of Vietnam and the amount of money being spent on war while people are poor. The same person who makes a white person poor makes a black person poor. He said they are going to have to put their strength together to deal with a common enemy. And after they have dealt with their common enemy, socially, they can do what they wanna do. He wasn't talking about 'integration.' The path King took to move toward this dream, he would have been a political force ten times more powerful than Jesse Jackson.

We have not looked at the last 2 years of his existence, when he began to have serious problems with the concept of non violence and said so. We have not began to look at the part where he began to reassess the dream.

He realized that he had to rethink the concept. After the bombing at Birmingham... the killing of kids in sunday school... when he said, 'if blood must flow, let it be our blood and not the blood of our white brothers' he was not only wrong he was vulgar.

The children had not been buried!

This was a time when he could have confronted this nation and said, so far as non violence is concerned I reserve the right to follow it 'til the end of my days because I believe in it, but I acknowledge the right of my people to have the God-given right of self defense.'

This was the time when we should have called him home and said, 'Martin close the door, send the children out to play, we adults got some serious talking to do.'

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