To many, Martin Luther King, Jr. is a paragon of virtue, a man who saw the racism and cruelties, laid upon his people and said “This is not just.” He went on to become one of the leading figures of the Civil Rights Movement, to others he was a communist anti-American agent looking to tip the scales in Russia's favor. Still others saw him as that "uppity black man" who upset the natural order (yes, these people still exist); others simply didn't care.
For my part I see him as a man who had a vision, but a man who still had vices as well as vitrtues, and flaws as well as perfections. But we are not here to discuss the nature of Martin Luther King Jr., nor to dispute the impact and influence he caused and had. Our purpose here is to tip our hats and raise our drinks to a few of the many artistic tributes that one of the most prominent men of the 20th century inspired:
1. Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument
Designed by Lei Yixin and carved from white granite the official Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial sits on the northwest shore of the Tidal Basin of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Opened in 2011, the memorial consists of two quote walls which bear inscriptions from many on King's speeches ), two larger granite slabs called The Mountain of Despair and the statue itself, called the Stone of Hope. It's the first memorial honoring an African-American to be located on or near the National Mall and the fourth on the Mall to honor a non-president.
2. Street Art
My wanderlust occasionally has its surprise uses. Whether it's been in Miami, Seattle, the Bahamas, or even Denver Dr. King appears in spray painted glory. Often times these images appear in the cities poorest areas; the dream perhaps lives greatest in these neighborhoods, where the desperately poor cling to the idea that tomorrow will be a better day.
3. Return of the King from the Boondocks.
The most controversial pick on my list, and still one of my favorites. The episode from the television show The Boondocks presents us with a King (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) that instead of dying from James Earl Ray's bullet fell into a coma and awoke in late 2000. As the episode progresses we see a King that is slowly but surely stripped of the optimism that had been his greatest asset during the civil rights era. The episode comes to a head with a speech that begins with “This is it? This is what I got all those ass whoopings for?” Putting aside Jesse Jackson's rage, the episode does try to answer one question that so many people today ask: What would Martin Luther King Jr. make of society today?
4. The Rosa Parks Story
Though King only makes a cameo appearance in this made for television movie, the actor portraying King is my main reason for inclusion. It is Dexter Scott King, the Doctor's second son, who takes on the role. Though his role in the story is minor, one must give credit where it's due. Martin Luther King Jr. would be an intimidating role for any actor, let alone one of his children.
A three episode biopic staring Oscar winner Paul Winfield, King tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr. from start to finish. From his days as a humble Southern Baptist minister all the way through to the fateful April day in Memphis, Winfield takes us through it all in this Emmy winning 1978 series.