BPF - Black Press International   Covering news of interest about people and topics of interst to you
Home

Date: Feature Week of January 11, 2004
Topic: Black Press Business/Economic
Author: William Reed
Article ID: article_ema011104

MLK: FATHER OF BLACK AMERICA’S MIDDLE CLASS?

Have These Children Gone Astray?

January 19th Americans will commemorate the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., born in Atlanta, GA, January 15, 1929Martin Luther King, Jr. came from a middle-class background, but unlike many of today’s Black middle-class, he rejected the status quo and advocated social and economic change for America.

Almost 36 years since his tragic death, far too many among the 2nd, 3rd and 4th generations of middle-class Blacks now join “The Establishment” in making selective interpretations of King’s “Dream” that its unimaginable he would ever have endorsed.  The MLK Holiday is a time to remember the Black middle-class that bred King and preceded him in the fight for equality and opportunity.

For over two centuries African-Americans faced barriers to economic success in America Changes during World War II and the 13 years King gave to the Civil Rights Movement created opportunities for more Black Americans to enter the middle class.  While Civil Rights Movement legislation did reduce racial barriers to education and employment, it came after the beginnings of a Black middle class.  Blacks in today’s mainstream who affirm the status quo should give more examination to the role of MLK’s middle-class mentors played in bringing “the Dreamer” forth.

Four million Blacks were freed from slavery after the Civil War, yet most remained as sharecroppers or menial workers in southern cities.  The end of Reconstruction brought the return of rigid racial segregation.  The Jim Crow racial code had the full force of law, yet from 1900 to 1940, an African-American middle-class emerged.  During the 1940s and 50s the literacy and school attendance levels of African-American children increased. Millions of African-Americans left the South for improved economic opportunities in the North.  In 1960, 41 percent of blacks lived in the North, compared to 10 percent in 1900.

Half the improvements between Black and white incomes occurred before 1960.  The better-educated adults of the 1950s, like Dr. King, led the movement which fostered economic gains for greater numbers of African-Americans.  African Americans of today can honor MLK by also noting the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights movement – Black people who were parents during the 1940 - 50s eras.

Black middle-class parents of the post-civil rights movement era are the first to raise their children amid broad economic and social affluence.  Generation X and Y Blacks are the 3rd and 4th generations of middle-class African Americans - those people born in the 1960s to the 80s and from the early 1980s to late 90s.  Black Baby Boomers - born after World War II from the 1940s to early 1960s – and their children have lost the values of MLK and his parents.  Too many seem to ignore the fact, well established among King and the first Black middle-class generation that the foundation for the development of the Black middle class lies in investments in human capital.

What would MLK say of today’s Black middle class?  Possibly, he’d say “they have to be more effective toward empowerment of the masses of African Americans”.  The Black middle-class has three ongoing options within context of America’s continuing oppressive system: one is to identify with the establishment and tolerate, and even defend the status-quo; another is to vacillate and be apathetic of the system; or, do as MLK did and identify with, and merge their interests with the masses of Black people.  It is with this mindset that MLK, and the middle-class that preceded him, played such an instrumental role in the Black struggle for reform and revolution.

Each year that America celebrates the MLK Holiday, it’s important the Black middle class be challenged again and again to forsake false promises from the Establishment that the "American Dream" can be a reality for them within a society still harboring racism.  The MLK Holiday should not just be a day off, but a “day on” toward working among the masses to rescue and reconstruct the Black community.

XXX

© 2000-2003 William Reed - www.BlackPressInternational.com

 

Find What You Need...
 
Mission/Vision | Bookstore | Biography | Speaking Engagements | Current Articles | Contact Us | Article Archive

© 2001-2003 Black Press International. All rights reserved | BPI website supports browser versions 4.0 and higher.
| Site designed and developed by tigr blu Design