Glenn Loury and I two years ago discussing what might have happened had Dr. King survived. I don’t believe there would be an MLK holiday. He would have remained too a polarizing figure, as he surely would have gone on to do more difficult, controversial, and worthy things.

MLK Day always makes me remember fondly the old Jewish radicals, not least my parents and grandparents, who supported the Civil Rights Movement in the 1940s and 1950s. They were way before their time.

I also remember 1968, the worst year in postwar American history. I was five, watching my parents staring in horror at our black-and-white kitchen TV. There was Coretta Scott King in mourning black. There were the sobbing mourners and the terrifying images of rioting and burning. The wheels were coming off. I didn’t know what to make of it. No one did.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is the Helen Ross Professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.