The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

COLUMN: Don’t reduce King’s legacy

Sia DeyKoontz
Jason Farias

If you reduce your consideration of Black history and the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. to just February, you miss the celebration’s point entirely. 

Early versions of Black History Month, first proposed by writer and historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926, were born out of necessity because he believed the contributions of Black folk in the history profession to be overlooked, ignored and even suppressed by history textbook writers and teachers who use them. 

In its inception, this celebration was born out of a need to affirm Black resistance and existence in a white supremacist society. 

Today, we understand that as long as white supremacy still operates, there remains a need to emphasize Black folk’s history, dignity and other things still rendered silent. 

Furthermore, we should not be naive to believe America is not a racist country. 

Racism does not decrease with time, in fact, it insidiously reconstructs and reinstates itself within our modern beliefs, values and attitudes. 

The reality remains that the U. S. is still a deeply segregated society, and the visions of great freedom fighters like King have yet to come to fruition. 

Cornel West, a religion and African American critical thought philosopher, said Black History Month is not about the past, rather understanding how the past influences the present and can create a better future. 

Thus, if we are to honestly and truthfully celebrate King, we must engage with his legacy to address the injustices of the present.

For now, let us focus on the legacy of Eastern’s Martin Luther King Jr. University Union. Renamed in 1971, the struggle to dedicate the student union in honor of King was wrought with controversy and opposition. 

This continues to signal a great victory considering the profound power of place politics

However, what more can we do to honor King’s legacy today? 

Do we study King’s writings and speeches in our classrooms? 

Do we read his books in our personal lives? 

Have we picked up the mantle of his Poor People’s Campaign? 

Do we hear his calls for reparations, a universal basic income and a radical redistribution of wealth in this country? 

King was marked a radical because of his staunch anti-imperialism, democratic socialism and revolutionary anti-racism. 

And as Congress today continues to break records on military spending fueling conflict and genocide around the world, do we heed his warning that “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death”? 

Jonathan Eig, author of the recent biography “King: A Life,” said, “…in hallowing King we have hollowed him… In those schools named for King and in almost every school in America, King’s life and lessons are often smooth and polished beyond recognition. Young people hear his dream of brotherhood and his wish for children to be judged by the content of their character, but not his cry for an end to the triple evils of materialism, militarism and racism.” 

If we are to honor the hard-fought legacy of Eastern’s union, inspire change and build a better future, we must wield history better than those who have forgotten it or worse those who wish to erase it.


Jason Farias can be reached at [email protected] or 581-2812.

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Jason Farias, Culture Columnist
Jason Farias is a senior history education major and can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].

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