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MLK Day Lecture: "The King of the World: Dr. Martin Luther King and Public Memory"

On April 4, 2018, the world commemorated the sacrifices of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. American presidents, world diplomats, and ordinary citizens gathered to honor a prophet who paid the ultimate price for humanity. Few, if any, admitted that King was once the most hated public figure in the United States. He stood for justice and equality, championed the poor, and criticized American capitalism and the nation’s involvement in world-wide conflict. Moreover, King’s legacy has fallen prey to exploitation and capitalism and suffered a whitewashing—a revised history that simplifies his legacy into a sanitized narrative void of complexities.

It is this kind of sentiment that has allowed for American capitalists to publicly praise King while simultaneously exploiting the Baptist preacher’s legacy. Likewise, public celebrations such as Martin Luther King Day, implemented by President Reagan, and the erection of the King monument on the Washington Mall have contributed to the hijacking of King’s legacy. This presentation will explicate and analyze the myth and maxim of Dr. King’s legacy, both nationally and internationally, and how this is presented through public memory.

Dr. Maurice Hobson is an Associate Professor of African American Studies and Historian at Georgia State University. He earned the Ph.D. degree in History, focusing in African American History and 20th Century U.S. History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests are grounded in the fields of African American history, 20th Century U.S. history, comparative labor, African American studies, oral history and ethnography, urban and rural history, political economy, and popular cultural studies. He is the author of award-winning book titled The Legend of the Black Mecca: Politics and Class in the Making of Modern Atlanta with the University of North Carolina Press. 

Thursday, January 16 at 5:30pm to 7:00pm

James A. Haslam II Business Building, 203
1000 Volunteer Boulevard, Knoxville, TN 37996

Event Type

Lectures & Presentations


Humanities & Social Sciences, Diversity & Inclusion


Current Students, Faculty & Staff, General Public

History, Division of Diversity and Engagement


Contact Name

Dr. Brandon K. Winford

Contact Email

Contact Phone

(865) 974-5423

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