Martin Luther King Jr. is ubiquitous. A federal holiday, a monument and a plethora of schools and streets bearing his name have cemented his presence on the cultural landscape of the United States. Liberals and conservatives alike appropriate King’s language to adorn their political wardrobes and buttress their ideological constructions.
While the popular rendering of King is one of a civil rights leader who now enjoys widespread acceptability in American public discourse, his radical politics and his rough-edged critique of U.S. imperial adventures have been smoothed over. The real King was committed to a democratic socialist vision that germinated from his black church roots. Specifically, there are three pillars of the radical gospel of Martin Luther King Jr. that we should not allow holiday remembrances to whitewash: democratic socialism, transnational anti-imperialism and black prophetic Christianity.