“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” asked Abraham Lincoln.
In an America divided by hate, Martin Luther King Jr. endorsed Lincoln’s radical idea: The races would all benefit, he said, by embracing those who oppose them.
It was a world he called the “beloved community,” one in which “brotherhood is a reality.”
His proposal is the organizing principle of a new exhibit at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights that traces the way King described that concept through the course of his life.
Opening Saturday, Jan. 18, in time for the King holiday, the Voice to the Voiceless exhibit hall at the center will present “An Injustice Anywhere: King’s Beloved Community.”
“People said that as an ideal, it was unattainable,” said Nicole A. Moore, director of education at the center. “But Dr. King strongly felt that this could be attained. He felt that we are all in this together, that we need each other. There’s an interdependence, the way we get through life, through injustice.”
Among the items that will be part of the exhibit is King’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, a number of his books and a draft of his “American Dream” speech.
That three-page manuscript is not distinguished with a King signature, but it does have editing marks from King’s close lieutenant Andrew Young, written in Young’s handwriting.
Also on display will be an incomplete copy of King’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech, given at the Riverside Church in 1967. The war, he said in that speech, was “taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them 8,000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.”
King’s moral opposition to the American involvement in that conflict became a point of contention between King and many of his civil rights allies.
Other movements, inspired by King’s beloved community, will also be represented in the exhibit. “We will not only be looking at King’s teaching but how that transitions to the global community,” said Moore. Those include the Women’s Strike in the 1970s and the National March on Washington for lesbian and gay rights in 1979,” said Moore.
The new installation will replace an exhibit on the Poor People’s Campaign.
The beloved community, said Moore, “is a guiding force. It is one of his strongest legacies.”
On King Day, Monday, Jan. 20, the center will host a dramatic reading of “Dear Dr. King,” a play created by Pearl Cleage and a group of students through the Alliance Theatre’s Palefsky Collision Project.
On Wednesday, Jan. 22, the center will host a welcoming reception for the new exhibit, featuring Rev. Dr. Lewis Baldwin, professor emeritus at Vanderbilt University, Laura Soltis, executive director of Freedom University, Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, founder of the Activist Theology Project and Lauren Tate Baeza, director of exhibitions at the center.
Moore, a Charleston native, came to the Atlanta center after serving in interpretive programs at such locations as the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens near Charleston, and Historic Brattonsville in York County.
“It’s interesting nationally how people revere the holiday,” said Moore. “In Atlanta it feels different. There’s a stronger sense of purpose here on King Day.”
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An Injustice Anywhere: King’s Beloved Community
A new exhibit of artifacts from the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection, at the Voice to the Voiceless gallery at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Jan. 18 through June. $19.99. 100 Ivan Allen Jr, Blvd. NW, Atlanta. civilandhumanrights.org , 678-999-8990.
Dear Dr. King
A dramatic reading of a play created by Pearl Cleage and the Alliance Theatre’s Palefsky Collision Project.
11 a.m.-noon. Jan. 20. 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd. NW, Atlanta. civilandhumanrights.org, 678-999-8990.
Opening reception for “An Injustice Anywhere: King’s Beloved Community”
Features Rev. Dr. Lewis Baldwin, Laura Soltis, Robyn Henderson-Espinoza and Lauren Tate Baeza.
7-8:30 p.m. Jan. 22. 100 Ivan Allen Jr Blvd NW, Atlanta. civilandhumanrights.org, 678-999-8990.
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