50th Anniversary of the MLK Assassination: Revisiting the Memory and Continuing Urgency of the African American Freedom Struggle

Type: Paper
Theme: Black Geographies
Sponsor Groups: American Association of Geographers, Black Geographies Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Borgne Room, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Organizers: Derek Alderman
Chairs: Derek Alderman


April 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of noted civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Despite the transformative role that the American Civil Rights Movement played in the USA and globally and the acknowledgement of King as an important social theorist as well as activist, the geography community has until recently had little to say about his writings, his legacies, and the wider African American struggle for freedom and survivability. This session offers a corrective to this neglect and joins past and ongoing efforts to advance the analytical and political importance of civil rights within a discipline that claims a commitment to diversity, inclusion, and social justice. This session provides a space for reappraising how MLK’s legacy is remembered and forgotten within popular and academic thought while also de-centering King and the singular way that he dominates discussions of the civil rights movement and how his life and death have been used all too conveniently to mark the beginning and end of this movement. Invited contributors engage in a critical rewriting of the memory and continuing urgency of the African American freedom struggle. Some contributors enrich, complicate, and even challenge prevailing framings of King’s historical reputation that have effectively de-radicalized him. Others reflect on of the legacies of the MLK assassination and other racist violence, using the session as an opportunity to come to terms with and analyze the persistence, patterns, and consequences of violence against people of color. Importantly, contributors explore the diverse agendas, struggles, geographies, and voices of the black civil rights struggle often eclipsed by the public fixation with King (e.g., SNCC, Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ida B. Wells) and the political efficacy of commemorating, preserving, archiving, and actively engaging these historical figures and moments. The hope is that this session can lead to a broader and more critical reappraisal of Dr. King and the African American Freedom Movement but also lead to critical discussions of how a rewriting of memory can inform ongoing struggles against racism and future political mobilization led by lay and academic communities.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Joshua Inwood*, Pennsylvania State University, Lessons From The “World House”: King’s Critique of Neo-Colonialism and American Exceptionalism. 20 3:20 PM
Presenter LaToya Eaves*, Middle Tennessee State University, “Only Justice Can Stop a Curse”: Black Feminisms and Movements 20 3:40 PM
Presenter Priscilla McCutcheon*, University of Louisville, The Women Shall Lead the Way: Fannie Lou Hamer and the National Council of Negro Women’s Comprehensive Fight to End Hunger 20 4:00 PM
Presenter James Tyner*, Kent State University, On the Legacy of Massacres and Assassinations: My Lai, the Death of MLK, and Contemporary Racial Violence 20 4:20 PM
Presenter Geoff Ward*, University of California - Irvine, CA, Keeping the Red Record: Commemoration of Racist Violence as a Strategy of Contestation 20 4:40 PM

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