Peniel E. Joseph is Barbara Jordan chair in ethics and political values and founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is a professor of history.
Had he lived, Martin Luther King Jr. would be 94 years old this year. The tragic brevity of his life, cut short by an assassin in 1968, remains a testament to the enduring impact he made during his short time on earth.
Although some may find it hard to believe (or wish it to be otherwise), King lived in a political climate and historical era not so different from our own. Civil rights activists were pilloried as anti-American subversives, Communist dupes and an unpatriotic mob, rhetoric echoed in contemporary attacks against Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters and even school teachers, whose classroom explorations of Black and American history have triggered a political backlash reminiscent of the civil rights era.