Editorials: On Martin Luther King’s 90th birthday, a reminder of how far we have come and how far we still have to go | Peniel E. Joseph/The Washington Post
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., one of the architects of America’s struggle for racial justice, would have been 90 years old on Tuesday. This year also marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans on the shores of Jamestown, Va., the dawn of the black experience in what would become the United States. These two historic milestones offer us an opportunity to examine King’s political legacy, influence and resonance in our own time. The modern civil rights struggle represented a Second American Reconstruction, the sequel to the nation’s original post-Civil War attempt to fundamentally remake the nation as a true democracy. These efforts ended in the heartbreak of massive anti-black violence, lynching, imprisonment and land dispossession. By the end of the 19th century, America had indeed been remade, not as a racially integrated democracy but as an apartheid state euphemistically referred to as Jim Crow.