Cool Class clipart
three quarter view of Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial statue in Washington, DC
Lessons in Resistance, 1951-2021
What Class?
Lessons in Resistance, 1951-2021
Who Teaches It?
Professor Adam Burgos, philosophy; Professor Cymone Fourshey, history and international relations and director of the Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives & Cultures; Professor Kelly Knox, dance; and the Rev. Kurt Nelson, director of religious & spiritual life.
At some point in their education, most students at Bucknell have read a few famous lines spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. — “I have a dream that one day…” or “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Certainly, Bucknellians have heard King’s name invoked each January by politicians of all stripes who use King’s words to make bland political platitudes.

This course calls on students to delve into the contradiction between King, the dynamic and politically savvy philosopher, preacher and movement leader, and King the static, uncomplicated national icon. Seen as a Black radical in the 1960s because his message threatened the status quo of white domination, by the 1990s King had been recreated and embraced as a national icon. While his message and actions are now taught in schools and commemorated nationally each January, we ask: What shifted in three decades to make him more palatable?

By closely reading and analyzing a number of King’s speeches, and grappling with their contexts, students compare King’s fuller intent to what the nation has chosen to remember and memorialize of his work and words. Students are able to analyze how the images of King that are most prominently available for our consumption stand in stark contrast to the disruption King brought during his time. We focus on the enduring salience of King’s goals and messages on justice, poverty and war a half-century after his assassination, contrasting those messages with his contemporary presentation. Pairing King’s speeches and writings with campus events, students engage in active learning.

Students interpret and reflect on King’s words through an awareness of their historical, philosophical, religious, artistic and linguistic dimensions. As they draw connections between those readings and campus events, they develop and put on a public event of their own that forms the capstone of the course.

— Adam Burgos, Cymone Fourshey, Kelly Knox and Kurt Nelson

Photo: MDart10/Shutterstock