A Hero to Be Remembered: Ebony Magazine, Critical Memory and the “Real Meaning” of the King Holiday

E. James West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article explores the role of Ebony magazine as a key staging ground for competing political and ideological debates over Martin Luther King Jr's legacy, and the struggle for a national holiday in his name. In doing so, it provides an important case study into the contestations between what Houston Baker has described as “black critical memory” and “black conservative nostalgia.” In response to attempts by Ronald Reagan and other politicians to reimagine King as an advocate for color-blind conservatism, Ebony’s senior editor, Lerone Bennett Jr., sought to situate King's legacy within a radical “living history” of black America. However, the magazine's broader coverage of the King holiday movement betrayed underlying tensions within its discussion of King's legacy, and fed into the magazine's role as an inadvertent frame for color-blind ideologies during the 1980s.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)503-527
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of American Studies
Volume52
Issue number2
Early online date15 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - May 2018
Externally publishedYes

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