Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. locks arms with his aides as he leads a march of several thousands to the court house in Montgomery, Ala., March 17, 1965. From left: Rev. Ralph Abernathy, James Foreman, King, Jesse Douglas, Sr., and John Lewis (partially out of frame)

This post was originally published on Defender Network

By Aswad Walker

We do most historical figures, and ourselves, a grave disservice by the way deceased giants are taught and presented to us in books, movies and interviews.

Consistent with the United States’ penchant for promoting “rugged individualism,” historical figures are, more often than not, taught as if they committed to their courageous acts as if assured of the outcome. They were not.

“These women and men history-makers and game-changers, had no guarantees their actions would lead to a particular victory,” said Randy Mwenda Brown, senior pastor of Shrine Atlanta. “Presenting their actions as such strips them of their humanity, and ignores the very real human doubts, fears and challenges they had to muster up the courage to face.

“They had no guarantees that their lunch counter protests, marches along dangerous, southern highways would produce a changed society. Yet, they stepped out on faith and acted anyway.”

Brown says the other problem with how many historical figures are taught is that they are presented as singular individuals acting alone.

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