History, Collective Memory, and the Appropriation of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Reagan's Rhetorical Legacy
Format of Original
Presidential Studies Quarterly
Original Item ID
This article argues that President Ronald Reagan appropriated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words and memory to suggest equal opportunity in the United States had been largely achieved. Individuals—rather than the government—now had to take responsibility for any additional progress. By arguing that the dismantling of federal civil rights laws and social programs was actually consistent with Dr. King's words, President Reagan advanced his own agenda for civil rights in direct violation of Dr. King's intentions, while narrowing the purview of civil rights to eliminate government intervention in employment, education, and other arenas.