It is clear from the writings and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that he would be opposed to Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project. For while proponents of these theories seek to demonize America and her founding documents, Dr. King saw Divine Providence at work in America's founding and he sought to build his work on that original American dream.
For example, writing from the Birmingham city jail in April of 1963, Dr. King expressed confidence that his fight for racial justice would succeed for two reasons: (1) the “sacred heritage” of our nation and (2) the eternal will of God embodied in his demands.
In the same letter, Dr. King declared that one day the South would realize that he and others of the Civil Rights movement were, in fact, “Standing up for the best in the American dream and the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage.”
A "heritage" is an inheritance. It is a valued legacy that one generation leaves to the next. A "sacred" heritage is one that has something of the Divine embodied in it. Dr. King obviously believed that there was something godly and Providential in America's founding, hence his use of the phrase "sacred heritage."
Dr. King knew that the early immigrants to this land were persecuted Christians who had come here with a dream for a land where they could live out their faith without government interference. He also knew that a “Great Awakening” had morally transformed the founding generation and turned the founders against slavery at a time it was practiced throughout the world. This is what Dr. Thomas Sowell was referring to when he wrote,
Among those who turned against slavery in the 18th century were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and other American leaders. You could research all of 18th century Africa or Asia or the Middle East without finding any comparable rejection of slavery there (Hyatt, Abolitionist Founding Fathers, 9).
The American dream of a land of faith and freedom is the “sacred heritage” of which Dr. King spoke. He believed that America’s founders had left this “sacred heritage” of faith and freedom to succeeding generations, and knowledge of this heritage was a source of hope and confidence for him in his struggle for civil rights.
Dr. King expressed this belief in America’s “sacred heritage” in his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech. Speaking from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he declared, “I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.” Expressing deep respect for America’s founding documents, he went on to say,
“When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Then quoting from the words of the Declaration of Independence, he proclaimed,
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
For Dr. King, the problem was not with our founders and their founding documents. The problem was that Americans of succeeding generations were not living up to the ideals of faith and freedom expressed in those founding documents.
Make no mistake! Those who are pushing the 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory have rejected Dr. King, America’s founders, and America's founding documents. They have naively thumbed their nose at the “sacred heritage” on which Dr. King built his work and which made America, perhaps, the freest and most prosperous nation in human history,
Dr. Eddie Hyatt is an author and ordained minister with over 50 years of service as a pastor, teacher, and professor of theology. This article is derived from his latest book, Abolitionist Founding Fathers, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.