Wednesday, January 27, 2021
To most Americans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. represent contrasting ideals: Self-defense versus nonviolence, Black power versus civil rights, the sword versus the shield. The struggle for Black freedom is wrought with the same contrasts. While nonviolent direct action is remembered as an unassailable part of American democracy, the movement's militancy is either vilified or erased outright. In this Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Lecture, Peniel E. Joseph, the Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin, upends these misconceptions and reveals a nuanced portrait of two men who, despite markedly different backgrounds, inspired and pushed each other throughout their adult lives. This is a strikingly revisionist biography, not only of Malcolm X. and Dr. King, but also of the movement and era they came to define.
Peniel E. Joseph holds a joint professorship appointment at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the History Department in the College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin. He is also the founding director of the LBJ School's Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. His career focus has been on "Black Power Studies," which encompasses interdisciplinary fields such as Africana studies, law and society, women's and ethnic studies, and political science.
Prior to joining the UT faculty, Joseph was a professor at Tufts University, where he founded the school's Center for the Study of Race and Democracy to promote engaged research and scholarship focused on the ways issues of race and democracy affect people's lives.
In addition to being a frequent commentator on issues of race, democracy, and civil rights, Joseph is the author of numerous books. His most recent book "The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr." was named a Time 100 Must-Read books of 2020, the Financial Times's Best Political Books of 2020, the Guardian's Best Books of 2020, a Times Literary Supplement Best Book of 2020, PEN America Biography Long List, and a New York Times Book review Editor's Pick. He is also the author of the award-winning books "Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America" and "Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama." His book "Stokely: A Life" has been called the definitive biography of Stokely Carmichael, the man who popularized the phrase "black power." Included among Joseph's other book credits is the editing of "The Black Power Movement: Rethinking" the "Civil Rights-Black Power Era" and "Neighborhood Rebels: Black Power at the Local Level."
Professor Joseph will deliver the 2021 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Commemorative Lecture.