The civil-rights movement, led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. , helped deliver America from the historic sins of slavery and Jim Crow by forcing the nation to confront the full humanity of its black citizens. King’s words and actions glorified America by transfiguring its racial wound and revealing its redemptive promise. Yet today many black leaders have lost sight of King altogether and are aiding and abetting the crucifixion of their own people. Rather than hope, they see despair; rather than the Easter Sunday of true liberation, they offer the bleak Good Friday of never-ending misery.
The history of black American responses to slavery and Jim Crow generally followed three paths. They were hotly debated, but all emphasized human agency, sought liberation, and rejected despair.
First, there were the recolonization or “back to Africa” movements championed by the likes of Marcus Garvey. These movements sought an exit from America.
Second, there were the insurrectionists of the 19th century, who believed that black Americans should engage in armed rebellion or vocal opposition so that they might find a home in this country. Here lie Nat Turner and, later, W.E.B. Du Bois. They wanted to have their resistant voice heard in America.
Third, there were accommodationist movements of the sort undertaken by Booker T. Washington, who thought that loyalty to America was the best course...