To honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Center for Community Engagement, in collaboration with the Anderson Freeman Center and the Scott Center for Spiritual and Religious Life, is leading the Living Legacy program. Reflective readings, videos, and discussions will be provided asynchronously, paired with direct action in the community throughout the week.

Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to join the conversation!

Reflective Resources

Throughout the week of January 17, 2022, the Middlebury community is invited to reflect on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through asynchronous activities. All materials will be provided in accessible formats. 

Monday, January 17 

Reflective resources and discussion focusing on white complacency. Readings include Dr. King’s 1967 American Psychological Association address and Brave Little State’s “Why Is Vermont So Overwhelmingly White?

Tuesday, January 18 

Reflective resources and discussion focusing on mass incarceration and the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Materials include “Hard Lessons, Hard Times: The School-to-Prison Pipeline,” “A Word: From Schoolyards to Prisonyards,” 13th, “How and Why Black Male Incarceration Is Undermining Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Last Wish.’”

Wednesday, January 19 

Reflective resources and discussion focusing on King’s thoughts on economic systems of oppression. Readings include “The Uncompromising Anti-Capitalism of Martin Luther King Jr.” and “King on Capitalism: The Uncomfortable MLK.”

Thursday, January 20

Reflective resources and discussion provided by the Scott Center. Readings include “A Moral Policy Agenda to Heal and Transform America: The Poor People’s Jubilee Platform”, Rev. Barber’s Repairers of the Breach site, and On Being’s “Rev. Otis Moss III

The Sound of the Genuine: Traversing 2020 with ‘the Mystic of the Movement’ Howard Thurman”

Discussion Questions

  • In his discussions of wealth inequality, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. advocated for “the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.” What are some ways that individuals can work towards this goal? What are some systemic or institutional ways that we as a society can move closer to this goal? What are the implications of this work for our democracy?

  • Though mass incarceration, educational inequality, or the prison industrial complex are large-scale societal concerns, there are ways in which individuals can implement change in their circles of influence. What are some ways that you think you could take action to support individuals impacted by the criminal justice system? In what ways can the voices of those impacted by the criminal justice system be better represented in our policy-making process?

  • Consider the following excerpt from the Keith Reeves podcast.

“Black males number 18 million in the general population, some 840,000 of them are incarcerated and the Justice Department predicts and the projections show that the chances of a Black boy serving time has nearly tripled in three decades. Black males comprise approximately 50% of the adult male prison population and are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than any other group in the population.”

What do you think are the long-term socioeconomic, social, academic, and personal implications of the targeted mass incarceration of Black americans? 

  • In his 1967 address to the American Psychological Association, Dr. King notes that “White America has an appalling lack of knowledge concerning the reality of Negro life”. This may be especially true in Vermont, which the U.S Census Bureau estimates is 94.2% white. What are some ways that Middlebury residents can make authentic efforts to learn more about systemic racism within Middlebury and Vermont? What are some ideas for putting that learning into practice within our local system of governance?

  • Though they may not be immediately apparent to white residents, there are often messages communicated about what it means to be a Vermonter or who belongs in Vermont, which is noted in the following excerpt from VPR.

“White faces, and white snow … white steeples on churches and the so-called white New England village are all kind of packaged together in a way that’s made to kind of look and feel kind of natural in a particular way,” he says, “even that was clearly not kind of anything natural, it was very much a cultural construction.” So beyond economic forces and immigration streams, what we’ve had in this state is this long-term messaging about what Vermont looks like, and who Vermonters are.”

How can individuals work to change these exclusionary ideas and create more inclusive communities?

  • Consider Vermont’s tradition of participatory democracy through the lens of the prior questions. What are the implications of these questions for democratic engagement in Vermont’s local governing structures? What are some ways that we might address structural racism in our local democratic traditions?

  • What is the power, if any, of Rev. Dr. William Barber’s coalition speaking from a moral and religious/spiritual perspective?  What are its advantages and disadvantages?

  • If you look at Part I of the Poor People’s Jubliee Platform, after the preamble and the principles, you will see that the first item is “to protect and expand the right to vote.” Why do you think voting rights are the first thing listed?

  • Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was himself a pastor, yet in the On Being podcast with Rev. Otis Moss III he emphasizes that Rev. Howard Thurman was everybody’s pastor—the pastor to the civil rights movement. Why do you think a movement and its leaders might need a pastor?  How do the spiritual perspectives that Thurman and Moss offer contribute to the work of social change?

Middlebury College faculty, staff, and students are invited to continue the discussion on our moderated Canvas page.

Join the Canvas page!