AUTHORS’ NOTE: An earlier version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association in Chicago in November 2004. We wish to express our appreciation for valuable research assistance provided by Jodi Brusewitz, Marquette University.
History, Collective Memory, and the Appropriation of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Reagan's Rhetorical Legacy
Version of Record online: 2 NOV 2005
Presidential Studies Quarterly
Volume 35, Issue 4, pages 661–690, December 2005
How to Cite
BOSTDORFF, D. M. and GOLDZWIG, S. R. (2005), History, Collective Memory, and the Appropriation of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Reagan's Rhetorical Legacy. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 35: 661–690. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-5705.2005.00271.x
- Issue online: 2 NOV 2005
- Version of Record online: 2 NOV 2005
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.