Did “I Have a Dream” include LGBT?
Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the biggest civil rights pioneers of all time and while his battle for equality for African-Americans is well-documented, did his “Dream” included homosexuals?
There are no public accounts of Dr. King ever mentioning gays out in the open, but several have reported his comments behind closed doors. So we can only speculate from one-on-one accounts about his ideals on homosexuality. However his wife, Coretta Scott King’s, openly gay assistant, Lynn Cothren, recounted conversations between King and Coretta in which King garnered concern over gay and lesbian discrimination.
A lot can also be said about King’s acceptance of his “fairly open” gay right-hand-man, Bayard Rustin. Rustin was a known homosexual who got charged with sexual perversion when he was caught having sex in a car with two other men. However in spite of this charge, King kept Rustin as his aid; even when Strom Thurman tried to tarnish the image of the civil rights movement by liking it to “sexual and moral deviation.” In his book, To the Mountaintop, Stewart Burns, King’s biographer recounts King’s statement about Rustin, “We are not concerned with Bayard or the past associations or affiliations of any participants. We are not going to conduct a witch hunt.”
During such a tumultuous time for homosexuals and African-Americans, opponents of the civil rights movement tried to do anything possible to negate the civil unrest. Not only was Strom Thurman on top of the homosexual allegations, but also Edgar Hoover, who threatened to “expose” the fabricated, gay relationship between King and Rustin.
Back then an accusation of homosexuality was a very serious thing!
However some believe that King may have rejected homosexuality as he was a member of the clergy. According to his niece Alveda King, “God hates racism and God hates homosexuality.” During this political rant, she also stated that her uncle would feel the same way as she does. An anti-gay group in Florida also passed out pamphlets claiming to have direct quotes against homosexuality made by Dr. King and his associate Reverend Shuttlesworth. However those were later discredited.
There have also been accounts of King denying Rustin’s attempts to have him mention gays and lesbians during his speeches. One specific encounter recalls Rustin threatening to quit if King didn’t acknowledge gays and lesbians. Rustin never quit in spite of King’s strong stance.
So what’s the verdict?
Looking at the very limited and often biased accounts, it would seem as though King were tolerant of homosexuals, right? Perhaps the most compelling account is that of Lynn Cothren, in which he listened to a conversation between King and Coretta. Seeing as though neither of them, King or Coretta, had any stake in the homosexual community, it would see highly unlikely that he would fabricate his concern for them. So was it genuine?
There have been a lot of claims made about Dr. King in the past, but this one will surely remain at the top of my list. Perhaps his tolerance for homosexual associates showed a deeper acceptance of them and their struggles for equality? Or maybe he was simply trying to gain support from another persecuted group while not expressly saying so?
We may never truly know.
Born and raised in Petersburg, VA, Anthony works as a State Farm Account Representative in Enterprise Rent-A-Car's Insurance Operations Department. In his spare time he can often be found wandering aimlessly, with camera in tow, snapping away. He's also a member of, the Richmond-based, Fools Day Comedy Troupe. Read his personal blog here and follow him on Twitter.
Two sites that commemorate the history of LGBTQ Americans were recently added to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places, according to The Durango Herald. The service announced Furies Collective, which is a Capitol Hill rowhouse in Southeast Washington, and San Juan’s Edificio Comunidad de Orgullo Gay de Puerto Rico, the two new [...]May 9, 2016
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