MLK on anthropology

As some of you many know, Dr. Martin Luther King began his academic career as a sociology major at Moorehouse College in Atlanta. In honor of his birthday this past Jan 19, Huffington Post ran a piece on King and science. It included this quote demonstrating King’s awareness of anthropology’s contribution to the critique of race as biology.

Dr._MLK_Graduation

So men conveniently twisted the insights of religion, science, and philosophy to give sanction to the doctrine of white supremacy…they will even argue that God was the first segregationist. ‘Red birds and blue birds don’t fly together,’ they contend…they turn to some pseudo-scientific writing and argue that the Negro’s brain is smaller than the white man’s brain. They do not know, or they refuse to know, that the idea of an inferior or superior race has been refuted by the best evidence of the science of anthropology. Great anthropologists, like Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, and Melville J. Herskovits agree that although there may be inferior and superior individuals within all races, there is no superior or inferior race. And segregationists refuse to acknowledge that there are four types of blood, and these four types are found within every racial group.

That second to last sentence is key because it is a variation on the maxim I recite in class that variation within racial groups exceeds variation between racial groups.

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About Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is a project cataloger at The Mariners' Museum library. He has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and was formerly a professor at ODU. You can find him on Twitter @m4ttTh0mps0n.
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