At the dedication for the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C. on Friday, the civil rights leader's daughter made an interesting mistake regarding Abraham Lincoln. According to her, Lincoln is best known for signing the Declaration of Independence.
"But as I close, I close with the recognition that daddy is standing, Lincoln is seated," Bernice King said. "Lincoln remembered for signing the Declaration of Independence. Daddy being remembered as standing up for truth and standing up for justice and standing up for righteousness and standing up for peace and standing up for freedom. Daddy is now standing on the National Mall in our nation’s capital."
Watch it below:
The historical mistake could be simply an honest one that happens all the time when people speak in front of crowds. She probably just meant to say "Emancipation Proclamation."
But it's curious that Bernice -- who has been labeled a conservative on some issues -- would draw the juxtaposition that her father is now immortalized as someone who is standing while Lincoln is immortalized as someone who is sitting. It seems she wants to draw a distinction, and may even want to go as far as to point out her father's legacy is grander than Lincoln's -- and their memorials now recognize that.
Comparing legacies is difficult. But her seeming attempt to do so begs the question: Is Bernice King saying that MLK stood for civil rights while Lincoln just sat around? And if she is, would that mean the simple case of misspeaking is something more? Is it actually a misguided attack on Lincoln, trying to lump him into the group of Founding Fathers who signed the Declaration and who are often ridiculed as being racists?
Maybe. If so, it would seem to go against how MLK viewed Lincoln. According to his writings, he saw Lincoln as standing for equal rights:
We cannot be truly Christian people so long as we flaunt the central teachings of Jesus: brotherly love and the Golden Rule.
The spirit of Lincoln still lives; that spirit born of the teachings of the Nazarene, who promised mercy to the merciful, who lifted the lowly, strengthened the weak, ate with publicans, and made the captives free. In the light of this divine example, the doctrines of demagogues shiver in their chaff.
America experiences a new birth of freedom in her sons and daughters; she incarnates the spirit of her martyred chief. Their loyalty is repledged; their devotion renewed to the work He left unfinished. My heart throbs anew in the hope that inspired by the example of Lincoln, imbued with the spirit of Christ, they will cast down the last barrier to perfect freedom. And I with my brother of blackest hue possessing at last my rightful heritage and holding my head erect, may stand beside the Saxon--a Negro--and yet a man! [Emphasis added]
Or maybe it was just a simple mistake. That's possible.