Reflecting On Dr. King And The Disability Rights Movement

Martin Luther King




In thinking about Dr. Martin Luther King as his birthday approaches, I was looking into connections between the civil rights movement that he helped to lead for racial equality and the disability rights movement. I’ve always been interested in the intersection of groups of people who are discriminated against, and bringing white clergy, public officials and citizens into the movement opposing discrimination against blacks was an essential part of King’s strategy.

I’ve also been thinking about how King might have responded to current attacks on the poor, on people with disabilities, and on important government programs that the majority of Americans depend on for healthcare and a modicum of economic security – programs that include Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

What has always interested me most about King is the organizing focused on economic justice that he did toward the end of his life – work I have always believed prompted his murder. Having turned his formidable skills and national stature to organizing across racial lines for economic equality through the Poor People’s Campaign, it is easy to imagine this leading to King being considered a greater threat than any of his prior campaigns. This is especially compelling when looked at through the lens of policies that have sharply increased economic inequality since his death.


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