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Baltimore Sun Article on Dr. King Quotes Prof. John Dittmer

January 19, 2003

January 19, 2003, Greencastle, Ind. - "John Dittmer, a professor of history at DePauw University in Indiana, notes that most narratives of [Dr. Martin Luther] King's life seen at this time of year - his birthday is celebrated as a national holiday tomorrow - follow the civil rights movement from the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott of 1954 to the march from Selma, Alabama, in 1965 and then skip to his death in 1968 without chronicling the splintering of the movement in King's last years," writes Michael Hill in the opinion page of today's Baltimore Sun. "Things go off in a lot of different directions after 1965 and King had much less control that he did before," Dr. Dittmer tells the newspaper in an article entitled "In the shadow of Dr. King."

The story continues, "If King had been alive to celebrate his 74th birthday last Wednesday, few think he would have the same legendary status that his legacy has today - exactly what many say about John F. and Robert F. Kennedy. That is not to minimize in any way what this Nobel Peace Prize winner accomplished; it is to say that he accomplished so much, so quickly, that there is no way he could have done more so fast. Dittmer quotes African-American intellectual Vincent Harding: 'Martin Luther King made all the history he could.'"

Later in the piece, which quotes several King scholars, Hill states, "Few find it surprising that no one has come along to take his place. 'You have to remember that it wasn't Martin Luther King who created the civil rights movement, it was the civil rights movement that created Martin Luther King,' Dittmer says. 'I think the reason we haven't produced another leader is because we haven't produced another movement.'" (Dr. King seen in photo at right speaking at Gobin United Methodist Church on the DePauw campus, September 5, 1960; courtesy DePauw archives)

You can read the article in its entirety at the Sun's Web site by clicking here

An acclaimed civil rights historian, John Dittmer joined the DePauw University faculty in 1985. He was the recipient of the 1999 Exemplary Teaching Award from the General Board of Higher Education Ministry of the United Methodist Church. Dr. Dittmer's special area of interest is the civil rights movement in Mississippi, which he has studied and researched for more than 30 years. He shares many of his experiences with students in classes such as Twentieth Century United States History, African-American History, History of the South and Civil Rights History.

His book, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi, was published in 1994 and received the prestigious Herbert G. Gutman Award, the Lillian Smith Book Award, the McLemore Prize from the Mississippi Historical Society and the Bancroft Prize. The New York Times named Dittmer's book one of the “Notable Books of 1994.” Julian Bond called Local People "the definitive analytical history of the black freedom movement in the nation's most recalcitrant state."

A sought after speaker, Dittmer has delivered the Martin Luther King Lecture at Vanderbilt University, spoke in the Oral History Program at UCLA, delivered the plenary session address at the annual meeting of the Indiana Association of Teachers of the Social Sciences, and gave the Herbert P. Lefler Lecture at Carleton College. He also served on the James A. Rawley Prize committee of the Organization of American Historians, which selects the best new book on race relations each year.

Prior to DePauw, Dr. Dittmer taught at M.I.T., Brown University, Tougaloo College and Indiana University. He earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Indiana University.

Source: Baltimore Sun

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