Mourning King: Memory, Black Rage, and the Shaping of Black Power  

This essay looks at the way in which Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination was used as a rhetorical resource of black rage to help shape the direction of the Black Power movement in 1968. Using the speeches and autobiographies of Black Power leaders, I argue that King’s assassination provided context and clarity for the Black Power movement, justifying a more militant and assertive identity for black activists working in opposition to an increasingly hostile federal government. King’s own militancy on Vietnam near the end of his life, shaped in large part by the Black Power movement, allowed Black Power leaders to mobilize King’s memory in the service of the North American Third World Left.


Lisa M. Corrigan is an associate professor of communication, the director of the Gender Studies Program, and affiliate faculty in both African and African American Studies and Latin American Studies at the University of Arkansas. She researches and teaches in the areas of social movement studies, the Black Power and civil rights movements, prison studies, feminist studies, the Cuban Revolution, and the history of the Cold War. Her first book, Prison Power: How Prison Politics Influenced the Movement for Black Liberation (University Press of Mississippi, 2016), is the recipient of the 2017 Diamond Anniversary Book Award and the 2017 African American Communication and Culture Division Outstanding Book Award, both from the National Communication Association.