Rich Paxson

What ideal of goodness was Dr. King challenging in his I Have a Dream speech?

Eugenics, a pseudo-science that supported racist ideas, was popular in the U.S. from the 1910s to the 1930s. Eugenics supported claims that some races were better than others holding that each race had a right to exist but that races should live separate from each other. Eugenicist ideas functioned as a pretext for legitimizing residential segregation with all of its attendant evils.

Eugenicist ideas capsulized much of the “goodness” that Dr. King challenged. King’s speech challenged Americans everywhere to open city and suburban neighborhoods to homeowners regardless of the color of their skin. King’s message was that freedom was about personal integrity and self-respect, not about blind adherence to any abstract system for goodness. For bringing his message, King was assassinated in Memphis in 1968.