MLK III Reflects on Voting Rights as Congress Honors His Parents

The activist came to Washington to receive a posthumous gold medal for his parents, but spoke most forcefully about changing voting laws.

Posted: 06/24/2014 02:00 PM EDT
MLK III Reflects on Voting Rights As Congress Honors His Parents

Martin Luther King III mused about how pleased his parents would be with their receiving a posthumous congressional gold medal Tuesday afternoon for their contributions to American society, saying “I think they would be deeply honored.”

However, the son of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King said that his parents’ more dominant feeling would be their frustration over what has happened with voting rights in the United States and the wave of new voter identification laws and efforts to make it more difficult for people of color to cast ballots.

”I think both my parents would be greatly disappointed with where our nation is now regarding the right to vote,” King said, in an interview with BET.com.

“When you consider there is almost no fraud to speak of, yet we have created more restrictions,” he added. “Why do we need to create a new ID just to get people to vote? I think my parents would constantly challenge the president and the Congress on this issue. Of course, the president has said this is something that can be fixed and he will work on it. But some of the Congress members don’t want masses of people to participate in elections.”

King, along with his sister Bernice and brother Dexter, were in Washington to receive the Congressional Gold Medal and to recognize their parents’ role in the landmark Civil Rights Act that was signed into law on July 2, 1964, by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The event, in the rotunda of the capitol building, was to be attended by Speaker John A. Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Congressman John Lewis and Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia L. Fudge.

In the interview, King said he was appreciative of the bipartisan group of elected officials at the event. However, he said he would be even more impressed if Congress were to take action to reinstate into law provisions of the Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the United States Supreme Court.

At 56, King describes himself as a human rights activist. A onetime head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the King Center in Atlanta, he was one of the featured speakers at last year’s 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, along with the Rev. Al Sharpton, the head of the National Action Network.

“As we are observing this anniversary and receiving these awards, which are wonderful, my focus is on the larger issues,” King said. “I’m sick of singing 'We Shall Overcome.' I want us to be able to sing, 'We Have Overcome.' When we fix our voting system, that will help. We can and we must do a better job.”

Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

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(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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