SCS-6: A Workshop on Classics, Racism, Bias: Discussion and Praxis on American History, Mythology, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  In-Person   SCS Session   Workshop


Arti Mehta, Howard University; David J. Wright, Bowdoin College


Can the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and our skills as Classicists help us dismantle aspects of systemic racism that draw upon Classics-related themes? This workshop will focus on the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., a scholar of ancient thought, and the ways in which his writings are being reduced and misrepresented.

This workshop will focus on the topic of how modern mythologizing practices tend to misrepresent King's hortatory use of ancient rhetorical images and devices. The topic will also incorporate similar practices that deemphasize King's familiarity with ancient concepts such as agāpe. The organizers will review King's history through visual media and guide participants through a series of simplified narratives of King's life and prose. Next, small group discussions will offer people the opportunities and resources to juxtapose such memes and brief quotations alongside the thoughtful ideas presented in King's persuasive and humanitarian writings. Groups will share their findings with the entire workshop for a general discussion; thus, no individual abstracts are included. Participants will be drawn from attendees of the 2024 Joint Annual Meeting of the Archeological Institute of America and the Society for Classical Studies: all attendees are welcome. Scholars are reinvesting in modern receptions of the ancient world and Classical rhetoric (Dugan 2020): being trained in historical and source criticism, we process modern history more accurately than popular media might. The disrespect directed at the educational and scholarly activities of Black Americans and others has been well-documented in recent years. Classicists' self-assessments also suggest this work is necessary: demographical data from the SCS's 2018 survey inform us that less than one percent of Classicists are Black/African Americans. SCS members have an interest in living in a just society, where we support everyone to reach their highest capacity within a full range of endeavors. Most Classicists want what Dr. King wanted: that Black peoples, along with everyone else, enjoy the benefits of full citizenship and achieve full human potential (Ewing 2018). Engaging in this workshop, about the unseen but persistent ways in which bias and racism function, will help educate the next generation of scholars to perform better.