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African-American Scholar Sharon Austin: “We are still fighting many of the same battles as Dr. King did in his day.”

By: Sharon Austin

On Apr. 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee while assisting striking sanitation workers.

From Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter, many modern
social movements decry the same inequality Dr. King did.
Lawrence Bryant/Reuters

That was 50 years ago. Back then, the wholesale racial integration required by the 1964 Civil Rights Act was just beginning to chip away at discrimination in education, jobs and public facilities. Black voters had only obtained legal protections two years earlier, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act was about to become law.

African-Americans were only beginning to move into neighborhoods, colleges and careers once reserved for whites only.

I’m too young to remember those days. But hearing my parents talk about the late 1960s, it sounds in some ways like another world. Numerous African-Americans now hold positions of power, from mayor to governor, to corporate chief executive – and, yes, once upon a time, president. The U.S. is a very different place than it was 50 years ago.


Or is it? As a scholar of minority politics, I know that while some things have improved markedly for Black Americans since 1968, today we are still fighting many of the same battles as Dr. King did in his day.

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