In the decades since his death, Martin Luther King Jr. has been transformed from a flesh-and-blood figure into a one-dimensional icon. Historians fear memory has frozen King on the Washington Mall in 1963, reducing him to a soundbite and a “symbol that people use and manipulate for their own purposes,” says one professor. The Associated Press considers King's—there's that word again—legacy.
In 1968, King was something of a pariah, championing edgy anti-war and anti-poverty issues. By ignoring King’s evolution over the last 5 years of his life and the more controversial views he embraced, “we lose a view on what real leadership is,” another professor says. “Following King meant following the unpopular road, not the popular one."