Martin Luther King Jr. on Democratic Propaganda, Shame, and Moral Transformation

Political Theory 50 (2):305-336 (2022)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This essay develops an account of Martin Luther King Jr.’s justification for and use of what I will call “democratic propaganda”—truthful propaganda that is aimed at promoting and fostering democratic political action by stirring readers’ emotions. I interpret King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in the broader context of his work and argue that it is a piece of democratic propaganda. I give an account of what led King to support the use of democratic propaganda and why he hoped it would help to overcome a central problem in the civil rights movement: the political inaction of the white moderates. King emphasizes shame in the Letter, and I argue that this concept offers us a new way of thinking about the efficacy of democratic propaganda. I close by considering the relevance of King’s approach for today’s Black Lives Matter movement. Despite the innovativeness of King’s use of shame, I suggest it may be time for a new approach to Black politics and activism.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 84,213

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Martin Luther King, Jr., as Democratic Socialist.Douglas Sturm - 1990 - Journal of Religious Ethics 18 (2):79-105.
On the Democratic Value of Distrust.Erich Hatala Matthes - 2015 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (3):1-5.
Exemplifying Public Discourse.Timothy A. Beach-Verhey - 2004 - Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 24 (2):115-136.


Added to PP

46 (#278,140)

6 months
11 (#101,903)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Meena Krishnamurthy
Queen's University

Citations of this work

Maladjustment.Michaela McSweeney - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 180 (3):843-869.

Add more citations

References found in this work

A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
[Book review] the racial contract. [REVIEW]Charles W. Mills - 1997 - Social Theory and Practice 25 (1):155-160.
White Ignorance.Charles W. Mills - 2007 - In Shannon Sullivan & Nancy Tuana (eds.), Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance. Albany, NY: State Univ of New York Pr. pp. 11-38.

View all 24 references / Add more references