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

Meena Krishnamurthy
Queen's University
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.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1177/00905917211021796
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,307
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

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 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 22 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

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 index

Total views
15 ( #698,074 of 2,507,805 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
7 ( #102,768 of 2,507,805 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes