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In his last speech, known to history as “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” Martin Luther King Jr. began by remarking on the introduction he’d been given by his friend, Ralph Abernathy. “As I listened to ... his eloquent and generous introduction and then thought about myself,” King said modestly, “I wondered who he was talking about.”

The facsimile of King that America would fashion after his assassination—saintly pacifist, stranger to controversy, beloved by all—might have provoked something well beyond wonder. To create a version of King that America could love, the nation sanded down the reality of the man, his ministry, and his activism. In this episode of Radio Atlantic, Vann Newkirk and Adrienne Green join our hosts, Jeffrey Goldberg and Matt Thompson, to discuss the truth of King in the last years of his life and after.

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