MLK lesson at FIS

Middlebrook said significance of Dr. King being lost locally

The Civil Rights achievements of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are not well known by most of today’s children and teenage students, said the Rev. Dr. Harold Middlebrook, who personally knew King and was present when he was assassinated in 1968.

Retired pastor at Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in East Knoxville, Middlebrook has visited Farragut Intermediate School the past 16 years to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan. 16, attempting to inspire students with a speech as King inspired him in the 1960s.

“You are somebody,” Middlebrook told students during his speech as part of a Character Counts program Friday, Jan. 13, in the school gymnasium.

FIS principal Reggie Mosley said students learned about King during the week of the program to prepare them for Middlebrook’s talk.

However, Middlebrook said he has observed, on the whole, children and teenage students know less about King “because we aren’t teaching them.

“His life has become so sanitized that we just take it for granted. [Martin Luther King Jr. Day] is a day we get off,” Middlebrook added. “We don’t require any studying of his life and the meaning of his life. And, even on the holiday, young people out here will not participate in the actual holiday.”

Using a local example, Middlebrook said, “We’ve tried for years to get the Farragut High School band and other bands to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. parade, but to no avail.

“For several years, the principal at the high school told us that the school had other plans for the band and the students on that day, when we knew there was no school,” he added. “So, people give due lip service but no commitment to working toward what the life and legacy of what Martin Luther King Jr. is about.”

Middlebrook said about African-Americans and White people getting along, “That does not start when they get grown. It means parents have to start that process while [the children’s] minds are still being shaped to respect equality, to respect justice.”

Middlebrook met King in Atlanta while attending More-house College and joined King in sit-ins — enduring brutality and arrests. He had shared a home with King’s brother and was considered a member of the family. He also was present at sit-ins with the Rev. Jessie Jackson and Stokely Car-michael.

April 4, 1968, King was staying in Room 306 at Lorraine Motel in Memphis when he was assassinated. Middlebrook was standing on the ground below the balcony King when King was shot above him.