The Sources We Choose

MurchThis is the conclusion of an essay in The Guardian written by Donna Murch, professor of history at Rutgers University and author of the prize-winning book Living for the City: Migration, Education and the Rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California. Murch reflects on a controversial essay recently published by the American historian David Garrow in a conservative British magazine about alleged sexual misconduct of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Garrow utilizes FBI records that will not be released to the public until 2027.

…it is worth thinking about what lessons can be drawn from the larger historical debate. The most obvious is the importance of responsibly using state sources, particularly those from law enforcement and intelligence agencies that may be actively involved in shaping the events they purport to represent. Given the vast expansion of policing, incarceration and surveillance in the US over the past half century, this concern extends well beyond the particulars of Garrow’s claims. Continue reading