FACT-CHECKING #2: article in “Fighting Words and Images” (2012).

Faux-scholarship supreme. How many errata will be perpetuated/proliferated by other authors?

Jennifer C. James, “Blessed Are the Warmakers: Martin Luther King, Vietnam, and the Black Prophetic Tradition,” in Elena V. Baraban, Stephan Jaeger, and Adam Muller, eds., Fighting Words and Images: Representing War Across the Disciplines (University of Toronto Press, 2012): 165-184.

FINDINGS: 31+ factual errors in 19 pages.

ITEMS #7 and 25: Fabrications?

fighting  [click to enlarge]

OVERVIEW: This “theological” article in an anthology is hugely erroneous from its opening sentence. The biography/views of the article’s main subject MLK are greatly distorted. Myriad supporting data are incorrect. Leading theologians, churches, and organizations are misnamed while standard orations and publications are mistitled. The article mistranscribes (sometimes inanely…) dozens of literary quotations–from the Bible to W.E.B. DuBois and even MLK himself (e.g. “All men are bothers…”). One wonders if the anthology chapter was even edited–much less proof-read–since several sentences lack subject/verb agreement.



NOTE: In a familiar pattern the factual errors start out immediately. The opening two sentences manage to: (1) misname speech-maker MLK; (2) mistitle his speech; (3) misidentify the speech’s sponsoring organization; and (4) misrepresent the speech’s historical significance.

1. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 165 (first page). JAMES WRITES: [Article’s subtitle:] “…Martin Luther King [sic], Vietnam, and the Black Prophetic Tradition.”

CORRECTION: Not once–not in the title, first page, bibliography, or anywhere else–in an article about Martin Luther King, Jr., and mentioning him constantly, does the article ever give his full and proper name: Martin Luther King, Jr. Is there any other publication–scholarly or otherwise–on MLK with this glaring omission?

mlkThree Martin Luther King’s–Sr., Jr., and III.

2. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 165. JAMES WRITES: [Opening sentence:] “On 4 April 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City, Martin Luther King delivered his first [sic] public indictment of the Vietnam War.”

CORRECTION: The article’s very first sentence is greatly erroneous–and suggests gross ignorance of the topic. By no means was this MLK’s “first” public indictment of the Vietnam War; by that date MLK had already been publicly indicting the war for two full years–in fact since the very start of formal U.S. engagement in the spring of 1965. Below are some standard historical facts–ignored and negated by this article–regarding MLK’s public antiwar-advocacy prior to the Riverside Church speech:

  • March 2, 1965: Martin Luther King, Jr., at Howard University in Washington, D.C., issued his first public statement on the Vietnam War, saying it was ‘‘accomplishing nothing’’ and calling for a negotiated settlement.
  • August 12, 1965: MLK at the annual SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) convention, in Chicago, urged an end to bombing in North Vietnam, and United Nations mediation.
  • November 11, 1965: MLK in the ‘New York Times’ decried the war in moral terms: ‘‘…as a minister of the gospel, I consider war an evil. I must cry out when I see war escalated at any point.”
  • 1966: MLK in various sermons and media interviews, and even to U.S. Congress, spoke out against the ever-escalating Vietnam War.
  • March 25, 1967: Two weeks prior to his speech at NYC’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, MLK in Chicago led and addressed an anti-war rally with some 5,000 marchers….

chicago 1967 photo: Chicago, March 25, 1967.

Thus the Riverside Church speech’s title “Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence” reflects not MLK’s own breaking of silence on the topic, but MLK’s urging an audience to break silence. In the introduction to his speech (even read by the article’s author?), MLK even states: “Over the past two years…as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path.” [Full speech at: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.ht ]

3. HISTORICAL ERROR, page 165. JAMES WRITES: [Second sentence:] “Standing before the Clergy and Laity Concerned about the Vietnam War…”

CORRECTION: The group’s accurate name was “Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam” (CALCAV) [see below banner]; and…

mlk-calcavMLK at the pulpit of NYC’s Riverside Church, April 4, 1967. [click to enlarge]

4. …”standing before [CALCAV]” is misleading and misses the point. The speech’s small sponsoring organization CALCAV was already antiwar. MLK stood before an audience that–filling the huge Riverside Church–largely included non-supporters or even opponents of antiwar activism.

5. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 165. JAMES WRITES: [MLK speech title:] “A Time to Break Silence.” 

CORRECTION: “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” is the title of MLK’s famous speech–featured in this article–at NYC’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967. [See above link.]

speech2 [click to enlarge]

6. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 167. JAMES WRITES: “[Prominent black theologian] Dwight Hopkins [writes:] ‘slave religion provides the first source for a contemporary of black theology.'”

CORRECTION: This is gibberish. Dwight N. Hopkins writes: “slave religion provides the first source for a contemporary statement on black theology.” http://www.amazon.com/Cut-Loose-Your-Stammering-Tongue/dp/0664225217

7. FABRICATION? page 167. JAMES WRITES: “Hopkins’ succinct assessment summarizes scholarly consensus.”

CORRECTION: Hopkins’s assessment is by no means a scholarly consensus. Myriad theologians say “the black church” has always retained/incorporated elements of indigenous (i.e. non-Christian) African religious views/practices easily surviving the Middle Passage. Claiming a scholarly “consensus” shows the incompetence of the “theological” article–which purports to “probe” 1960s African American religious currents but never even mentions Islam, the Nation of Islam, minister Malcolm X, etc.

8. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 168. JAMES WRITES: [MLK oration:] “[President] Johnson speaks eloquently about peace…”

CORRECTION: “…Johnson talks eloquently about peace….” Few quotations in this article lack some kind of transcription error. http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/quotes_contents

9. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 168. JAMES WRITES: [MLK oration:] “…peace is not a [sic] merely a distant goal we seek.”

CORRECTION: “…peace is not [no ‘a’] merely…”

10. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 168. JAMES WRITES: [MLK oration:] “…the very destructive power of modern weapons of warfare has eliminated the possibility that war may any longer serve as a negative good.”

CORRECTION: Seven added or missing words mar this single sentence from MLK’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech (1964). The eloquent Rev. King said: “…the very destructive power of modern weapons of warfare has eliminated *even* the possibility that war may any longer serve as a negative good.” http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-acceptance.html

11. LITERARY ERROR, page 169. JAMES WRITES: “…Christ’s message to ‘turn the other cheek’… (Mat 53:9).”

CORRECTION: The famous Bible passage is Matthew 5:39–i.e. Chapter 5, verse 39 (not Chapter 53, verse 9).

christ [click to enlarge]

12. LITERARY ERROR, page 170. JAMES WRITES: [Bible verse (Mat 24: 6-8):] “And you will hear of wars….all thus is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”

CORRECTION: “…all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.”

13. LITERARY ERROR, page 170. JAMES WRITES: [Bible verse (Act 2:18):] “Even upon my slaves…they will prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mists.” ‘

CORRECTION: “…they shall prophesy…and smoky mist.” See: http://biblia.com/books/nrsv/Ac2.18

14. LITERARY ERROR, page 170. JAMES WRITES: “…thirty-nine books of the Hebrew Bible mention war.”

CORRECTION: That’s interesting, because the Hebrew Bible contains a total of twenty-four books. http://www.torah.org/learning/basics/primer/torah/bible.html

hebrew [click to enlarge]

15. LITERARY ERROR, page 170. JAMES WRITES: “…the distinction between sacred and secular wars in the Old Testament are non-existent…The graphic depictions of conflict in the Old Testament ensures that war is presented as terrifying…”

CORRECTION: In one paragraph are two subject-verb disagreements: “distinction are” and “depictions ensures.”

16. LITERARY ERROR, page 171. JAMES WRITES: [Thomas W. Higginson passage:] “[Negro spirituals are ‘militant’] and readily available for camp purposes with very little strain on their symbolism.”

CORRECTION: “…and [no ‘readily’] available for camp purposes with very little strain upon their symbolism.”  http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/twh/twh_front.html

17. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 171. JAMES WRITES: “According to [W.E.B.] DuBois, ‘Negro religion’ and the ‘dream of Abolition’ had become so ‘indentified’…”

CORRECTION: “….‘identified’…”  http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/dubois/ch10.html

18. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 173. JAMES WRITES: [MLK oration:] “They are saying, consciously, as we say in one of our freedom songs, ‘Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.'”

CORRECTION: “They are saying, unconsciously…” http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article16183.htm

19. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 173. JAMES WRITES: [MLK oration:] “Western nations who had initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit…”

CORRECTION: “Western nations that initiated…” A master orator knew nations are not a “who.”

20. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 173. JAMES WRITES: [MLK sermon:] “All men are made in the image of God. All men are bothers [sic].”

CORRECTION: “…All men are brothers.” [!]

21. BLACK-LITERATURE ERROR, page 173. JAMES WRITES: [Famous Civil Rights movement lyrics:]  ‘Ain’t nobody [sic] gonna let nobody turn me around…'” 

CORRECTION: “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around”–with only one “nobody.”

nobody [click to enlarge]

22. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 174. JAMES WRITES: “As Wilson notes…”

CORRECTION: “As Moses notes…” Being quoted is the famous black historian Wilson Jeremiah Moses.

23. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 179. JAMES WRITES: “In 1843 [Rev. Henry Highland] Garnet delivered [his address] before an abolitionist convention…”

CORRECTION: It was not an abolitionist convention. Part of the “colored convention” movement, the 1843 “National Convention of Colored Citizens” in Buffalo, N.Y., had a diverse agenda that included many economic, political, and social concerns particular to “free people of color.”  http://wblk.com/negro-movement-historicial-convention-in-buffalo/

24. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 180. JAMES WRITES: “Eleven years earlier…”

CORRECTION: Twelve years earlier (1831 Nat Turner Rebellion vis-à-vis 1843 speech by Henry Highland Garnet).

25. FABRICATION? page 180. JAMES WRITES: “…one black Southern church [went] so far as to censure slaves who ran away.”

CORRECTION: This huge, provocative, and highly specific historical claim is glaringly uncited. Which black Southern church did this? Is the claim veracious…or more fiction serving a “literary theory”?

26. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 182. JAMES WRITES: “Pacifica mistakenly names Riverside Church as the location for the speech [on Dec. 24, 1967].”

CORRECTION: A sentence correcting a Pacifica webpage introduces yet another error into a printed book, “Fighting Words and Images.” MLK’s referenced oration at Ebenezer Baptist Church is not a speech but a sermon.

27. LITERARY ERROR, page 182. JAMES WRITES: “[My article’s] scriptural quotations are from the New Standard Revised Version of the ‘Holy Bible.'”

CORRECTION: “New Revised Standard Version” [NRSV].

bible   bible   wjk

28. LITERARY ERROR, page 182. JAMES WRITES: “John Knox Press…”

CORRECTION: The major religious publisher is “Westminster John Knox Press.”

29. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 182. JAMES WRITES: [Citation:] “Martin Luther King, ‘A Christmas Sermon on Peace,’ 24 Dec. 1967, Riverside Church.”

CORRECTION: Here the article commits the error it just corrected (see #26)–the venue was Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist.

ebenezer  [click to enlarge]

30. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 184. JAMES WRITES: [Citation:] “Henry Highland Garnet, ‘An Address to the Slaves of the United States,’ Buffalo,  New York, 21 Aug. 1843.” 

CORRECTION: Garnet’s famous oration was August 16–part of the “colored convention” held August 15-19.  http://wblk.com/negro-movement-historicial-convention-in-buffalo/

31. BLACK-HISTORY ERROR, page 184. JAMES WRITES: [Citation:] “Black Culture, Black Consciousness: Afro American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom.”

CORRECTION: The title of Lawrence W. Levine’s classic 1977 text is: “Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American [hyphen] Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom.”


[FORTHCOMING: approx. 5 more items from p. 183, etc.]



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