2018 Martin Luther King Jr, Lecture

Professor Henry J. Richardson III
Temple University
Beasley School of Law


Martin Luther King’s Beloved Community and European Trumpism                                                                                                                

We must begin by asking whether King’s Holiday has been so commodified as to conceal his true greatness, including the authority of his global ministry. His global ministry began roughly commensurately with his emergence as leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956, and the birth of his vision of the Beloved Community. His global ministry was early expressed, for example, through his Pan-Africanism, the influence of Ghandian non-violence, early opposition to South African apartheid, and opposition to British Empire colonialism in Africa. In leading the American Civil Rights Movement, King confronted the roots of Trumpism. These roots are racist at their core and historically linked to slavery, the racial subordination of federalism, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and the apartheid southern American states, and the racist career and presidential campaigns of George Wallace which were recognized templates of Trump’s 2016 presidential victory, and against whom King fought many civil rights battles which were some of the most intense of the Movement.

Martin Luther King’s global authority and the Beloved Community in Europe were grounded on King’s leadership years of confronting the roots of Trumpism in America, through the fires and love of the Civil Rights Movement.  King‘s ministry early on featured his opposing the racism of colonial Empire. His European authority, during his life and posthumously, perseveres to now confront the European Trumpist demands for the continuing post-colonial racial subordination of Empire.

King’s Beloved Community had lodged its vision in European freedom narratives since the Cold War, including through King’s journey to Berlin and across the Wall. Its principles, accelerated by King’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, became available to be invoked for meeting racism with non-violent wise and strategic love, in numbers of anti-Trumpist resistance struggles upon, and following the formal self-described declarations of European Trumpism including Brexit in 2015/2016. King’s authority was cited to influence decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. And from the notions of the Beloved Community came collective realizations that a Kingian Dream in the name of King is essential in that resistance, for both vulnerable peoples and the European Union to be liberated from the stifling suppression of human values trailing in the wake of European Trumpism. The Kingian Dream tangibly promises the sunshine of love and freedom to warm European governance and inspire the path of vulnerable peoples, such as the Kurds, in response to the hostile divisions of European Trumpism against southern migrants and other oppression. Expressions of the Kingian Dream currently abound, including from the European Court of Human Rights to a Papal vision for the humanistic rebirth of Europe, from Mayors in Britain and Germany to anti-Trumpism resistance struggles in Hungary and Poland.

The warmth of the Kingian Dream, through the Beloved Community, is essential to the gift of non-violent love to humankind, which the global authority of Martin Luther King continues to give. His authority and his Dream, and the strength of their invocations and vision in Europe against Trumpism, are necessary elements of wide recognition which must help define for us King’s National Holiday.


Professor Richardson obtained his A.B. from Antioch College in 1963. Upon graduating from Yale Law School in 1966, Professor Richardson became International Legal Adviser to the government of Malawi shortly after its independence for more than two years, where he advised on inherited treaties and a range of southern African international legal negotiations and questions. Thereafter, he returned to the U.S. to become Faculty Africanist at Law and to earn an LL.M. at University of California at Los Angeles (1971) with a focus on international law and development in Africa. He was active in several anti-apartheid groups relative to international law. From 1977-79, he served on the National Security Council Staff in charge of African Policy and United Nations issues in President Carter’s administration. Professor Richardson was subsequently the Senior Foreign Policy Adviser to the Congressional Black Caucus and an attorney in the Office of General Counsel of the Department of Defense. Professor Richardson joined the Temple Law faculty in 1981.

Professor Richardson has written many scholarly articles for the American Journal of International Law and other journals on international law and development questions in Africa, legal questions arising from the anti-apartheid movement relative to South Africa, international protection of human rights, self determination, international law and African-Americans, and the interpretation of international law through critical race theory. He teaches courses on international law, constitutional law and foreign policy, international human rights and international organizations.

He also was a co-founder of Temple’s International and Comparative Law Journal. In 1999, he was awarded the Friel-Scanlan prize for best faculty scholarship. Throughout his career, Professor Richardson has presented many papers and participated in conferences and panels in the US, Europe and Africa. In 2008, he published The Origin of African-American Interests in International Law.

He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a past vice president and honorary vice president of the American Society of International Law, and a founding member of both the National Conference of Black Lawyers and the Project on the Advancement of African-Americans in International Law.

add to my calendar