Monday marks the annual US celebration of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., and The Scholarly Kitchen will be off for the holiday. Niko Pfund, President and Academic Publisher at Oxford University Press (full disclosure, my employer) sent a note around to OUP’s US employees and with his permission, I wanted to share some of his thoughts with the larger community.
Niko suggested spending some time considering the life and legacy of the man that this holiday honors. In particular, he pointed to Letter from a Birmingham Jail, written in 1963, for its remarkable relevance to our current lives. The letter was composed while King was imprisoned as a participant in a non-violent demonstration against segregation, and written as a response to A Call for Unity, a public statement of concern and caution issued by eight white religious leaders of the South.
Below you can hear a recording of the letter. Niko noted one passage that is particularly relevant to our community:
On rereading the Letter, we were particularly struck by King’s invocation of the phrase “collection of the facts” to advance his argument. Whereas we well know that publishing is a great deal more than a collection of facts, the marshalling of facts to advance knowledge and argument is core to our work. At its best, the work of publishing can enlighten, can (from the Letter) “carve a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.”