At the Centro Cultural Americano in the Mozambican capital of Maputo, there’s a trove of books in the Martin Luther King library that tell the American story, with some offerings touting a mythological tolerance, belied however by the fierce struggles in the U.S. over race, religion and immigration.
Materials provided by the U.S. Embassy to the Centro Cultural include an article titled “Unity Through Diversity: The American Identity.” In it, DC-based author Samier Mansur writes, “American’s capital pays homage to the intellectual achievements of Muslims … The U.S. is not only a nation born of diversity, but one that thrives because of diversity. And this is not by accident, but by design.”
Another embassy contribution, “American Muslims Enrich the U.S. Cultural Mix,” by California-based author Cihan Kaan notes, “American Muslims contribute more than food to the American cultural mix. They are philanthropists, artists, filmmakers and writers. They are scientists and educators. They launch innovative social media platforms and run businesses from coast to coast that employ thousands of workers. They are soldiers who bravely defend their country. They are Americans.”
An odd miscellany of books recently added to the MLK collection includes “1984” by George Orwell, the “Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars” series by Tracy Mack and the “Black Book” by Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk.
Not found is the controversial 1967 speech of MLK, “Beyond Vietnam,” which dealt with “the curse of war,” poverty and the twin malignancies of racism and colonialism. Vietnam, said MLK, was a symptom of a “deep malady within the American spirit,” that spurred U.S.-led coups and the imposition of brutal regimes in Guatemala and Peru, Thailand and Cambodia, Mozambique and South Africa.
“True compassion,” MLK declared, “will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, ‘This is not just.’”
Further, in a speech prepared for the American Committee on Africa in 1965, MLK deplored how the economies of England, Spain and the U.S. rested heavily on the profits derived from the slave trade. “Today in our opulent society, our reliance on trade with South Africa is infinitesimal in significance … we have an obligation of atonement that is not cancelled by the passage of time.”