sermon in which King prophesied his martyrdom was based onrnworks by J. Wallace Hamilton and Methodist minister HaroldrnBosley; even the “Letter From the Birmingham Jail,” thatrn”great American essay” so often reproduced in textbooks onrncomposition, is based on work by Harry Fosdick, H. H. Crane,rnand Harris Wofford—all sources King could recall from memoryrnbecause of the frequency with which he had “merged”rnwith them in the past.rnMiller’s research is indispensable for understanding King’srnworks, but his intoxicating thesis proves fatal to his judgment:rnKing’s achievements are awesome. Borrowed sermonsrngave white Americans their best—and probably last—rnchance to solve what had always been the nation’srnworst problem. Not only did voice merging keep Jefferson’srndream alive, it also helped compel the WhiternHouse to withdraw from the nightmare of Vietnam.rnThen in the wake of his movement came the secondrnwave of American feminism, the campaign for gayrnrights, and the crusade to save the environment.rnAll this owed to plagiarism! Miller apparently believes that everyrnsocial and protest movement of our time is rooted in dishonesty.rnA more fundamental problem with Miller’s thesis is lackrnof proof. I le offers no documentation, confession, or interviewrnof any sort—nothing to prove that King deliberately plagiarizedrnwhite sources to garner white support for the civil rightsrnmovement. Nor does his argument account for the plagiarismsrnKing committed throughout college, seminary, and hisrndoctoral studies—all of which occurred long before he ever becamernwhat Miller calls “the unofficial president of an oppressedrnpeople.”rnMiller explains away such pilferage with his “voice merging”rntheory—that King plagiarized because he was unable (andrnstill unable after 11 years of higher education and three academicrndegrees) to separate himself from the black homileticrntradition of “borrowing” other people’s work. On one level,rnthis argument is equivalent to saying, “King’s plagiarism is arnblack thing. You whites with your standards wouldn’t understand.”rnBut the deeper implication is that originality and truernscholarship cannot be expected of blacks, that because of theirrnoral traditions blacks cannot differentiate between the pulpitrnand the classroom, between Sunday sermons and professionalrnstandards, between the mores of folk art and the demands ofrnhigh culture. How flattering this is to all the black doctors,rnblack lawyers, black theologians, and black scholars who havernmade and continue to make their way honestly in the world.rnMiller concludes by suggesting that the country should berngrateful for King’s commitment to plagiarism. For stealingrnthe works of others “let King escape the restrictions of thernclock and therein become a Houdini of time. . . . This ubiquitousrnleader could magically advise senators, write a column,rnpublish an essay, rally voters, placate unruly staffers, preach arnsermon, and comfort a church janitor—all in a single day. . . .rnBarnstorming the nation as a Houdini of time becamernpossible only because King consulted sources and therebyrnfoolproofed his discourse.” King certainly was a master of illusionrnand deception, but his discourse was hardly foolproof.rnTo the Class Clown, Dead on a School Triprnby Jim Henleyrn”Police said [the sixth grader] chmbed over a balcony railing outside his hotel room, dropped a few feet to the top of a ventilationrnunit on an adjoining roof, then apparently stumbled into the unit’s spinning fan. . . . Evans said there were several witnessesrnto the incident, but was unsure if any were adults.”rn—Washington Post 4/J J/90rnFrom the first, it was always lurching—rnpunch line to punch line, stunt to stunt—rnas if some center you were searchingrnswung you around whatever you meantrnthe way a miniature golfrnhazard will give your ball a spinrnso you overshoot your target. And ifrnyou couldn’t get your fifth shot inrnyou’d wind the club up for one terrificrnsmack, that would take off with such forcernas to clear the hole and end up in traffic.rnThey’d charge you for the ball, of course.rn30/CHRONICLESrnrnrn