Reichwing -- er, I mean "right-wing" -- crazies are up in arms again, this time making a stink about the recent renovation of the Oval Office. They've keyed in on one particular element, and apparently think it's as damning as any GOP hypocrisy. Nay, worse, in their minds.
The charge? That the a quote on the rug, attributed to Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, isn't correctly attributed, and thus a subject for controversy. The hate-mongers on the right claim that the quote originates with nineteenth-century Unitarian minister, Theodore Parker.1 That claim isn't wholly without merit -- anyone who reads Parker's words can see that the quote draws upon the words and meaning of Parker's work.
But it is not a quotation from Parker's piece. It's a paraphrasing of his words, and a summation of the point made in a paragraph.
For those who can read and make actual judgements on their own, here are the words of King and the words of Parker for comparison, in the context in which they appeared.
King's use of the words, in context:
"I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because truth crushed to earth will rise again.
"How long? Not long, because no lie can live forever.
"How long? Not long, because you shall reap what you sow....
"How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
Parker's use of the words, in context:
"I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."
King paraphrased Parker's words, making it his own within the context of his speech and creating the actual quote "The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice." That's King. It's what Parker was driving at, but compare the words -- King's quote is a summation, a paraphrasing and contraction of the point Parker was making. King made the words short and memorable, creating a quote in the process that can be attributed to his words, his context, and yet providing a hat-tip toward Parker's thoughts.
Parker made the point, but did not provide the quote.
1 phrase identifying Parker's name and position taken from here.