Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Dorothy Parker (Yes, Dorothy Parker)

ImageMany of you may be celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday today. After all, the third Monday in January is set aside to remember this man and his work for racial equality. But I don’t think you can top author, Dorothy Parker, and the way she chose to celebrate and remember Dr. King.

And now you’re probably starting to wonder. Do I mean Dorothy Parker, the acerbic wit whose poetry and reviews often showed up in The New Yorker and Vanity Fair? You’re remembering her satirical short stories, or perhaps her reputation as a party girl. That Dorothy Parker?


ImageYep, that Dorothy Parker. She was quite the wise-cracking writer, but she was a political activist as well. And though she never met Martin Luther King, Jr., she was a fan of the civil rights movement and social equality, and she admired what the clergyman from the South was trying to achieve. So she left her literary estate to him. 

Within a year, King was assassinated, and so the estate was rolled over to the NAACP. Eventually, Dorothy Parker’s ashes were interred at a memorial garden at the organization’s Baltimore headquarters (which is a fascinating story in itself), and her epitaph reads:

“Here lie the ashes of Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) Humorist, writer, critic, defender of human and civil rights. For her epitaph she suggested “Excuse My Dust”. This memorial garden is dedicated to her noble spirit which celebrated the oneness of humankind, and to the bonds of everlasting friendship between black and Jewish people.”

Today we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., yes, but we also remember that his dream of equality continues with each and every one of us. As writers, we might not have a big literary estate like Dorothy Parker to support the dream. But we have our words.

And words can change the world.

6 thoughts on “Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Dorothy Parker (Yes, Dorothy Parker)

  1. Those last 6 words are powerful, Cathy.

    I did not know that about DorothyParker. Not only are you entertaining, you are also enlightening and educational. 😉

    Yes, words ARE powerful and words from great orators and great writers have impacted the world.

  2. I didn’t know this about Dorothy Parker either and really enjoyed reading it. Yes, words are important and we all need to express ourselves. I was very proud to be an American today and watch the inspiring ceremonies and the promise of what Pres. Obama will do in the next four years.

  3. Very interesting post, Cathy. I did not know that about Dorothy Parker. Long live the power of words and the freedom to express them.

  4. It’s not enough to say that Dorothy Parker was great, or that she was brilliant. It’s hard to see from a distance her colossal impact on the literary world. When you buy this book (and you WILL buy it; these aren’t the droids you’re looking for) immediately read some of the very earliest stories. They are of WWI vintage or so. If you remember high school literature, short stories written just before Parker put pen to paper were the somewhat longer “chapter of a novel” type, of Guy de Maupassant, or W. Somerset Maugham. Dorothy Parker virtually invented the “slice of life” short story, which she brought to the New Yorker. This style became the standard of the fledgling magazine, popular with the public, and without a doubt helped get the magazine off the ground.

  5. Pingback: Calisthenics with Words: Tweets from Dorothy Parker « The Life of Kylie

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