Michael Jackson: Reflecting on the Life and Legacy of the King of Pop

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Born in Indiana in August of 1958, singer and pop icon Michael Jackson was already on his way to becoming a musical legend at the ripe age of five.

From early on, his father, Joseph Jackson (who was a musician himself), worked to make careers for Jackson and his nine siblings, while Jackson’s mother Katherine stayed at home. 

The famous Jackson five consisted of Jackson’s brothers Tito, Jermaine, Jackie, Marlon, and a young Michael.

After gaining popularity, the group debuted in 1969 under Motown, “one of the most successful Black-owned businesses and one of the most influential independent record companies in American history.” Their popular single “I Want You Back” became a hit that December.

About nine years later, Jackson would take on the role of The Scarecrow in “The Wiz.” 

The movie, which takes its name from the children’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” reimagines Dorothy (played by Diana Ross) as a Black woman. 

The film explores Black issues and struggles in a unique way, using the character of the Scarecrow to reference Jim Crow Laws.

“The crows taunt Jackson’s character, who longs to get down from the post and just “walk.” The crows assert that he can’t get down because ‘there ain’t nothing to get down for.’ His existence is parallel to that of Black people in America under Jim Crow law: separate, but equal.”

Jackson’s own music also explores various Black struggles and experiences. 

His 1995 song “They Don’t Care About Us” touches upon a wide variety of issues like police brutality. Particularly seen with lyrics such as “Bang bang, shot dead, everybody’s gone mad, Kick me, kike me, don’t you Black or white me, and I am the victim of police brutality.”

Additionally, his song “Black or White” also touches upon race, speaking to the issue of defining Black people by their skin color. “I’m not going to spend my life being a color.”

Although Jackson used his songs to discuss these issues, he was also outspoken about injustices and authenticity in his daily life. In a speech given in 2002, Jackson discusses the challenges black artists face, much of which is still echoed today.

“Throughout the years’ Black artists have been taken advantage of. It’s time now that we have to put a stop to this incredible, incredible injustice,” said Jackson.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Jackson, who suffered from vitiligo, stated the importance of a Black child playing him in a Pepsi commercial. Jackson also goes on to say that he feels incredibly proud to be Black.

“Why would I want a white child to play me? I’m a Black American. I’m proud to be a Black American. I am proud of my race.” 

Overall, whether he was acting, singing, or speaking, it is clear that Jackson’s pride in his background and support of his community should not go unnoticed, and much like his legendary discography, it should continue to be celebrated. 

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