Aaron McGruder & Kalvin Lee (2006)
Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
Return of the King is the ninth episode of the first season of the animated television series The Boondocks. It originally aired in the United States on Cartoon Network’s late-night programming block Adult Swim on January 15, 2006. The episode’s name was taken from The Lord of the Rings volume The Return of the King. It won a Peabody Award in 2006.
“I want young men and young women who are not alive today to know and see that these new privileges and opportunities did not come without somebody suffering and sacrificing for them.”Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Return of the King was the most controversial episode of The Boondocks’s first season. The episode received criticism from Al Sharpton for depicting Martin Luther King Jr. using the term “nigga.” He demanded an apology from Aaron McGruder and Cartoon Network, stating “Cartoon Network must apologize and also commit to pulling episodes that desecrate black historic figures. We are totally offended by the continuous use of the n-word in McGruder’s show.”
Cartoon Network replied by releasing a statement saying, “We think Aaron McGruder came up with a thought-provoking way of not only showing Dr. King’s bravery but also of reminding us of what he stood and fought for, and why even today, it is important for all of us to remember that and to continue to take action.” McGruder himself responded to Sharpton’s criticism in The Boondocks comic strip, by having the characters ridicule the activist’s choice to attack a cartoon over other, more relevant issues. The characters in the strip never specify the cartoon to which they’re alluding. The incident was also referenced on the show, in the episode The Block is Hot. While Huey listens to an internet radio station, the broadcaster mentions Sharpton: “Folks, this heat will not let up, it is hot! Speaking about hot, Al Sharpton is hot right now. Havin’ a big ole protest. Seems his anger again has something to do with — I think it’s a cartoon this time.”
Written and created by Aaron McGruder.
Let us remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today and all he worked for as we continue the fight for voting rights across America in the year of our Lord 2022.