"We always encouraged folks to help themselves," Lowery says of black pastors. "The more we help ourselves, the more we prove our worth. The church said the Lord helps those who help themselves. I've heard that all my life."
Clarence Jones, who was a speechwriter and attorney for King, says King's position on affirmative action would have evolved. He says he believes that King would support affirmative action policies that help poor people, not one particular race.
He was already headed that way with the "Poor People's Campaign," says Jones, author of "Behind the Dream," which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of King's dream speech.
King had already decided during the last year of his life to push for the congressional passage of an economic bill of rights for the poor, Jones says. The SCLC debated whether to include nonblacks in the bills of rights but King insisted that they do so.
"We came to the conclusion that the economic circumstances of poor people transcended the issue of color and race," Jones says.
Conservatives who insist that King's primary aim was to change people, not laws, don't understand King or American history, others say.
If King's primary aim was to change hearts not laws, the movement would not have had as many victories, says Clayborne Carson, who was chosen by King's widow, Coretta Scott King, to edit her husband's papers.
"People who gain privileges because of race or status don't readily give up those privileges and they don't see them as wrong," Carson says. "We know for a fact that the South would have never voted out slavery or Jim Crow."
Two visions of King
Carson says those who distort King's legacy aren't confined to conservatives. Some of King's biggest supporters subtract vital parts of King's message.
"At the King Memorial in Washington, you won't see a single quote about poverty," says Carson, author of "Martin's Dream." "You have a lot of quotes about love and abstract ideas, but translating love to let's take care of the poor, that's a step that most people aren't willing to take."
What's happening to King's message is part of a larger trend in American history: a deliberate attempt to "misremember" race, says Branch, the civil rights author.
"That is the temptation of American history, to say we don't need to deal with race anymore. We misremembered the Civil War for a 100 years, thinking that it had nothing to do with slavery and that the glorious old wonderful South was like 'Gone with the Wind,' " Branch says.
What Branch calls "misremembering" others call recapturing King's conservative legacy.
Raney, who wrote the Heritage Foundation article about King's conservative values, says she did so because she wanted to "reclaim" King for conservatives.
Still, she says as much as she's read about King, he remains elusive.
"It seems like there are almost two Kings, the earlier one and the later one," she says.
Both versions of King will be on display this Monday. Forty-five years after his death, one thing has not changed: King's message is still dividing America.