Martin Luther King Jr’s dream come true? How black retrofuturism measures up today

The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have A Dream speech was yesterday, so I figured “What better time to look back at what black publications thought the 21st century would be like?” I love a good bit of retrofuturism, so let’s go back to the future and see if Martin’s dream – and some alternately wacky and eerily accurate predictions – came true.

The first photo made the Internet rounds before, and for good reason. In August 1985, Ebony Magazine, through the magic of age progression technology, decided to project what ’80s pop sensation Michael Jackson would look like in the year 2000. Fair enough, Ebony. How could you have possibly known? (Happy Birthday to the late MJ, by the way!)

What hasn’t circulated from the very same article is the projected visages of Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Emmanuel Lewis. Worth a gander, no?

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The fashion predictions weren’t much more successful, but high fashion has always tended to be more conceptual than functional. That said, I am beyond grateful that these projected fashions of the 21st century from Ebony and Jet magazines fall closer to Mayan Doomsday than Nate Silver on the accuracy scale.

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Predictions about race relations were more on target. In 1961, then U.S. Atty. General Robert F. Kennedy posited that America would have a “Negro” President in the foreseeable future! And in 1960, Lyndon Johnson believed that segregation and bias would end by the year 2000. That last one is arguable (I’d argue it!), but I think they and Martin Luther King Jr. would be proud of the progress we’ve made and hopefully optimistic about the work to come.



Speculative technology never fails to entertain. Here’s where it gets eerie! Televisions in family cars? CHECK! Do family cars look like bullets? Not so much.


In this photograph from the 1964 World’s Fair, an early progenitor of Skype and Face Time is exhibited.


In this 1950 blurb from Jet Magazine, it is predicted that computers would be used in the, ahem, adult services industry. Nailed it!rf17

Robots and machines aiding in healthcare? Absolutely! Though, the best thing about this prediction is the hilariously antiquated sexism in the title.


My favorite of all of these has to be this 1962 Ebony magazine ad for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer featuring what looks to be an Obama doppleganger. Best prediction of them all. Barack Obama: the original hipster.