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“While Obama can speak beautiful words about Dr. King’s legacy, the truth of the matter is that the black community has seen more regression over Obama’s presidency than at probably any time since the March on Washington,” said Kevin Martin of Project 21, a conservative black group.

“President Obama obviously benefited from the past 50 years of racial progress, but he must realize deep down in his soul that Dr. King would likely oppose many of his left-wing policies,” he said.

But Obama defenders say that many low-income blacks will be better off when Obamacare takes effect next year, enabling them to obtain insurance for the first time in some states through expanded Medicaid rolls or purchase it at low cost with federal subsidies through new health insurance exchanges.

They also point out that the president has tried to restore money to programs like Head Start and enact other initiatives that would help blacks and other minorities continue to make progress, only to be stopped cold by his Republican opponents in Congress.

“The early 1980s marked a turning point in U.S. politics. Reagan sparked a ‘me-first’ ideological revolution in Washington, D.C., and beyond,” and that remains the biggest obstacle to progress today, said Brian Miller, executive director of United for a Fair Economy, which is pushing even more radical remedies to lingering racial discrimination than Mr. Obama.

Unless the mindset in Washington changes and Republicans stop blocking progress to equalize incomes and wealth, Mr. Miller said, the country is headed for an economic disaster in a few years when blacks, Hispanics and other minorities become the majority of the population but have little wherewithal to foster growth in an economy with an aging white population in need of government support.