Saturday, July 20, 2013

Martin Luther King - March on Washington & The Dream

Martin Luther King's 'I Have A Dream,' speech at the March on Washington established the tone for the Civil Rights Movement against Jim Crow laws.

Martin Luther King, I Have A Dream, 1963 March on Washington, Lincoln Memorial DC
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream Speech

Never forget the Dream or the March on Washington! 

The importance of Martin Luther King's dream takes on new meaning for a nation trapped within racial divide, a divide with roots in the era of Jim Crow laws. 

Martin Luther King, starting with Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, came into national prominence fighting Jim Crow laws. I couldn't get enough of the news media coverage of the March on Washington and other civil rights protests around the nation, some violent and others peaceful. The protests surrounding the Martin death and Zimmerman verdict do not seem to have a clear focus. The crowds in some cities wander the streets seemingly aimlessly with a vague notion, if any notion at all, as to exactly what they hope to accomplish or how. Without a plan, modern protesters will probably not be able to accomplish anything meaningful, no matter how noble their motives.

Carpooling, Montgomery Bus Boycott 
(Life Magazine)

Peace is what Martin Luther King, Jr., stood for, setting an example for future leaders to follow. 

Protesters today, however, unlike those of yesteryear, do not observe the peace teachings of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks who quietly kept her seat and sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. This quiet action by a dignified Rosa Parks began the dismantling of Jim Crow laws in the United States. Those who protested Jim Crow laws even took resistance training against racist brutality, risked their lives and spent time in southern jails and prisons during the Freedom Riders.

People looking to create harmony and peace create an atmosphere for intelligent discourse.

At the time of the March on Washington, America had no idea that, one day Martin Luther King Day would be a day of national celebration. To many people, black and white, back then, King was regarded as an agitator, a troublemaker. "Leave things as they are," shouted some black and white voices. "He's making things worse for people in the South! He's going to get us all killed! And for what?" But Martin Luther King had a dream that one day U.S. race relations would be different, especially for the children. And he was right. Race relations are different for some of the children. Other of the children, both black and white, are raised in homes that use racial epithets against people of different ethnic backgrounds. 

People regard a racial epithet as normal language usage.

Here we are as a nation still trying to figure out race relations 50 years after Martin Luther King patiently tried to explain to us what racial harmony means so we could teach our children a different lesson than the one we were taught about race. And where are we? Discussing a Cheerios commercial? What happened to the dream? Must we constantly be reminded of the dream?

Google ReviewThe Dream by Drew D. Hansen - On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., electrified the nation when he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. In "The Dream," Drew D. Hansen explores the fascinating and little-known history of King's legendary address. The Dream insightfully considers how King's speech "has slowly remade the American imagination," and led us closer to King's visionary goal of a redeemed America.

When Dr. King led the March on Washington, I had just turned 14 years old. I was glued to the television watching all those people surrounding him, looking up to him for leadership. I was not aware that his efforts would change the way school children in America got an education. It only dawned on me later that education was the primary part of the dream. Education represented hope in the black community in which I grew up. Overcoming the fear of trying to get that education is a theme that recurs in Martin Luther King's speeches and was a recurring theme in my home.

Having observed Martin Luther King on television leading up to the March on Washington, I could see that he was one of the most articulate and accomplished men the United States had ever produced, black or white. In 1960, before my eleventh birthday, I had seen Dr. King formulating thoughtful responses to the issues of race relations in America on Meet the Press, a news program, on which he appeared five times. At first, my mother had to make me watch these television shows. Then I got hooked on them. Although television was in its infancy at the time, news coverage of the Civil Rights Movement was like no other coverage ever given to African Americans before. Today's Zimmerman verdict protesters do not compare in preparation or presentation.

Martin Luther King
Meet the Press

What impressed me most about Dr. King's interviews was his education, which showed in his ability to think first and then speak--enunciation, vocabulary and organization of ideas--and his incredible command of the English language, even when he was being interviewed by news broadcasters without the convenience of a script prepared in advance. I never forgot that his success on television was his calm manner of articulating an issue without allowing himself to lose control. I was impressed.

Contrary to public assumption, although he was articulate and quick minded, King wrote and rewrote speeches he intended to deliver in front of an audience or on television. Using bits and pieces of his writing from many different talks, he sometimes adapted phrases and passages to suit the occasion and carefully selected the right words for each audience. The I Have a Dream speech evolved over the years from sermons and experiences, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Rosa Parks, nights in jail, conferences with powerful leaders and conflicts with Jim Crow laws, culminating in his eloquent speech about the American Dream, which King dared to claim as a dream meant for all Americans.

College education and higher academic degrees proved to be the key to King's success as a writer, public speaker, minister and social, political and civil rights activist. I knew that a college education was a dream I wanted to realize because, without academic training, I could not expect a good job and tolerable future during the era of Jim Crow. King's dream was about school and education that led to equal housing, access to services, jobs, legal representation, voting and political participation. 

Old folks said, "Education was something black people could not get until years after Jim Crow had eased up somewhat." 

I guess that's what made education so important. But my mother took education a little farther. She always said, "Success is no accident. Even people born into wealth aren't guaranteed success and they'd better hold on to the money their folks left them because without desire, hard work, education or some kind of preparation and a break or two, they won't be able to add to that wealth."

In spite of our strides in U.S. race relations, distrust and hate can still be seen in America in the young, old, black, white, every shade in between and every group in the United States, while more and more Americans see themselves as being cheated out of their dream by the othersMartin Luther King's dream is still unfulfilled, and not in the way one may imagine. King's dream was for human equality, racial harmony and the American dream for all Americans, which meant the overthrow of Jim Crow laws, a legal system that was put into the grave. However, the ghost of Jim Crow lingers in hidden recesses at the heart of our nation. No one wants to admit that the legacy of Jim Crow still colors our beliefs, public policy and criminal justice system.

I feel the need to review Dr. Martin Luther King's academic credentials and leadership awards, and to take a careful listen to his I Have a Dream Speech to hear what he said, examine what it meant and determine how we have been affected by his words. King was educated, articulate and a prolific author, speechwriter and orator. What must be remembered about King is that he was a minister and preacher, brought up in a home of preachers. His father, Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., and maternal grandfather, Rev. Adam Daniel Williams, exposed him throughout his childhood to some of the best preachers in America. From this exposure, King, developed his style of speaking and being.

Many speeches contributed to the birth of the I Have a Dream Speech until it was perfected and set in concrete at the Lincoln Memorial. Right up to his taking the podium, it is said that King made refinements to his talk, against the advice of some of his trusted advisers.

I Have A Dream by Martin Luther King

17-minute Speech

Read and Analyze Complete Text

It all started with a dream, imagined by a man, who had hope, as he was pulled into a movement that would change history. Did Dr. King know so many Americans would be angry when race relations in America changed? Did Dr. King know these angry Americans would pass their anger on to their children like their angry ancestors had passed on to them? 

Whether Dr. King anticipated these questions or not, these are issues in U.S. race relations that still haunt our nation. 

That is precisely why we must open the discussion of race relations in America to realize and then reveal that we still have problems in the area of education, housing, jobs and access to services; and also to demonstrate that we have gained ground in all the time, tears and blood shed over all the years between the Civil War and today. We have gained ground, haven't we? By seeing the gains we have made in race relations in America, we can pass the fruits of those gains on to our children.

We have reached in period in our history where children today see a black president and his family living in the White House as a normal occurrence. This is quite a feat considering, in the  past, under Jim Crow tradition at the founding of our nation, African Americans were only allowed to enter that house through a back servant's entrance.

What a legacy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., left for all Americans. Proof of that legacy is the first family. Read the full text and view  the full video of President Barack Obama's speech on race relations in America.

Today, we seem to be a nation of people making remarks about each other getting too big a slice of a shrinking American pie and making excuses as to why we should not like each other or work together toward a better America. 

    Bigmama Didn’t Shop  At Woolworth’s  Sunny Nash

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Sunny Nash author of bigmama didn't shop at woolworth's
Sunny Nash is an author, producer, photographer and leading writer on U.S. race relations. 

Sunny Nash writes books, blogs, articles and reviews, and produces media and images on U.S. history and contemporary American topics, ranging from Jim Crow laws to social media networking. Sunny Nash is the author of Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's (Texas A&M University Press), about life with her part-Comanche grandmother during the Civil Rights Movement.

Sunny Nash’s book is recognized by the Association of American University Presses as essential for understanding U.S. race relations. Nash's book is also listed in the Bibliographic Guide for black studies at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York; and recommended for Native American collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida. Nash uses her book to write articles and blogs on race relations in America through topics relating to her life--from music, film, early radio and television, entertainment, social media, Internet technology, publishing, journalism, sports, education, employment, the military, fashion, performing arts, literature, women's issues, adolescence and childhood, equal rights, social and political movements--past and present—to today's post-racism. homepage

© 2015 Sunny Nash. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. 
~Thank You~

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  1. "At age 35, Dr. King was the youngest man in history to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The second (actually the 14th if one counts TR) American after Theodore Roosevelt, Dr. King is also the second African American in history to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The first African American to win the Nobel Peace Prize was Ralph Bunche in 1950 and the third black recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize is President Barack Obama."
    I hate to be a nitpicker.
    Great article.


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