Sunday, August 25, 2013

50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Today was the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march took place on Sunday. August 28, 1963, so the anniversary can be celebrated again on Wednesday.

The "I Have a Dream" speech delivered that day by Martin Luther King, Jr. is perhaps second only to President Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" on the list of great American speeches.

King's speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, tied the two great men together:
"Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity."
My youthful memories of the 1960s start with the moon landing in 1969, so I missed all the excitement and rebellion. But what we think of as the 1960s really beings with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963 and the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of August 1964. Occasionally I run across things that happened before that which come as a complete surprise:

Hollywood stars Sydney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Charlton Heston at the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington.

The Civil Rights movement did a pretty good job on the freedom front, but the dream turned into a nightmare when it came to jobs. This passage in King's speech still rings too true fifty years later:
"One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity."
One can find those islands of poverty fairly easily, just by looking in almost every major American city look for the streets and boulevards named after Martin Luther King, Jr. The mistake is to think these are the only islands of poverty.

On the other hand, my two previous posts are about a multi-millionaire playing golf and a multi-billionaire shopping for expensive designer handbags. That's progress, "deeply rooted in the American dream" and all that.

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