Nearly one year before the Civil Rights Act was passed Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC on the heels of the Lincoln Memorial, a President who fought against slavery nearly a century prior. Today, activists rallied behind Reverend Al Sharpton who organized a protest on President Donald Trump’s morality.
Rev. Sharpton among other speakers addressed a crowd outside the MLK Memorial Park in DC around 10 a.m. According to the New York Dailly News, Sharpton spoke on Trump’s “immoral” attempts in office and said, “it’s time to stand up together.”
While Lower Bucks Live can not go back in time to ask MLK what he thinks about the racial tensions of 2017, we can reflect on his 16-minute historic speech.
“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.”
The 34-year-old Reverend spoke to a crowd of nearly 250,000 people. The event, in fact, a piece of history neither supporters or nonsupporters could deny. On the 1963 Wednesday afternoon, the March on Washington focused on jobs and freedom.
In 1998 a publication highlighted some of the statistical progress MLK worked hard to accomplish.
“Black Progress: How far we’ve come, and how far we have to go” by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom wrote:
- “In 1940, 60% of employed black women worked as domestic servants; by 1998 60% held white-collar jobs
- In 1958, 44 % of whites claimed they would move if a black family moved next door, then in 1998 the figure changed to 1%
- In 1964, (when the Civil Rights Act was passed) 18% of whites said they had a friend who was black, the number changed to 86% by 1998″
“1963 is not an end but a beginning. THose who hope that the negro needed to blow off steam and will not be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.”
MLK led the civil rights movement with a vision of nonviolence based on his Christian beliefs. He warned during his “Dream” talk when the nation falls back on “business as usual” lash back would be returned.
Supporters who marched with King demanded voting rights, jobs, and an end to segregation. The 1963 March had a purpose within the speech, the signs and the needed civil rights of the African American population.
In the 2017 anniversary march activists carried “Black Lives Matter” and “Love Not Hate Makes American Great” signs. According to reports, nearly all speakers called on the current President for his lack of understanding for minority groups including the ban on transgenders in the military, proposed health care cuts, and Trump’s pardon of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
King Jr. captured the audience as he began his “I have a dream” repetitive trance. The audience cheered and hollered in agreeance with the Atlanta, Georgia native.
Pat Wandling, host of WBCB’s Speak Your Piece, recalled she heard the speech live in 1963.
“Martin Luther King was a remarkable speaker,” said Wandling on-air Monday afternoon.
Elsewhere in Bucks County, a recent incident worried Barbara Simmon, Executive Director of the Peace Center who is remaining vigilant as the 2017-18 school year begins.
During the night of August 18, a vandal struck in Middletown and wrote racist language and inappropriate body parts on the welcome sign of Herbert Hoover Elementary School. Simons and the Peace Center held a dialogue after the conflict to ensure the Neshaminy School District returned to school with a safe mood for all students, “no matter what race, ethnicity or religion.”
“Martin Luther King died trying to make that dream come true and I feel a real responsibility to continue to work towards that dream,” said Simmons.
MLK violently lost his life on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee the day after giving his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” address.
“I wish we could examine that speech and his other less famous speeches more often than his birthday and the anniversary because there is a lot more work we (America) have to do,” Simmons noted.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported in February 2017 hate groups in “2016 rose 917 – up from 892 in 2015.” However, the number was roughly 100 shy of the all-time record in 2011.
Regardless of recent racial tension in the country, Martin Luther King Jr. and his “I Have A Dream” speech will be a historical marker for past, current and generations to come.