The 1960s evolved as a decade of hope and change: A voice grew louder in this country as the civil rights movement gained strength, particular in the southern states.
Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. took his position at the Lincoln Memorial and stood before a quarter million people in the nation’s capital at the March on Washington, a rally for freedom and jobs, and delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in which he passionately pleaded for equality for all.
King, the founder and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, called upon the people to recognize the injustices blacks endured on a daily bases.
He touched on the Declaration of Independence in which all men were created equal.
“When the architects of our great republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
“This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed to the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
He said America had defaulted on this promissory note for minorities and gave a bad check with insufficient funds for blacks.
King, however, refused to buckle under the current prejudices and remained hopeful that all people would enjoy the same rights and freedoms.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal...
“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 their character.”
Furthermore, King harkened that the bells of freedom shall ring from the nation’s mountains to begin a new day for all people regardless of color.
“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, ‘Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’”
The march and subsequent speech eventually led to the passage of the civil rights, voting rights and fair housing acts of the 1960s.
While the country has taken giant leaps during the last 50 years, much remains to ensure that all people regardless of race are treated with the same dignity, respect and rights — to include, for example, fair treatment in jobs and wages, housing and education — as the person next to them.
Although Dr. King died in 1968 from an assassin’s bullet, his speech from Aug. 28, 1963, is still be pertinent in today’s society as this nation continues to grapple with justice and equality for all.
Editorials written by the LVN Editorial Board appear on Wednesdays.