It was a late halcyon summer morning in my part of the world when I rolled out of bed to enjoy the last full week before the start of school. After breakfast my siblings and I settled in to play board games and then looked for something to watch on TV. There were only three major networks then--CBS, NBC, and ABC. Then, as now, when something important was happening, the broadcasts were interrupted by special live coverage of the event. This day there was special coverage- of a march on Washington with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial. The date: August 28, 1963.
Normally, I might have watched for a few minutes and then moved on but I was captivated by the music and the speakers. Then, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke. I can still "hear" the echo of those words, "I have a dream..." and I remember how they moved me. I was only a young girl then, but those words spoke deeply to me. Martin's dream was a dream I didn't know we all needed to hear. Those words opened my eyes to the reality beyond the confines of our little corner of the world and see that what we had been taught about being an American was not being applied to all people.
The integrated crowd of over 250,000 Americans from all races and walks of life participated in that well-coordinated, promoted and peacefully conducted demonstration of solidarity in support of civil rights legislation. The result of that event was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which guaranteed equal voting rights, brought about school desegregation and outlawed discrimination in public accommodations.
Many of the people who were there that day over 50 years ago are gone. While significant progress was made because of their actions, there is still much to be done. It takes a long time for old prejudices and hatred to be excised from a society, but change must begin somewhere. It is said that those who plant trees do not plant them for themselves but for those to come. I am grateful of the shade provided by those who long ago planted the trees that I have enjoyed, especially the "trees" of freedom and equality and I am grateful for seeing and being a part of the dream by doing what I can in my corner of the world to make it a reality for everyone and hope that someday the "jangling discords of our nation [will be transformed] into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood." (MLK)
Kids can read more about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington from NPL's collection. Some of my picks are listed here. Check it out!