Lincoln 1860

Lincoln 1860

Friday, April 4, 2008

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today marks the 40th Anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. which occurred April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King had been in Memphis leading marches of sanitation workers who had been on strike in Memphis for weeks. He was there to give hope, strength, and courage to the workers, who were mostly African-American. As everyone knows by now, Dr. King was the primary leader of the Civil Rights movement in our country, originally coming on to the scene in the 1950's during the Selma, Alabama protests and boycott of that city's bus system for requiring people to ride the back of the bus (or stand), simply based on the color of their skin.

While Dr. King of course has no direct ties to Abraham Lincoln, he served as a guiding force and conscience to President Lyndon Johnson on the question of Civil Rights as Frederick Douglass did for Lincoln on the question of slavery. Just as Lincoln was slow and deliberate in coming around to the total abolition of slavery, President Johnson moved slowly towards the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Without Dr. King's ideas and moral force demanding justice for his people, the Act may have never come to pass.

Dr. King is primarily known today for his spell-binding "I Have A Dream" speech given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963. I am too young to remember his speech, but I never cease to get chills every time I watch it. You may find it here in its entirety of nearly 18 minutes.

On the night of King's assassination, Robert F. Kennedy gave one of the most brilliant speeches in American history in Indianapolis, Indiana at what was to be a campaign appearance. Speaking entirely without notes, Kennedy eulogized Dr. King, but also appealed to every American to avoid violence and continue to work for Dr. King's dream. This speech may be found here. I would urge my readers to watch it.

Our nation has come a long way since that fateful day in Memphis. Who would've guessed that 40 years to the day after King's death that the leading candidate for the Democrat nomination for president would be an African-American? Yet, there is still much to be done. There remains much discrimination in this country based on nothing more than skin color, or sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. Conservatives disparage liberals and vice versa. The rich grow wealthier every day while our senior citizens must choose between medicine, food, and heat. Jobs disappear to other countries while the companies which send them abroad get tax breaks for destroying the lives of Americans.

But I feel there is still hope. If we keep Dr. King's dream alive and remember Abraham Lincoln's words, trusting in the "better angels of our nature," we can truly bring liberty and justice to all. We need to hope. We need to believe. We all need to say "I Have A Dream."


Geoff Elliott said...

I just deleted a vile, racist comment from this posting. Comments like that from that "person" (to use the term loosely) are proof that there is still much work to be done.

Anonymous said...

Just came upon your blog. I, too, have always had an interest in Abraham Lincoln. On the 40th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination, my husband's grandmother (82 y/o) called to tell me about how she and her husband and two other couples were traveling to Biloxi, MS, for a golf vacation. They stopped in Memphis for the night, checked into the Holiday Inn, and went out for dinner. It was during dinner that they saw the commotion outside, and heard from their waitress what had happened. Upon their return to HI, the manager advised them that it might be prudent for them to leave. So, in the wee hours of the morning, they checked out, and headed on down to Biloxi, in a very somber and sad mood. It was a sweet moment for her to share that with me, and I in turn shared it with my husband and son.
C. Hays

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