|I Have a Dream...|
| This speech, "I Have a Dream...", which has become a symbol of the civil rights movement, was written more than 30 years ago as America struggled with the problems of how to create racial equality for all of her citizens.
Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered the speech on August 28, 1963, to more than 200,000 people gathered during a huge demonstration before the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Called the “March on Washington”, the demonstration was organized on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation to call attention to the wrongs suffered by African Americans and to push for federal legislation to bring about change.
1.Racial Discrimination:“considering one human less than another because of his/her race”.
Before the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's, racial discrimination was deeply imbedded in American society. The reality of life for the great majority of African Americans meant that they lived with gross inequities in housing, employment, education, medical services, and public accommodations. Often they were denied the right to vote and faced great injustices within the legal system.
2. Segregation : “total separation of races”
Segregation was a way of life. Most urban blacks, particularly in the South, lived in isolated tenements because white landlords refused to let them rent.
Blacks had little access to "good" jobs, finding work mainly in positions of service to white employers.
Black children attended separate, inferior schools. The result of being denied both employment and educational opportunities was that the great majority of African American families lived in poverty, with nearly 75% earning less than $3,000 a year in 1950.
In addition, Southern blacks were denied admittance to such public facilities as hospitals, restaurants, theaters, motels, and parks.
Blacks were even denied the use of public restrooms and drinking fountains marked with "For Whites Only" signs.
When separate public accommodations for blacks were provided, they were usually inferior in quality and poorly maintained. At establishments in which blacks and whites had to share the same facilities, blacks were relegated by law to the back of buses and trains and to the balconies of movies houses and courtrooms.
Worse, many African Americans were even denied the right to participate in America's political process. They were kept from voting by state laws, polltaxes, reading tests, and even beatings by local police. Unlawful acts of violence against blacks, such as those perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan, were ignored by the much of Southern society, and African Americans could expect little help from the judicial system. In fact, instances of police intimidation and brutality were all too common.
3. Slow Change
Change came slowly. Embittered Southern whites carried distrust learned during the years of Reconstruction following the Civil War. However, in the late 1940's following World War II (when America had fought for freedom and democracy abroad and therefore felt compelled to make good on these promises at home), the federal government began to pass laws against racial discrimination. The United States military was integrated for the first time, and new laws and court rulings prohibited segregation in schools, government buildings, and public transportation.
However, many of these laws met with bitter opposition in the South or were simply ignored. When members of the African American community tried to break through old barriers, they were often threatened or beaten and, in some cases, killed. Likewise, black homes and churches were sometimes burned or bombed.
It was within this atmosphere that Martin Luther King, Jr.,
rose as a prominent leader in the civil rights movement. The son of a Baptist minister who was himself ordained, he was inspired by both Christian ideals and
India's Mohandas K. Gandhi's philosophies of nonviolent resistance to peaceably deal with injustice.
King first came into the national spotlight when he organized the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott----during which time he was jailed, his home burned, and his life threatened. The result, however, was the mandate from the Supreme Court outlawing segregation on public transportation, and King emerged as a respected leader and the voice of nonviolent protest. He led marches, sit-ins, demonstrations, and black voter-registration drives throughout the South until his assassination in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.
In 1964 King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in the civil rights movement. Both Americans and the international community recognized King's contributions in overcoming civil rights abuses without allowing the struggle to erupt into a blood bath. It was King's leadership that held the movement together with a dedication to nonviolent change. Many believe that King's skillful guidance and powerful oratory skills kept the South out of a second civil war, this time between the races. King led the civil rights movement to meet each act of violence, attack, murder, or slander with a forgiving heart, a working hand, and a hopeful dream for the future.
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