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In Fond Memory

Martin Luther King, Jr.
As time passes, I am more and more humbled by the courage and vision of Dr. King and his many supporters in the civil rights movement.

There are those who still feel that if the Negro is to rise out of poverty, if the Negro is to rise out of the slum conditions, if he is to rise out of discrimination and segregation, he must do it all by himself. And so they say the Negro must lift himself by his own bootstraps. [...] In 1863 the Negro was told that he was free as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation being signed by Abraham Lincoln. But he was not given any land to make that freedom meaningful. [...] It simply said, "You're free," and it left him there penniless, illiterate, not knowing what to do. And the irony of it all is that at the same time the nation failed to do anything for the black man, through an act of Congress it was giving away millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest. Which meant that it was willing to undergird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor.

But not only did it give them land, it built land-grant colleges to teach them how to farm. Not only that, it provided county agents to further their expertise in farming; not only that, as the years unfolded it provided low-interest rates so that they could mechanize their farms. And to this day thousands of these very persons are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies every year not to farm. And these are so often the very people who tell Negroes that they must lift themselves by their own bootstraps. It's all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps. We must come to see that the roots of racism are very deep in our country, and there must be something positive and massive in order to get rid of all the effects of racism and the tragedies of racial injustice.
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., address delivered at Washington National Cathedral on March 31, 1968


roberta said...

they've been playing the gospel song "Precious Lord" on NPR and every time I hear it I cry. Also heard clips from the Dream speech where he says "I may not make it with you to the promised land..." where are today's heroes?

Mark Barry said...

Todays heros are working are working in communities around the world, doing amazing things. I thinks it's time to make some noise!

Princess Alpenrose said...

Wow, thanks for that post, Mark!

I too am inspired by Dr. MLK, but have no way to mark the day. (Wouldn't it be gauche to invite oneself as a "white girl" to an MLK brunch or service?) Still, the man inspires me!

Yes, he was talking about one group, and still speaks to them, but his message is for anyone who's ever struggled with prejudice and injustice in their personal lives. His work also helps us stay aware of the work, goals and struggles of others.

I was so happy to read his words this morning, Mark. (Must find more of his speeches and read them.) Thank you for helping me, in this small way, mark the achievements of this great man.

Charles T. Downey said...

On "Meet the Press" yesterday morning, they had a clip of MLK appearing on the show. He paraphrased the part of this speech about a bootless man unable to pull himself up by his bootstraps. It's a powerful image.

Anonymous said...

One of the guests on "Meet the Press" was the author/historian, Taylor Branch. I would strongly recommend his three very comprehensive and well-researched volumes on the King Years. The final installment in the trilogy, "At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968" was just published this month. I have not read this last volume yet, and am looking forward to reading it.

Here are Taylor Branch's first two volumes for those ionarts audience members who might be interested in exploring this topic in greater depth:

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-1963 (1988).

Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-1965 (1997).

This trilogy is one of the best comprehensive studies/analyses on the Civil Rights Movement and the convergence of social, legal and political problems of that era.

Taylor Branch will be the featured author on the C-SPAN/BookTV's three-hour "In-Depth" program on Sunday, Feb. 5th at 12:00 (Eastern Time).


--Nicholas in DC

Princess Alpenrose said...

Love CSPAN/CSPAN2 & will look for that program. Thanks, Nicholas!