Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the now historic speech made by Martin Luther King, Jr. during the March on Washington. The years of turmoil and segregation following the end of the Civil War hit a breaking point in the middle of the last century, culminating in the protests of the Civil Rights Movement, both peaceful and violent, and Civil Rights legislation. Men and women together, black and white, in some cases bringing their children along, joined the March on Washington in the summer of 1963. Wearing their Sunday best, they flooded Washington, D.C. in peaceful protest.
Dr. King spoke before the marchers on August 28th. His powerful vision and tolerant words were inspirational not only for those present but for for generations of Americans.
“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village 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 Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'”
The now famous words are commonly included in school curricula as a focal point for children when they study the Civil Rights Movement and American history. The speech lasted for about 15 minutes, gathering momentum all the way to the end, when Dr. King began to improvise in the powerful manner of a southern preacher. Video of Dr. King’s full speech is available on YouTube – a little civics review would be a fitting way to remember the events in Washington 50 years ago and the struggles that led to the march.