August 28 is the 62nd and 54th anniversaries of two events that helped to shape the modern civil rights movement. On August 28, 1955, fourteen year old Emmett Till of Chicago was brutally tortured and murdered while visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi. His mother Mamie decided to hold an open casket funeral in Chicago to show the world the face of segregation and lynching in the South of the 1950's. Earlier this year, a book was published titled The Blood of Emmett Till. Author and historian Timothy Tyson interviewed the wife of one of Emmett's murderers, and she confessed that she lied about his supposed sexual advances that were the motive for his murder. The video below tells that story and summarizes the crucial part that Emmett Till's murder played in the early stages of the modern civil rights movement.
Eight years after the death of Emmett Till, around 250,000 people gathered in Washington, DC for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was there that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. While that phrase is the most well know quote by Dr. King, the speech also focused on the racial injustices that motivated the march. Here are some of Dr. King's less familiar words from that speech on August 28, 1963:
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.
These words of Dr. King still speak to our nation's ongoing struggle for racial justice. While the legal segregation of 1963 is thankfully relegated to history, the impact of generations of enslavement and segregation of African Americans is still with us in contemporary forms such as the killing of unarmed black people by police who are acquitted of any crime, the injustice of mass incarceration of non-violent black and brown people, the increasing racial and economic segregation of public education, and the growing wealth gap between whites and blacks resulting from generations of unjust housing policies. In 2017, we still face the "fierce urgency of now" in recognizing and addressing the ongoing realities of racial injustice in our nation today. Those of us who are motivated by our faith in God need to hear and respond to the less famous but equally important parts of Dr. King's speech that go beyond having a dream and call us to action today, "Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children." The video below is the complete speech that Dr. King gave 54 years ago today. Take the time to reflect on the entire message so that the dream does not become a stereotype but a reality.
Click on this link for the text of the speech.