Martin Luther King gave his “I Have A Dream” Speech at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, in 1963, exactly 100 years after Lincoln’s own Gettysburg Address. “I Have A Dream” was the most famous speech of the Civil Rights Movement. The Gettysburg Address was the most renowned speech of the Civil War. The Civil Rights Movement ended with the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, exactly 100 years after the end of the Civil War in 1965
The Gettysburg Address transformed the then raging Civil War from not just a struggle to save the Union, but to end slavery. The North won, and the enslaved Africans were said to be free. But then why was there a need, a century later, for a Civil Rights movement?
The Gettysburg Address begins with the ringing words, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Four score and seven is 87. Eighty-Seven years before 1863 was 1776, date of the Declaration of Independence. If this new nation, the United States, was “conceived in liberty” why did slavery continue?
Because the initial promise in the contract that formed the United States was left unfulfilled, we had to payy the price of a horrendous civil war. And because the stated aim of that war, in turn, was not achieved, another bitter conflict had to be waged. Four years ago another milestone was attained. We elected our first Black president. Still, though, the promise is as yet unfilled. Inequality, racism, prejudice and discrimination still hamper the land. If history be our guide, and surely it is a worthy touchstone, we shall ultimately have to go at it again.
This is a great nation. We have truly accomplished much, but there is so much more that we could do, if we but lived up to our credo. Just as the Civil War ultimately turbo-charged the economy, the Civil Rights movement brought the South into the 20th century thereby greatly enriching the entire nation. Just think what we could accomplish if we could but finally, fully, bring the American Dream to fruition.
Arthur Lewin, www.BlackStudies.net, www.AfricaUnlimited.com