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50 years ago, the United States was embroiled in the heat of the Civil Rights movement. This Monday, our nation will honor the man who led this charge for racial equality – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. KSMU’s Samuel Crowe has this report.
1963 was a turning point for Civil Rights in the United States. That spring, Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference organized the Birmingham campaign in Alabama, a series of nonviolent protests which brought national attention to the unequal treatment of blacks in the city. King was arrested in April, and while incarcerated, wrote his famous “Letter from Birmingham City Jail.” And four months later, on August 28, over 250,000 people gathered at the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where King delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.
SOUND: Dr. King “I have a dream..."
The city of Springfield and its local NAACP chapter will honor Dr. King’s life this Monday with their annual Martin Luther King Jr. march and celebration. Cheryl Clay is the president of the local NAACP chapter. She says this year’s celebration will feature a performance by the Springfield Girls’ choir, as well as a skit performed by Christine Peoples.
“The title of it is ‘The Night Before the March,’ and it’s about a young man who does not know the history of the march. Many of our young people don’t know the history. They’re not teaching it in schools, and they don’t know the history, so this will give them a taste of what it was like back then and the history behind the march,” Clay said.
Clay says what many young people don’t realize is that while King had already composed a rough outline - he originally did not intend to give his “I Have a Dream” speech that day. But when gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted from the crowd and told King to tell about his dream, Clay says King diverted from his planned speech and began preaching.
“As things happened, and the momentum carried on, he adapted, and that’s when he said, “I have a dream, that one day, my four little children can stand with anyone and be free,” Clay said.
SOUND: Dr. King “I have a dream... that my children...”
And as for the impact the speech had on Springfield, Clay says it wasn’t much.
“I think Springfield and the Ozarks were a little bit slower to come to the table with equality for the Civil Rights,” Clay said.
The celebration begins at 9:30 am this Monday at the Mediacom Ice Park in Springfield with a march on the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial bridge before heading to the Gillioz Theater for the festivities. For more information about the celebration, visit our website, ksmu.org.
For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.
SOUND: “Free at last, free at last……”