"I HAVE A DREAM" 50 Years Later

August 28th marks the 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington, a key turning point in the growing struggle of civil rights in our country.  More than 250,000 people gathered in our nation’s capital for a day of speeches, songs and prayers, culminating in Martin Luther King’s soaring “I Have a Dream” address. 

If you have only seen clips or snippets of “I Have a Dream,” you’re missing out.  The entire speech is included in the DVD Martin Luther King: I Have a Dream.  The inspiring words, the powerful message, the remarkable delivery, Martin Luther King’s oratorical skills are a marvel to behold.  A multitude of feelings washed over me as I watched: joy, anger, sorrow, hope.  This DVD also includes newsreel footage which provides context and insight.

Nobody Turn Me Around:A People’s History of the 1963 March on Washington by Charles Euchner is a compelling behind-the-scenes look at “the apex of the civil rights movement.” The history, politics and logistics behind the march are explored, and many interesting facts are revealed.  The $16,000 state-of-the-art sound system was sabotaged a few days early, and technicians had to work feverishly around-the-clock for a fix.  There was much political infighting to get woman speakers on the platform, an effort that failed, resulting in only men giving speeches.  JFK called civil rights organizers beforehand and asked that the march be called off.  Malcolm X publicly called it the “The Farce on Washington,” but discretely attended and offered his help.  The inclusion of interviews of ordinary people who attended the march adds a humanistic perspective.

Leonard Freed, a pioneer of socially conscious photojournalism, documents the March for Jobs and Freedom in the book This is the Day: The March on Washington.  His black and white photographs are wonderfully expressive, and capture the hope and yearning on the faces of the attendees. The wide-angle shots of masses of people overflowing the National Mall are impressive. Eloquent text by Michael Dyson accompanies the photos.  

There are many fine biographies on Martin Luther King Jr., but for an intriguing work of literary fiction, read Dreamer by National Book Award-winning author Charles Johnson.  Set in the 1966 summer riots in Chicago, a devoted King follower (Matthew Bishop) hires a man with a startling resemblance to King (Chaym Smith) to be his stand-in.  Smith has a shady past, yet is surprisingly well-versed in eastern philosophies.  It is not entirely clear what his intentions are.  Martin Luther King isn't the central character, but his presence looms over the story, and his personal ruminations reveal a tormented and conflicted man. Numerous references to Biblical passages and philosophic movements make this a challenging read at times, but I was captivated by the story and the imaginative way it melds historical fact with speculation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Has it really been 50 years? I wonder if there is anyone in Orange County who attended the March.