DC at Night

DC at Night

Monday, July 15, 2013

Looking Back at a March for Freedom and Its Leader

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Strength of Love" - 1961

Obviously, with the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech occurring next month, it stands to reason that there would be quite a focus in DC this summer on Dr. King and that historic August day.

But in light of recent events such as the Supreme's Court decision negating the Voting Act of 1965 and this past weekend's verdict in the shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin, the spirit of those 250,000 Civil Rights marchers and Dr. King's words have taken on added poignancy and a renewed sense of urgency.

One way to experience the panoply of Dr. King's powerful messages is to visit the One Life: Martin Luther King exhibition now on display at the National Portrait Gallery.

The exhibit, which will run until June 1 of next year, features photos from all stages of Dr. King's life from his leadership of the 1955 Alabama bus boycott that began the American Civil Rights Movement to his tragic assassination in Memphis in 1968.

However, one of the most interesting displays is devoted to items from the Washington March, officially named the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In addition to the official button pictured here those items include: pictures of the day, a pledge card asking participants for "their complete and personal commitment to the struggle for Jobs and Freedom for all Americans", the day's official program with a schedule, objectives, and march map, and an advance pamphlet listing do's and don'ts for the day.

In the days and weeks to come, many will be questioning how far we have come toward realizing the dream of racial equality King magnificently outlined that day. But no matter what happens next, we would all be wise to remember this reminder from Dr. King: "We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline . . . . Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force."

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Although the pictorial focus is on Dr. King, visitors will also get to see some of the key figures of the Civil Rights era including:

  • Rosa Parks
  • Rev. Ralph Abernathy
  • President Lyndon Johnson
  • Andrew Young and
  • Dr. Benjamin Spock

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