“FREE AT LAST . . .” August 29, 2013Posted by wmmbb in Human Rights.
Martin Luther King delivered the final speech at the culmination of the 1963 March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs on this day. He gave the speech on 28 August 1963.
His speech was filmed and was recorded on video:
For other ways of hearing and seeing the speech(via Metta Center for Nonviolence). The links are iteresting.
Social and political rights should be the birthright of all human beings anywhere.
It is interesting to reflect on Feudalism, the emergence of western legal institutions and principles, including the American and French Revolutions. Slavery existed in Ancient Greece and Rome, but did not impede the emergence of democratic and legal precepts and practices. Slavery is structural violence, systematic dehumanization, yet The Declaration of Independence is an expression of inalienable human rights making their realization fundamental to government.
The story is as well wrapped in racism (which as an outsider it is possible to view from a different geographical and historical context and social conditioning).
The character and condition of the Poor White is rooted in the institution of slavery. Rather than provide wealth as it had for the Southern elite, in stark contrast, slavery considerably hindered progress for non-slave holding whites by exerting a crowding-out effect eliminating free labor in the region. This effect, compounded by the area’s widespread lack of public education and its general practice of endogamy, prevented low-income and low-wealth free laborers from moving to the middle class. Many fictional depictions in literature used them as foils in reflecting the positive traits of the protagonist against their perceived “savage” traits. In her novel Dred, Harriet Beecher Stowe illustrates a commonly held stereotype that marriage through them results in generic degradation and barbarism of the better class.
During the American Civil War the Poor White comprised a majority of the combatants in the Confederate Army (the Battle Flag, while controversial, is still seen by some as a symbol of Southern as well as their identity); afterwards, many labored as sharecroppers. During the nadir of American race relations intense violence, defense of honor and white supremacy flourished in a region suffering from a lack of public education and competition for resources. Southern politicians of the day motivated conflict between the Poor White and African Americans as a form of Political Opportunism. As John T. Campbell summarizes in The Broad Ax:
In the past, white men have hated white men quite as much as some of them hate the Negro, and have vented their hatred with as much savagery as they ever have against the Negro. The best educated people have the least race prejudice. In the United States the poor white were encouraged to hate the Negroes because they could then be used to help hold the Negroes in slavery. The Negroes were taught to show contempt for poor whites because this would increase the hatred between them and each side could be used by the master to control the other. The real interest of the poor whites and the Negroes were the same, that of resisting the oppression of the master class. But ignorance stood in the way. This race hatred was at first used to perpetuate white supremacy in politics in the South. The poor whites are almost injured by it as are the Negroes. – John T. Campbell
So perhaps, it is not surprising that movements, such as Progressivism in the early 20th Century in the South foundered on the rock of racism, to the detriment of both sets of people – Euro and African Americans.
One imagines that Dr King was deeply aware of this history.
- Gary Younge, The Rev King did not dream of a better people; he dreamed of a better system (The Guardian)
- John Lewis March On Washington Speech: Country Has ‘A Great Distance To Go’ (huffingtonpost.com)
- Lesser-known stories from the 1963 March on Washington (holykaw.alltop.com)