Remembering 50 Years Ago Today « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Remembering 50 Years Ago Today

Remembering 50 Years Ago Today

It might not be a bad idea for each of us to re-consider Martin Luther King’s words of 50 years ago. I remember teaching the speech to one of my my sixth grade classes about 35 years ago. They mastered it beautifully and performed it in a very moving assembly program for the upper grades at PS 106 in Brooklyn.

While searching the web for the text of Dr. King’s speech, I came across a rather interesting Washington Post editorial here.

There is more interesting commentary here. Included is the following: “Deadline reports that CNN and MSNBC will run a rare re-broadcast of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech in its entirety, CNN will run it once in the afternoon, while MSNBC will run it twice—once at 4 PM, and again at 8. The second showing, during a special All In with Chris Hayes, will have limited commercial interruptions.”

Click here to read the Deadline announcement.

At the March on Washington, August 28, 2013

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.

This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

28 comments to Remembering 50 Years Ago Today

  • avatar Jen

    I remember when you taught the speech to your class because it was that horrible time before the internet existed and you had to play the record over and over as you typed it for your class 🙂

    Joking aside, hearing the speech repeatedly was an important part of my childhood and in making me who I am. I’ve read and talked about parts of the speech as well as bits of Letter from a Birmingham Jail and the scarily prophetic speech from the night before his death to my children, and I hope they too are shaped by hearing those words. Based on their comments about things like marriage equality and don’t ask don’t tell I think that social justice is important to them too.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Jen has always been a wonderful daughter, one whom I have always been proud of, as I am proud of her two wonderful children, Sam and Maya. And proud of her sister Alissa and her two great boys, Ilyas and Idris. Both Jen and Lissy are doing a slam bang job of raising some wonderful kids and both continue to make Dad very proud.

  • I’m proud of you for having published this post, which I personally find most inspiring and appropriate, but one which a businessman of lesser character would have avoided, lest it could alienate potential customers in a time where taking a stand on politics and social issues can create wedges even amongst otherwise reasonable people. I salute you, Arthur Morris!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks John. I have come across a few Black nature photographers over the years. Here’s to lots more in the next generation.

  • avatar David Martin, Ph.D.

    Thanks for posting the text of MLK’s historic speech, Artie. It’s not often that one gets an opportunity to read those inspiring words.

  • avatar Mark

    I was 7 at the time of Dr. King’s speech and so only remember it from history. This is the first time I’ve actually read it (or heard it) in its entirety. It stands right alongside the Gettysburg Address and President Roosevelt’s speech after Pearl Harbor as perhaps the most inspiring words I’ve ever read or heard. Thank you for posting it, Artie. It gave me chills.

  • Thanks for sharing this. Amazing speech. It should be taught here in Germany, too. Many people don’t know about this.


  • avatar Deirdre Sheerr-Gross

    Artie.. You are a piece of work..
    And an EXCELLENT piece of work, I might add…

    I admire you and am proud of you…

    It’s not just your photography that inspires me…
    but your moral compass… and it’s true heading.

  • avatar Ruth Schueler

    I remember the speech so well. I was still living in Switzerland, but as I had family in the U.S.A. I was always interested what was happening there.

  • avatar Billy Wingfield

    Good for you, Arthur, for dedicating your blog to Dr. King’s speech and his legacy. I grew up in segregated South Carolina. My daughter and her husband, who have three natural children of their own, just adopted a little African-American baby boy from a mother in Georgia. So thankfully things have changed in the South, slowly perhaps, but there is change. We are all God’s children.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Good on your daughter and her family. I am sending love, strength, and energy to her family. Sadly, a friend who lives in rural Georgia recently told me that there are still public Ku Klux Klan meetings in her town….

      Take a sobering look at this list of active KKK groups on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center here.

  • avatar Gail Bisson

    You did good with this blog entry Artie!
    no nits from me!:-)

  • avatar Steve Byland

    Thanks Artie!

  • avatar Ray MacDonald

    Thank you for posting Dr. King’s speech.
    Powerful, moving and poetic, after 50 years, still echoing the “urgency of now”

  • avatar Garry Gibson

    What is really amazing about all of this is he was only 34 years old at the time of the speech. He won the Nobel Peace prize at 35.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Thanks, Artie. I was living in London in 1963, and so did not get the exposure to Dr. King’s speech that I would have if I’d been living in this country. But the speech has continued to resonate with me in the intervening years, the more so because of my having been raised in apartheid South Africa. My parents were liberal by the standards of the day and country and tried to instill good values in me, but they (and thus I) had black servants and the reality of it all didn’t really hit home until I came to this country (California) in 1964. California was the first place I’d lived where being black (or any other color than white) didn’t automatically relegate one to second-class citizenship, and it has been a long struggle–largely successful, I hope–to overcome the effects of being raised in South Africa. Many American friends have helped and your posting of the speech was a terrific thing to do, for which many thanks.


  • avatar Garry Gibson

    What I think is especially amazing about all this, is he was 34 years old at the time. It makes me ashamed of myself in a way at how little I had done and thought of at that age.

    Its also amazing that the oratory will be remembered but the written text is just as powerful.

  • avatar Nelson Meyer

    Thank you for having the moral compass and courage to commemorate this remarkable event and speech as your most important topic today. Just a look at Facebook postings of some of my erstwhile “friends” underlines how important it still is to speak up. Thank you!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thank you Nelson for your kind words. Whatever is said and done, we have come a long way. I remember words that came from my both my parents mouths that would horrify most folks today. And my parents were good and wonderful people. We surely have a long way to go, but we have come a long, long way.

  • avatar Leonard Malkin

    Still a thrill to read those words even after all these years. Unfortunately, the dream is still a dream in many places and hearts.

  • avatar Bill Dix

    Thank you for posting this, Artie. I was there 50 years ago to hear The Speech, and to participate in what still stands as one of the most moving and memorable experiences of my life. I was there again last Saturday, both as commemoration of that first great event and as a reminder of all that remains undone. The speech, that you have so thoughtfully reprinted, will retain its place in history as one of the truly great ones; and to hear it again with its marvelous cadence, as we have this week, still brings tears to my eyes.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Good on you Bill. Your comment brought tears to my eyes. In a somewhat related manner, I watched “Glickman” the other day on cable, a documentary on the life of Marty Glickman, star Jewish athlete and sports broadcasting pioneer. I pretty much cried through the whole thing as I remembered listening to his NY football Giants radio broadcasts as a young child in Brooklyn.

  • Let Freedom Ring…. words that still move me to tears fifty years later. A great man, a great dream, my hope that it will not take another fifty years.

  • Remembering events such as this one helps put our efforts as nature photographers into perspective.

  • Artie
    A most excellent reminder that we all should listen to today