Friday, January 23, 2009

Civil Rights

Here is my most recent essay that I will be handing in late due to the fact that I am still learning when a teacher says "hand in your thoughts" she means "write a paper".

“I Have a Dream”
Martin Luther King Jr.

“Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this son of York.” When William Shakespeare wrote these words for the play Richard the Third he alluded to the premise that the struggle these people faced was over and a new age of prosperity lay before them. This prose has a striking resemblance to the speech given by Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln memorial. Said King “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.” King recognized that there were many struggles ahead and many more marches to be walked but he foresaw the end, the “mountaintop” and knew the glory that awaited his people.

King made reference to the Gettysburg Address given by Lincoln at the Civil War site of the same name. As much as Lincoln is revered by those in the Civil Rights Movement, I have a difficult time believing his words after learning about his personal feelings of the Black race. I am not putting Lincoln down. I recognize that he is a beloved figure in the American history and perhaps the best President this nation has had. Thankfully President Lincoln met Frederick Douglass who was able to persuade him to elevate the Black Union soldiers to equality with their White counterparts. It was Douglass who showed Lincoln the disparity that existed for the men who fought for their freedom while being denied it from their own army.

I too will echo the words of Walt Whitman “O Captain My Captain!” in giving praise to Abraham Lincoln’s role in advancing a noble cause. He was brave enough and savvy enough to make choices that were not popular even if he did them for the wrong reasons. Mostly I am proud to know that we do have a government that will, at times, listen to the people who “matter the least”.

In my lifetime one of the most important advancements in Civil Rights happened June 26, 2003 with the death of Senator Strom Thurmond who was greatly opposed to the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Shortly after his death, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, a Black woman, revealed that she was the illegitimate daughter of Senator Thurmond. This illuminated the hypocrisy and contempt that he had for people he considered unworthy of equal rights, striking a blow to those who admired him for his outspoken racism.