The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is a time not only to reflect on progress but also to rekindle work to end continuing injustices, local civil rights advocates and historians said.
“We’ve come a long way,” Joyce Miller, chairwoman of the city’s Community Relations and Human Rights Commission, said. “But we still have a long way to go.”
On Aug. 28, 1963, King delivered his speech to about 250,000 people who participated in the march for jobs and justice March in Washington, D.C.
“It was one of the most invigorating movements that captured the imaginations of African Americans,” said Harry Bradshaw Matthews, director the U.S. Pluralism Center at Hartwick College in Oneonta.
The march toward justice and equality is unfinished, local advocates and historians agreed recently, and efforts have faced some setbacks. Racial profiling, tensions between police and minorities, bullying and identification requirements at some polling sites are among the results of racism and civil rights abuses today, they said.
In Washington, D.C. marches this past Saturday and this Wednesday are raising awareness of the anniversary.
In Oneonta, a march is set for Tuesday night, to be followed by an interfaith service and a recitation of King’s speech. On Wednesday, the State University College at Oneonta has activities planned throughout the day.
At the “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony in Washington on Wednesday, President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president, will speak. Bells will ring nationwide at 3 p.m. to note the time when King delivered his speech.
The 1963 march on Washington pressured Congress to pass the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts, bills that were approved in 1964 and 1965, respectively. The laws followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown versus Board of Education ruling in 1956 that called for racial desegregation.