It was the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, a volatile period in America that tested the moral fiber of a nation.
Its geographic borders wore the same outline as a global powerhouse that prided itself on human rights.
Its greatest test was to survive a great divide, one created by man, one nurtured by its creators and one defied by a people oppressed.
It came as a war of black and white. Unlike today’s complicated society, there were no shades of gray.
It was this way.
It was that way.
It was the white way.
It was the black way.
To loosely quote leaders of America’s majority, “It was my way or it was the highway.”
And history records it was such a highway — from Montgomery to Memphis — that told the story of a people’s quest for equality. And in the end, it was a fight for freedom ... ironically in the heart of a land whose doors were open to any whose dream was to live free.
No words better told a people’s plight than those spoken by Dr. King when he delivered the address most recognized as “I Have a Dream.” The plea for change, and the inspiration that fueled the hope of hundreds of thousands, came during the historic “March on Washington” on Aug. 28, 1963.
By copyright, we are disallowed a reprint in full. But we can offer this emotional excerpt, one we last published on Aug. 28, 2013, on the 50th anniversary of a speech that forced America to look deep into an unkind part of herself.
Its words are just as haunting in 2014, especially to a younger generation, many of whom could never have imagined the travesties of their homeland’s past.
The slain Civil Rights leader’s words are as follows:
“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 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.”
The words were a ray of hope.
Their message stood as testament to an ideal that defines the merit of humanity.
They were delivered on this day by one man, but their legacy still guides the moral compass of mankind.
On Monday, we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose heart was as big as his dream.
May the memory of this visionary serve as a beacon of light for all who walk the winding path of rebirth through a land called America.