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A Lesson in Civil Rights History

"The dream of a new and just American society must not die." 
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...
The historic march on Washington, D.C. took place on August 28, 1963. At that time Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had the support of labor unions, religious groups and "all people gallantly engaged in the struggle for freedom and dignity." On March 14, 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., became the first African American to receive the John Dewey Award of the United Federation of Teachers.
Albert Shanker, President of the United Federation of Teachers, presented this award to Dr. King for his outstanding contribution to the education of all Americans. The award citation recognized King's belief that all students should have an equal opportunity to achieve success. It acknowledged King's further understanding of the important role educators play in our society.
During King's acceptance speech, he stressed the need for the passage of the Civil Rights Bill in the United States Senate. Dr. King felt this bill would help rid America of every vestige of segregation. He also stated that segregation was "a new form of slavery," "a caste system." King viewed segregation as socially and morally wrong and sinful.
"Segregation is not only sociologically untenable, segregation is politically and economically unsound," said King. "Segregation is wrong, to use the words of the great Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, because it substitutes an "I-it" relationship for an "I-thou" relationship. Segregation is wrong because it is nothing but a new form of slavery covered up with certain niceties of complexity."
Dr. King urged all persons of good will to join the thousands of Americans who were "gallantly engaged in the struggle for freedom and human dignity." He wanted to make the American dream a reality for all citizens. Nonviolent direct action would be the means to that end.
The Civil Rights Bill was passed in 1964. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968.
"The sudden and violent death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., places a serious and profound obligation on all Americans, black and white -- an obligation to continue and broaden the now still efforts of Dr. King to build a society where racial justice and peace prevail," said Shanker. "That dream of a new and just American Society is shared by million upon millions of Americans -- and that dream will not die. We have been proud to walk with Dr. King in Mississippi and in Washington and to work with him in establishing freedom schools in the South. In this tragic hour, we rededicate ourselves for his cause." 
Today, 'the sixties' (1960-1969) are remembered as the turbulent decade in which five civil rights leaders were assassinated: John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and Martin L. King. The sixties are also remembered as the decade in which three courageous young civil rights workers, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were murdered in Mississippi by the Klu Klux Klan: Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were shot to death at point blank range and James Chaney was brutally beaten and shot three times in the face. All three bodies were buried in a dam until they were recovered by the FBI.
As we move through the 21st century, the dream of a new and just American society must not die because "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The dream of a new and just American society must not die because it is a dream based on the American dream of liberty and justice for all. The dream of a new and just American Society will not die because "the arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice."
This I believe.

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