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Across the street from my childhood home in Washington, D.C., is one of first significant achievements by African Americans after slavery—Freedman’s Memorial in Lincoln Park. This statue—Abraham Lincoln standing over a formerly enslaved person kneeling at Lincoln’s feet—was the first memorial to the assassinated president. African Americans raised all the funds to build it.
My brothers and our childhood friends used the statue and its memorial plaque as a home plate for baseball and a safe zone for tag. Growing up in the nation’s capital, in a family in which my mother was a librarian and my father a clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court, reading and learning history was valued. Sundays were often spent riding the Mount Pleasant streetcar line to the end, while viewing the marble buildings and monuments. But I never recall my parents mentioning the significance of this piece of Black history right outside our front door across East Capitol Street.
Martin - Luther - King - Jr - Speeches
In one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s monumental speeches, he “discovered” something hidden in plain sight. Even though it had always been in front of him during his struggles for civil rights, he had never tackled African Americans’ labor and economic history in quite this way.
On March 18, 1968—50 years ago tomorrow—Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered this “dignity of labor” speech (a sermon really) at the historic Mason Temple in Memphis, two and a half weeks before his death, on the occasion of the garbage worker’s strike. It bears the marks of his own discovery of the dignity of work that was always right before his eyes.
Message - Dr - King - Accomplishments - Rights
In the message, Dr. King reflected on his accomplishments in civil rights: voting rights and desegregation of public transportation, accommodations, and eating places. But these achievements had gained new meaning for him. He’d come to realize from the plight of these...
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