Striving to Attain the Dream
I was a few weeks shy of my 10th birthday the day Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his I Have a Dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before an estimated crowd of 200,000 assembled in Washington, D.C. in 1963. I watched Dr. King on television with my family.
He began his speech by saying:
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
In his speech, Dr. King attempted to express the feelings of frustration and the fatigue of those who, at that time, had endured the virtually unendurable to live to see another day, who hoped and dreamed for a better day.
He reminded America it was his belief that she had not fulfilled her promise to all of her citizens, saying:
.... When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
A year later, I was little more than a month away from my 11th birthday when the legendary and courageous civil rights crusader Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), kicked out of her home, she and her husband dismissed from their jobs, Mrs. Hamer, jailed and beaten by law enforcement officials in her home state of Mississippi for organizing her friends and neighbors to vote, traveled to Atlantic City, New Jersey, seeking to be fully represented in the election process.
The testimony of Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, the daughter of Mississippi sharecroppers and granddaughter of enslaved grandparents, delivered before the Democratic Credentials Committee at the Democratic convention in 1964, was featured on the evening news on television, drawing attention to the denial of voting rights to many of its citizens in the United States.
Over the years, much has changed since Dr. King's speech and Mrs. Hamer's Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party's political action, through the efforts of many people of all races, working to include those formerly considered the least and lowest among all others living within this nation.
Tonight, on the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, at Invesco Field in Mile High Stadium, a native son who makes Chicago, Illinois his home, representing the heritage of Africa and America, is set to take the stage, delivering his acceptance speech as the Democratic Party's nominee, the first African American to be nominated, by any major political party, for the office of President of the United States of America.
It would have been nice if Dr. King and Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer could have shared their thoughts on this most notable occasion, 44 years ago this month since Mrs. Hamer's appeal to the Democratic Party's credentials committee, as well as it being 40 years since the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was seated in 1968 at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois and on this specific date, August 28, the 45th anniversary of his I Have a Dream speech.
Click here for some thoughts offered by the children of the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther and Mrs. Coretta Scott King Jr., the remaining caretakers of their father's dream for this country, on the anniversary of his speech.
To learn more about Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, visit the web site of the Hamer Cultural Center.
A companion piece at NowPublic, Thoughts from a Daughter of the Struggle