By Harry Welty
for a Day
Fresh from their victory
There is an irony in this. During his lifetime Reverend King was a thorn in the side of the NAACP. His alternative organization, the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), and his powerful religious message stole the thunder from the cool, legalistic NAACP. Perhaps this was because King appealed to the heart while the NAACP appealed to reason. Nonetheless, the NAACP had their successes as I discovered at a very tender age.
One day, at the beginning of
the 1958 school year, the teachers of
As I surveyed the world from
my perch I spied a long, orderly line of black children heading down the
sidewalk toward our school. The youngest children led the way followed by
progressively older students. Each child carried his or her own chair and on
each chair stood a neat stack of textbooks. It must have been their teachers -
their old teachers - who were shepherding them to Loman Hill. The NAACPís
triumph, Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education, had the unintended consequence
of ending the teaching careers of hundreds of black teachers in
Then the white South sat back
smugly and enjoyed watching Northern School Districts explode over the court
ordered bussing of children to achieve school integration.
This is not to suggest that
times have not changed for the better. Condoleeza Rice, about to become our
Nationís Secretary of State, was a nine year old in
Kingís Civil Rightís career began by trying to win the same freedom on city busses that white passengers had. Then King worked to give blacks the right to vote. Then he began demanding that the American economy be opened to black Americans. Finally he objected to a war that drafted black men to fight while white boys got college deferments.
King was no more the Civil
Rights movement than George Washington was the Revolution or Abraham Lincoln
was the Civil War. Rather, the Nationís memory came to see these men as the
embodiment of a greater spirit of liberty and justice. Today Washington and
Lincoln have their Monday perhaps King should have his too. And yet itís
worth pondering whether giving students a day off in
Martin Luther King once wrote
a letter from
Yes, today we have Condoleeza Rice but we also have one million black men Ė one in every twelve, sitting behind prison walls. Most of them are poorly educated, most are denied the vote and all of them are out of the nationís economy. Meanwhile, white Americans have moved to the exurbs, successful blacks have moved to the suburbs, and black inner city children wait for their fatherís paroles. Where is Martin Luther Kingís justice today?
Thereís nothing wrong in taking a day off to celebrate Martin Luther Kingís birth. There is no guarantee that such a holiday will remind us what Martin Luther King lived and died for.
is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com