This line, my favourite line, echoes around me as I climb the steps. 69 large, white, imposing steps, in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!”
The pure courage of Martin Luther King Junior allowed him to highlight the unjustness that black people were judged on the colour of their skin and not their character. We are taught as children not to judge a person by their looks, yet in America many years ago this was the norm. Some people didn’t know any better, some truly believed and some just followed the norms of society at the time. But Martin Luther King Junior looked to religion and believed strongly that everybody was created equal; which gave him the strength to lead hundreds and thousands of people to peacefully protest for equal rights.
As I reach step 69, I see it – the engraving ‘I Have A Dream’ into the stone step. I have to pinch myself to believe that I am actually standing on this spot.
This is the spot where Martin Luther King Junior gave his monumental speech, fighting for equal rights for black people. America was created on the constitution; which stated that everybody was equal. So how was it allowed that black people were treated as second class citizens? It was a speech that united and gave hope to many black Americans. A man who would go down in history. A speech that is still remembered today. A cause that changed America.
The legacy of Martin Luther King Junior is still strong today. Fifty-two years ago (almost to the day) these steps were filled with over 250,000 people, many who had travelled hundreds of miles, all listening to his stirring words. Today as I am standing here, I am surrounded by people from all over the world, who have come to this historic spot as they recognise the lasting legacy that Martin Luther King Junior has left.
His speech was astounding; with the use of crescendos, simple language and a clear message. Thus, it was accessible to all and is still emulated today. Most children who you speak to will have some knowledge about this man, especially in America where it is still a large part of the school curriculum. I remember throughout my American schooling that Martin Luther King Junior was used regularly used an example of a courageous person, and his speech used in many different subjects. The four simple words ‘I Have A Dream’ are forever associated with the movement for equal rights between white and black people.
After visiting some of the Southern States before arriving in Washington, I began to realise that complete equality had not yet been reached and that there are still many problems. I saw many towns that were still divided in terms of housing, with white people living in lovely apartment complexes and black people living in traditional poorer housing. Sadly, many members of the older white generation still believe in the traditional way of order as this was how they had been brought up and thus didn’t see the need to change their views. However, I do believe that the human race is progressing to equality for all: race, religion, ethnicity etc should not hinder ones opportunities in life. Which brings me back to me favourite line of Martin Luther King Junior’s speech; as in today’s society it still may not be completely equal but his children would be more appreciated for their character and not judged on the colour of their skin.
So, standing here on this historic stone step where Martin Luther King Junior gave his ground breaking speech and I am once again reminded how far we have come. As I walk down the steps towards the White House, I reflect on how many milestones there have been in this fight for equality – the biggest one being that there is the first black President. Historically in such a short time, society has come a long way and it only took one person’s dream.
Images by Sammie Burstow