Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. put the finishing touches on a speech in his hotel room before walking across the National Mall to deliver those words before a crowd of more than 250,000 people. On Wednesday, President Obama will be among the leaders gathered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that late August day in 1963, when Dr. King shared his vision of equality for all Americans.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, events have been unfolding across Washington, DC, over the past week. Slated for Wednesday, Aug. 28, a “Let Freedom Ring” Commemoration and Call to Action will take place at the Lincoln Memorial, with featured speakers including President Obama joined by former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Get the full list of events at MLKDream50.com. Due to the large crowds anticipated for the event, stay current on DC Metro details.
When you make your way to the Lincoln Memorial, think about its own dedication: Hard to imagine now, but when the Lincoln Memorial was completed in 1922, the dedication ceremony called for African Americans in attendance to sit in a segregated section. It wasn’t until 1939, when an African-American contralto, Marian Anderson, sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, after having been turned down at nearby Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution, that the memorial came to symbolize much more than the reunification of North and South. Then in 1963, Dr. King sealed its new standing as a place to come to reflect on the meaning of equality and freedom for all Americans.
Nearby, see the memorial that stands in dedication to Dr. King himself. More than 20 years in the making, the memorial’s construction effort was led by Dr. King’s fraternity brothers at Boston University. Located on the western rim of the Tidal Basin, Dr. King stands resolutely, arms crossed, looking out to the Jefferson Memorial just beyond — a symbolic statement since one man wrote the words “All men are created equal,” while the other fought to make sure those words were realized for all.
The MLK Memorial itself is based on a line from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” While there, make sure to take a good look at the walls on either side of the sculpture. As you read the various quotations from Dr. King’s speeches etched on those walls, see if you can figure out the 2 most commonly used words. Chances are we still need to make good on them.