August 29, 2013 – Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's iconic "I Have A Dream" speech.
King was an activist in the African-American Civil Rights Movement from 1945 to 1970 that fought to bring equal rights to every American and end segregation. On April 4, 1968 he was shot while at a motel in Memphis, Tennessee by a man named James Earl Ray and died later that day.
Segregation means separating humans into different groups based on the colour of their skin. Until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed it was very common for schools, restaurants, and workplaces to have different areas for coloured people to sit, eat, and even go to the bathroom.
Another famous person who stood up against segregation was Rosa Parks, an African-American woman who refused to give up her seat in the on a bus to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama in December 1955.
She was arrested that day and King led a boycott of the Montgomery Bus line, which lasted for 385 days. He too was arrested during the boycott, but his role in the protest made him a national figure and spokesman for the civil rights movement. On December 17, 1956 the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama ruled that segregation was unconstitutional and ordered Alabama to desegregate its busses.
King and his supporters used peaceful means to protest, like having rallies, demonstrations, petitions, and strikes. One of these non-violent protests was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom political rally he participated in at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C on August 28, 1963. During this rally he made his "I Have A Dream" speech, which promoted harmony and peace during the march.
Up to 300,000 people went to March on Washington, and 75 to 80 per cent of the marchers were black. People traveled from far and wide to be a part of the march to have their voices heard; and they were– less than a year later the Civil Rights Act was passed, ending not only segregation but guaranteeing all citizens voting rights and equal protection under the laws of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Yesterday President Obama gave a speech at the Lincoln Memorial, the same place King gave his speech, paying tribute to King and everything that he did for America. "His words belong to the ages, possessing a power and prophecy unmatched in our time. We remember how he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions," he said.
Oprah Winfrey, Jamie Foxx, Christine King (King's sister), former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter also spoke at the ceremony. "This march, and that speech, changed America," said Clinton.