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The Maundy Monday Newsletter - This Week in History August 28 - September 4.
Happy Maundy Morning, Okay History friends! I’m back. Sorry about Friday – I was slammed at work and just wiped out.
Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington. Over 250,000 people descended to Washington, DC, to advocate civil and economic rights for Black Americans. By August, the Civil Rights Movement had gained strength as the country recently saw peaceful protests met by violence in Alabama. As President Kennedy worked to gain support for bills that would move the country towards equality, the March was seen as a demonstration of that support from the people.
The March on Washington is rarely referred to by its longer name – The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I'm not sure why this is, but to me, it’s an important distinction that gets lost.
The most well-known part of the March happened on August 28, 1963, when Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his I Have a Dream speech, which makes the top 100 speeches in that book I’m constantly referring to.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister. He was a Christian in the truest sense of the word. His march included labor leaders, civil rights activists, and other religious leaders. The I Have A Dream speech weaved together our American history with the moral imperative that no one should be cast aside, especially by the color of their skin.
The speech was brilliant. It is a musical masterpiece. King’s tone and cadence capture your attention with repeated phrases that any good sermon or homily is based on, but King perfects. He begins slowly and humbly. Reminding his audience that the country created the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as promissory notes for all Americans to draw upon. One hundred years after President Lincoln emancipated the enslaved people of the Confederacy, King and his supporters came to ensure the promises were delivered upon them.
King uses the “I Have Dream” line eight times, each a striking reminder of what could be. At one point, King draws out the line “Down In Alabama” and calls out its racist and nullifying Governor. Tenor and directness increase with four repeated references to mountain tops where he shouts, “Let Freedom Ring!”
It builds until he lands the final “Free at Last, Free at Last, Thank God Almighty, I am Free at Last.”
It gives you chills.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prevented racial discrimination everywhere, was passed due to the influence of the March and President Johnson’s commitment to getting it over the goal line.
Jobs and Freedom. Things we still fight for today – trying to keep MLK’s dream alive.
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Okay, let's highlight what else happened this week. Here's what I got:
1. Anti-Vietnam War protestors clashed with police during the Democratic National Convention on August 28, 1968. President Lyndon Johnson told the nation he would not seek reelection in March. MLK was assassinated in April, and RFK in June. 1968, man. What a year. Six hundred fifty protestors were arrested, while at least 100 were injured.
2. The Moscow-Washington hotline was installed on August 30, 1963. The direct communication link between the United States and the Soviet Union was neither a telephone nor red. It was a device that punched out text. President Kennedy used it on this day to send Premier Nikita Khrushchev emojis and links with malware.
3. The Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783. The agreement officially ended the American Revolution and made the United States a certified thing. In August 2023, Republican presidential nominee Vivek Ramalanadingdong, thought that when the Constitution was ratified five years later, the actual American Revolution began.
I would encourage you to watch the I Have A Dream speech today if you can.
When you watch it, remind yourself of the moral imperative and urgency King presents. “Now is the time.” To me, it’s the imperative and urgency of the “Kingdom of God is at hand” when Jesus Christ ministered. King calls us to pray together, to go to jail together, to unite together that will take hope and turn into a positive result.
“With this faith,” as King repeats, we can change the discourse of this nation and make the crooked straight. I don’t do it justice, but you can see the power of faith, however you want to define it, can guide us toward a place where we hear of the ring of freedom everywhere. I believe it can be true.
What do you think?
I am not traveling this week, and we are coming up on Labor Day. So, I should be able to finish what I began with my following Amendment ranking this Friday. And thanks for being kind in letting me skip a week here and there over the summer.
I hope you have a great week and all your dreams come true.