MLK Selma

On this day in 1965, the historic Selma to Montgomery march begins, led by Martin Luther King, Jr.

First, here are some words from his address at the conclusion of the march:

“Let us march on ballot boxes until all over Alabama God’s children will be able to walk the earth in decency and honor.

There is nothing wrong with marching in this sense. The Bible tells us that the mighty men of Joshua merely walked about the walled city of Jericho and the barriers to freedom came tumbling down. I like that old Negro spiritual, “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” In its simple, yet colorful, depiction of that great moment in biblical history, it tells us that:

Joshua fit the battle of Jericho,
Joshua fit the battle of Jericho,
And the walls come tumbling down.
Up to the walls of Jericho they marched, spear in hand.
“Go blow them ramhorns,” Joshua cried,
“‘Cause the battle am in my hand.”

These words I have given you just as they were given us by the unknown, long-dead, dark-skinned originator. Some now long-gone black bard bequeathed to posterity these words in ungrammatical form, yet with emphatic pertinence for all of us today.”

Our hope, Our Nation

Finally, here are a few similar and enduringly pertinent excerpts from his famous “I Have a Dream” speech:

“Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

“And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope.”

“With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

 

MLK March Selma to Montgomery

Selma to Montgomery Marches

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson uses federal authority to call up selected units of the Alabama National Guard. The segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace abdicated his responsibility with his reluctance to spend state funds on protecting Martin Luther King, Jr. and 50,000 demonstrators as they conducted a planned and approved civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.

That morning, President Johnson sent a telegram to Governor Wallace. In it, he stated that “the rights of all American citizens must be protected, I intend to meet your request by providing Federal assistance to perform normal police functions.”

My hope, my expectation, my prayer

Later, during the subsequent news conference, President Johnson added:
“Over the next several days the eyes of the Nation will be upon Alabama, and the eyes of the world will be upon America. It is my prayer, a prayer in which I hope all Americans will join me earnestly today, that the march in Alabama may proceed in a manner honoring our heritage and honoring all for which America stands.

May this, the conduct of all Americans, demonstrate beyond dispute that the true strength of America lies not in arms and not in force and not in the might of the military or in the police, nor in the multitudes of marshals and State troopers but in respect and obedience to law itself.

In other times a great President–President Abraham Lincoln–said that he was confident that we would be touched by the better angels of our nature. That is my hope for you, and my expectation of all of you and my prayer to all of you today.

A nation is molded by the tests that its peoples meet and master. I believe that from the test of these days we shall emerge as a stronger nation, as a more united people, and a more just and decent society.”

 

Selma to Montgomery Marches

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial MLK

On January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. is born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of a Baptist minister.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill designating a federal holiday to recognize Dr. King. We observe it on the third Monday in January so it falls close to his birthday.

Upon signing the bill, Reagan remarked:
“[M]ost important, there was not just a change of law; there was a change of heart. The conscience of America had been touched. Across the land, people had begun to treat each other not as blacks and whites, but as fellow Americans.

But traces of bigotry still mar America. So, each year on Martin Luther King Day, let us not only recall Dr. King, but rededicate ourselves to the Commandments he believed in and sought to live every day: Thou shall love thy God with all thy heart, and thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. And I just have to believe that all of us—if all of us, young and old, Republicans and Democrats, do all we can to live up to those Commandments, then we will see the day when Dr. King’s dream comes true, and in his words, “All of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘… land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.'”

The Guide to a Greater Purpose

In 1955, Dr. King offered sound guidance to protestors then, and now:

“Let conscience be your guide” … [O]ur actions must be guided by the deepest principles of our Christian faith. Love must be our regulating ideal. Once again we must hear the words of Jesus echoing across the centuries: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you.”

King’s legacy as a leader endures because of Who he followed:

Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.”

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial MLK

Rosa Parks fingerprints

On this day in 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks is arrested and jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus. She was in the first row of the ‘black section’ when the driver demanded that she give up her seat to a white male passenger.

As a result, she is known as “The mother of the civil rights movement.”

Her act of civil disobedience led to a 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized by Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr.

During the boycott, Dr. King said:
“This is not a war between the white and the Negro but a conflict between justice and injustice. If we are arrested every day, if we are exploited every day, if we are trampled over every day, don’t ever let anyone pull you so low as to hate them. We must use the weapon of love.”

Then, in November 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bus segregation laws as being in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

Rosa later wrote, “I felt the presence of God on the bus and heard His quiet voice as I sat there waiting for the police to take me to the station.”

Rosa Parks died on October 24, 2005 and was the first woman to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Proud to be an American

In 1996, she wrote this in response to a letter from a 13 year-old named Michael, who asked her about the changes she has seen during he 83 years:

“I am grateful to God for this long life. I am thankful that He has used me to fulfill some of His plans.

I am proud to be an American. America is a wonderful country. In just over 200 years, since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we have come a long way. Slavery has been abolished. Child labor laws have been established as the law of the land. Women have the right to vote and have taken their places in politics, the arts, sciences, and business. I am proud to see that history and her story are coming together as one as we move ahead.

Our country is the model for every other developing country in the world for achieving justice and equality for its citizens. Our Constitution has lasted longer than any other constitution in modern history.

We cannot take these blessings for granted. We must share these gifts from God. Whether we are 13 or 83, we must show the world that we are able to correct our mistakes–including homelessness, poor race relations, and violence–and move forward to a better society. I know that we can. This nation has always overcome the obstacles it has faced.”

Certainly, then, we can all be proud to be American, like Rosa Parks.

Rosa Parks fingerprints

James Meredith Ole Miss

On this day in 1962, James Meredith, having twice been denied admission to the University of Mississippi is escorted onto Ole Miss campus by U.S. Marshals, forcing integration, and causing a race riot in which two men were killed.

It took more than 3,000 federal soldiers to stop the violence.

Meredith is a nine-year Air Force veteran of African American, British Canadian, Scottish Irish, and Choctaw heritage.

He was inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s January 20, 1961 inaugural address (yes, the “ask not” speech):
“For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”

So, Meredith sent a letter to Ole Miss the following day requesting an application in order to exercise his constitutional right to apply to the all-white school.

Then, in a letter to Thurgood Marshall, he lays out his motives:
“I am making this move in what I consider the interest of and for the benefit of: (1) my country, (2) my race, (3) my family, and (4) myself. I am familiar with the probable difficulties involved in such a move as I am undertaking and I am fully prepared to pursue it all the way to a degree from the University of Mississippi.”

Also, decidedly understated, he added that he was “familiar with the probable difficulties involved in such a move as I am undertaking and I am fully prepared to pursue it all the way to a degree from the University of Mississippi.”

“Divine Responsibility”

After all, as he said:
“Nobody handpicked me… I believed, and believe now, that I have a Divine Responsibility to break white supremacy in Mississippi, and getting in Ole Miss was only the start.”

In the prologue to his memoir Mission from God, he wrote:
“I have no fear because I am an American citizen, heir to a sacred covenant of citizenship bestowed on me by George Washington and the Founding Fathers and Mothers of the nation. … And I am on a mission from God.”

Finally, powerfully, James Meredith is quoted as saying:
“My answer to the racial problem in America is to not deal with it at all. The founding fathers dealt with it when they made the Constitution.”

James Meredith Ole Miss

 

John F. Kennedy United Nations

On this day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy addresses the UN General Assembly with his proposal for a joint mission to the moon.

His suggestion for “new cooperation” surprised Soviets and Americans alike. Though, as he said,
“[s]pace offers no problems of sovereignty.”

Kennedy went on:
“The contest will continue–the contest between those who see a monolithic world and those who believe in diversity–but it should be a contest in leadership and responsibility instead of destruction, a contest in achievement instead of intimidation. Speaking for the United States of America, I welcome such a contest. For we believe that truth is stronger than error–and that freedom is more enduring than coercion. And in the contest for a better life, all the world can be a winner.

I know that some of you have experienced discrimination in this country. But I ask you to believe me when I tell you that this is not the wish of most Americans–that we share your regret and resentment — and that we intend to end such practices for all time to come, not only for our visitors, but for our own citizens as well.

Too often a project is undertaken in the excitement of a crisis and then it begins to lose its appeal as the problems drag on and the bills pile up. But we must have the steadfastness to see every enterprise through.

Let us complete what we have started. For “No man who puts his hand to the plow and looks back,” as the Scriptures tell us, “No man who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Additionally, let us, as united Americans, renew our cooperation, on the strength of truth. Then, we can continue the work to fulfill the lofty vision Our Founders had for Our Republic.

John F. Kennedy United Nations

Martin Luther King Jr I Have a Dream Speech

On this day in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivers  what became known as his “I Have a Dream” speech. From the Lincoln Memorial steps, he spoke to approximately 250,000 people at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Magnificent Words

Here are several excerpts from his speech:

“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

“Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”

“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.”

So, let us all continue to work to make America great.

Martin Luther King Jr I Have a Dream Speech

Lyndon Johnson signs Civil Rights Act, July 2, 1964

On this day in 1964, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs into law the Civil Rights Act. The Act prohibited racial discrimination in education and employment and outlawed racial segregation in public places. Further, it paved the way for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In his Remarks upon Signing the Civil Rights Act, President Johnson’s opening and closing comments are as relevant on this July 2 as they were on that July 2:

“One hundred and eighty-eight years ago this week a small band of valiant men began a long struggle for freedom. They pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor not only to found a nation, but to forge an ideal of freedom—not only for political independence, but for personal liberty—not only to eliminate foreign rule, but to establish the rule of justice in the affairs of men.”

“Let us close the springs of racial poison. Let us pray for wise and understanding hearts. Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our Nation whole. Let us hasten that day when our unmeasured strength and our unbounded spirit will be free to do the great works ordained for this Nation by the just and wise God who is the Father of us all.”

 

Lyndon Johnson signs Civil Rights Act, July 2, 1964

 

Jackie Robinson Day Logo 42

On this day in 1947, Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball.

Robinson joined the army in 1942 as a second lieutenant. He was honorably discharged despite being court-martialed in 1944 for protesting instances of racial discrimination during his service.

In 1945, Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, recruited Robinson to join one of the Dodgers’s farm teams.

When he was called up to the Majors he soon became a star infielder and outfielder as well as the National League’s Rookie of the Year. Then, in 1949, Robinson was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player and batting champ.

Noble Purpose

“Rickey’s faith told him that injustice had to be fought wherever it was found. As for Jackie Robinson, he believed that God had chosen him for this noble purpose. And he knew that if he committed himself to doing this great thing, God would give him the strength he needed to see it through.”
– The Secret of Jackie Robinson’s Greatness: Turning the Other Cheek, By Eric Metaxas, April 15, 2016

“God built me to last” is a line from the 2013 Jackie Robinson biopic 42.

Jackie Robinson Day Logo

 

 

NASA Apollo 8 Christmas Eve Earthrise

On this day in 1970, Apollo 13, the third lunar landing mission, is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

On April 13th, Commander Jim Lovell was to become the fifth man to walk on the moon, but an exploding “Oxygen tank No. 2” had other plans. As a result, we have all heard him say, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” Mission control aborted the landing.

“In the beginning…”

Now, I invite you to hear Command Module Pilot Lovell and his fellow Apollo 8 astronauts read from Genesis on Christmas Eve in 1968, during a live broadcast from lunar orbit. Lovell’s is the second voice you’ll hear. Their message brings perspective to a turbulent year in American history:

Video courtesy of NASA.gov Video

NASA Apollo 8 Christmas Eve Earthrise

 

Lyndon B. Johnson March 15, 1965

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson addresses a joint session of Congress calling for the passage of legislation guaranteeing voting rights for all.

Here are four excerpts from what is likely his most important and meaningful speech:

“The Constitution says that no person shall be kept from voting because of his race or his color. We have all sworn an oath before God to support and to defend that Constitution. We must now act in obedience to that oath.”

“It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.
Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.
And we shall overcome.”

“In Selma as elsewhere we seek and pray for peace. We seek order. We seek unity. But we will not accept the peace of stifled rights, or the order imposed by fear, or the unity that stifles protest. For peace cannot be purchased at the cost of liberty.”

“Above the pyramid on the great seal of the United States it says–in Latin–“God has favored our undertaking.”
God will not favor everything that we do. It is rather our duty to divine His will. But I cannot help believing that He truly understands and that He really favors the undertaking that we begin here tonight.”

Lyndon B. Johnson March 15, 1965