‘1963 is not the end but the beginning’. These were the words of Martin Luther King Jr on the 28th August 1963 where he led, one of the largest demonstrations in U.S. history. The demonstration was named ‘The march for work and freedom’ in which 250,000 participants marched into Washington D.C. This was an extremely important turning point within the struggle for equality including one speech that would be remembered for decades.
Martin Luther King was a doctor of theology as well as a prominent civil rights activist within the 1960’s. However, King was not the only civil rights activists who was protesting particularly for African American Civil rights, he had ‘allies’ such as Malcom X but this is a key point as to how King differed from other protesters. Dr.King was a strong believer in non – violent methods in order to achieve his aims yet Malcolm X wanted the same dream but, had different methods to achieving this as he was an extremely violent man and induced violence within his followers. Martin Luther King disliked these methods and felt violent actions would depict the African community in an incredibly bad light.
King had one main dream; to end racism. His goal was to destroy the boundaries that separated the Caucasian society from the black society; he simply wanted equality for all. Along side this he campaigned hugely for civil and economics rights which led to the creation of the civil rights act which prohibited discrimination in public places including within the workplace and established integration within school. Dr.Kings next challenge was equal voting rights for the black community. In 1965 a march organized by King walked from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery in peaceful protest, there they were met by Stormtroopers who violently attacked and beat the innocent protestors. After this was nationally televised thousands flocked to Selma to support the march and on March 21 1965 (after the voting act was established and signed by president Johnson) 3000, black and white supporters, walked again (54 miles) from Selma to Montgomery in a peaceful march to mark their new found right, where 1000s more met them, in open arms, at Montgomery. However has King's dream been sustained within our 21st century society?
There are numerous examples to infer that ‘the dream has been fulfilled’ within our society. In the 1960s there were merely 5 black congressman however today those numbers have risen astonishingly to over 50 black congressman as well as a black president! This would have been seen as an amazing and unimaginable triumph to Dr.King therefore it does reflect the fact that the African American society have made huge improvements. In addition to this hundreds of celebrities with huge Impacts on our society are also African American such as Beyonce and Kanye West. In 1967 the marriage act was created, legalizing interracial marriages across the United States. The statistics today show that over 20% of relationships are in fact interracial. However, I believe the most astonishing statistics have been within education. In 2016 over 85% of the African-American community finished high school with over 21% obtaining bachelor degrees or higher! These are all huge success and achievement that the black community have earned after years of inequality yet the battle still goes on.
Unfortunately there have been numerous aspects with the black community in the US which have failed to live up to the ‘Dream’. Since the 1960s unemployment rates within African American communities have doubled that of Caucasian communities which in turn has led to the 5% increase in poverty within black communities since 1963. The most devastating statistics are those of which concern crime and punishment. In 2016 1 in every 3 black man can expect to go to jail within his lifetime, this is compared with a mere 1 in 17 white man. Undoubtedly when looking at such shocking statistics its imperative to understand that the black community merely make up 13% of the entire U.S. population. In 2015 over 102 unarmed black men and women were killed by the police yet only 3 police out of every case were tried. The black community have been the highest race to have been a victim to this atrocity which reiterates the fact that African American conditions are not as they should be.
To conclude alongside my close analyses and knowledge, Martin Luther King Jr.s dream has not been fulfilled within 2016. Rondrea Mathis said ‘We wanted equality. We got integration.’ this response still rings true today. Undoubtedly, The United States has come a long way from the 1960’s situation however extremist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan are still rife within the US community with over 8000 followers. In addition to this the wealth and poverty gap have been increasing rapidly showing we are far from the ‘promised land’. The African American community are being led into a self-fulfilling prophecy of un-achievement until, as a community, we can get to the root of inequality.
In 1963, Martin Luther King said ‘I have a dream, that one day my four little children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character’.
This nation is yet to exist.
Read James Burkinshaw's review of the 2015 film 'Selma' here.