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Obama aboard the Rosa Parks bus in Dearborn's Henry Ford Museum, April 18, 2012. (Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Sometimes there are no words that do justice to a moment in history. Only a picture will work. 

The photo above exemplifies what all the Freedom Rides and bus boycotts and sit-ins and marches were about. A simple thing. An ordinary choice to be comfortable as one goes about his day. A man -- in this case, a black man who happens to be president of the United States -- sits in the front half of a bus. 

This is all you need to know about civil rights. 

When you find yourself getting discouraged about how slowly things change, think of this photo. Then look at the one below, taken in 1956, a year after Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955.  

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For credits and more on Rosa Parks, go to http://bit.ly/Jbqnv7.

 
 
What a prophetic message! It was taken from Dr. King’s Nobel Prize Lecture, delivered December 11, 1964. For the complete lecture, go here.


 
 
This is the fourth in a series of photos I took of quotations inscribed in the granite wall behind the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr., part of the new MLK Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

King used this sentence in a number of speeches, including the commencement address for Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, in June, 1965. Here is the context in which it was used:

Yes, we shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. We shall overcome because Carlyle is right: “No lie can live forever.” We shall overcome  because James Russell Lowell is right:
Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow.
Keeping watch above his own.

We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right: “Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again.” With this faith we will be ble to hew out of the mountain of despair, the stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood, and speed up the day when, in the words of the prophet Amos, “Justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” 


 
 
This is the third in a series of 12 quotations engraved in granite at the site of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington DC. This is taken from King's acceptance speech for receiving tyhe Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 1964. 

I will try to post one quotation a week. Click on Martin Luther King quotations in the index on the right, for the complete set. 

 
 
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The second of twelve photos I took of panels containing memorable quotes from the writings and speeches of Martin Luther King, at the site of the King Memorial. 

According to Wikipedia, King responded with these words in response to an accusation that his activism was "disturbing the peace," as quoted in Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Stephen B. Oates, 1982). 


 
 
Here is the first of 12 quotations from the writing of Martin Luther King, Jr, inscribed on granite panels forming a semi-circle behind the statue that will be unveiled this Sunday, as a memorial to the civil rights leader. This quote was taken from King's book Strength to Love, published in 1963. 

Over the next few months, I will post a photo of each panel, grouping them together as Martin Luther King quotations, accessible from the index on the right. 


 
 
During the weekend Hurricane Irene came for a visit, we walked among the stones that make up the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial along the Tidal Basin on the National Mall in Washington DC. Hoping to attend the dedication, we joined hundreds at the newly opened site one evening as the sun set and clouds thickened, then went back early the next morning, just as the storm moved in.

Wisely, the organizers postponed the dedication in advance of Irene, moving it to Sunday, October 16. The morning program will be free and open to the public. See http://bit.ly/nQ3JPm for information.

King’s fraternity brothers in Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African-Americans, initiated the concept of his memorial, then created the foundation that ultimately paid for and built the project 25 years later. The complex of three major stones anchored by a semi-circular wall of memorable quotations, sits along a northwest section of the water facing the Jefferson Memorial. The memorial towers over cherry trees that usually bloom in early April, which happens to be the time of King’s death in 1968. This location will put the memorial in the path of millions from around the globe who visit DC to celebrate spring’s beauty. What a fitting way to commemorate King’s contribution to this nation, with beauty and respect! The memorial team says it best:

His vision of America is captured in his message of hope and possibility for a future anchored in dignity, sensitivity, and mutual respect; a message that challenges each of us to recognize that America's true strength lies in its diversity of talents … The vision of a memorial in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. is one that captures the essence of his message … freedom, democracy and opportunity for all.
  

Personally, I was moved by the 12 quotations etched in granite along the walkway behind the statue. I plan to post photos of each quotation on this blog, one at a time, for your contemplation.  

You can walk among the various pieces of sculpture freely. No tickets are involved, but parking and/or Metro stops are a hike away. Look at it this way: the fairly lengthy walk gives you time to think about what you’re doing and why you’re there.

When you visit, expect to see or even shed a few tears. Listen closely as grandparents explain to their young who and what this man was. Don’t be surprised if people whisper because the site’s tomb-quality tends to have that effect on visitors.  

While we were there, people of all races talked to each other, sharing pride and gratitude for the legacy King left us. They volunteered to take photos of each other, commemorating the moment. That’s the way it should be.

My only hope is that young people find a way to get close to Dr. King, in their own way. Since they won’t have the benefit we had of learning about him first- or even second-hand, I hope they read Letters from a Birmingham Jail or transcripts of King’s most important speeches. 


For those of us who shared some of the same time on earth with this man, he’s a giant, albeit a human one. There could not be a better time to find a hero to anchor one's life on, nor could there be a better anchor than Martin Luther King. 

Don’t be too shocked when you see the enormity of his statue. Although imposing, someone who related as well to garbage collectors as he did to royalty may have preferred being portrayed on a more human scale, putting him closer to eye level. Nonetheless, the statue is quite imposing, almost majestic. I’m not sure I like the expression the artist chose for his face, but it’s one of strength and determination, and that’s not a bad way to be remembered. 


Note: All photos are mine. Ask for permission to reprint. 

 
 
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Martin Luther King Jr, from Icons of the Civil Rights Movement, by Pamela Chatteron-Purdy
Today, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, I’ve decided to celebrate by taking a look back at the work he’s known for, although this complex man excelled on many platforms.

No one can dispute the importance of Martin Luther King to the US civil rights movement. He was its guiding star and its most revered martyr.

Through King’s example and his teachings, hundreds of thousands of ordinary and  unknown people pushed the movement ahead with a myriad of simple acts of personal, peaceful protest.  Ultimately, they got legislation they wanted, acknowledging and guaranteeing civil rights on many – but not all – fronts. If those folk are still around, they know who they are, and we know they can’t help but think of those difficult days every year about this time, then again in April and August.

Although the US still has a long way to go to reach justice and equality for all, much has happened since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Our children and our grandchildren would find it difficult to believe what life was like for black people less than 50 years ago, when King was alive and pursuing his dream. But, I remember and so do many Birds readers, so I believe it's important to share those memories.

For an expanded essay on King’s life and the impact he had on the US, go here and then here to Some Thoughts on the Legacy of MLK, parts 1 and 2.

If you remember, won't you share your stories, too? Please hit Comments above, and leave them for all to read. You don't need to leave your email address. 

I hope you don’t mind, but I’m republishing six short pieces I ran last year about civil rights and early 1960s sit ins. Maybe they will show you how Martin Luther Kind figured into the lives of those who were young in the 1960s.

Four posts are about life in and around Washington DC before the 1964 CRA, including a collection of my own memories. One of the four includes some incredible news footage of demonstrators trying to exert their right to eat or shop where they wanted. Music and prayer were integral parts of all the demonstrations I went to, so I’ve included a link to relevant music, performed recently by a few icons of the movement. The last post takes you to a collection of art saluting  all civil rights leaders as real icons.   

It’s a good day to remember Martin Luther King Jr and the legacy he left all of us.  If he were alive today, I think King would be proud of what the civil rights movement accomplished, but not satisfied with the status of a lot of unfinished business. 

A Martin Luther Kind memorial is being built on the Mall in Washington, DC. Not only will it honor a great man, but It will retell his story and help us listen more closely to his important words. For more on the memorial, go to today's Washington Post at
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/13/AR2011011304431.html?hpid=features1&hpv=national