The gathering of approximately 100,000 people in Washington Saturday celebrated the most famous mass rally in U.S. history, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, held 50 years ago on the National Mall, whose most memorable moment was when civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King abandoned his prepared remarks and launched the now well known portion called "I have a dream."
Drawing inspiration from a march planned in 1941 by Asa Philip Randolph, a leader in the African-American civil-rights movement who organized and led the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly black labor union, and the May 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, The King Institute says "the organizers of the March on Washington sought to realize the goals of the earlier marches and further advocate for social and economic justice.
President John F. Kennedy was notified of a list of specific objectives including a comprehensive civil rights bill, advancements in voter rights, and school desegregation, among others. The historic speech King delivered that day was actually called "Normalcy, Never Again," but his added remarks, fashioned from phrases and thoughts used in various previous speeches, came to be known as "I have a dream."
In a speech delivered in 1957 at Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis to an inter-racial audience of about eight thousand people, Martin Luther King dismissed the overly pessimistic and optimistic views of the state of race relations and argues in his remarks—A Realistic Look at the Question of Progress in the Area of Race Relations—for a "realistic look," which acknowledges that "we have come a long, long way," while admitting "we have a long, long way to go."
In tune with King's thoughts 56 years ago, a new national poll by the Pew Research Center [PRC] shows that half the country says "a lot more" needs to be done in order to reach racial equality.
PRC's results conclude there is still a wide partisan divide over progress towards racial equality.
Forty-nine percent of people questioned in the poll say that "a lot more" needs to be done to achieve King's dream, with just over three in ten saying "some more" needs to be done and 16 percent saying little or nothing needs to be accomplished.
A racial divide exists, too, with nearly eight in ten black respondents but less than half of Hispanic and only 44 percent of white respondents saying "a lot more" needs to be done.
"Blacks are much more downbeat than whites about the pace of progress toward a color-blind society. They are also more likely to say that blacks are treated less fairly than whites by police, the courts, public schools and other key community institutions," says a release by Pew Research Center.
"You see, all I’m trying to say to you is that we’ve come a long, long way since 1619. But not only has the Negro come a long, long way in reevaluating his own intrinsic worth, but he’s come a long, long way in achieving civil rights," King told his Kiel Auditorium audience in 1957.
But he also told them, "See, not only have we come a long, long way, but truth impels us to admit that we have a long, long way to go. It’s quite true that lynchings have about ceased in the South, but other things are happening that are quite tragic," he noted, focusing on defiance by Deep South states, the Ku Klux Klan, voting rights, wide poverty, church bombings and segregation.
PRC conducted the poll August 1-11, with 2,231 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
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