Monday, 2 September 2013

I Have a Dream - In Colour

In my previous post about the 28 August 1963 March on Washington I reproduced some of the photographs I took that day - though only as crudely done scans.  Now I have had the transparencies scanned properly, though the colours have faded over time.

I joined the March on Washington because I wanted to add my molecule to the effort.  Taking the photographs was incidental. I cannot recall what camera I had, but it must have been a fairly simple 35mm something or other with a standard lens.

The great speech of that day came from the last of sixteen speakers, Martin Luther King.  He had a prepared speech but it contained no reference to a dream.  And so to mild applause he began.

It was a very hot day.  Off to the right, visible in the distance, was the White House, President John F Kennedy inside.  Kennedy was watching the event on television in the Oval Room.  Kennedy had not wanted the March on Washington to go ahead; he feared that any violence would impair his own efforts to advance the cause.  And even as Martin Luther King spoke, Kennedy had his finger on the button, literally on the on-off control button for the sound.  If things got out of hand, Kennedy was able to shut the whole thing down.

None of us knew that at the time; that is only what we have been told later by the history books.  But for those of us who were there, the mood was quiet, earnest; a quarter of a million people sharing a kind of prayer.

And so Martin Luther King began to speak.  But no mention of a dream.  Until the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who was standing just behind him, cried out, 'Tell 'em about the dream, Martin.  Tell 'em about the dream'.  And King put his prepared speech aside and a bit awkwardly made the shift ... 'So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream'.  And then getting into his stride he wove that dream round and round into a wonderfully ascending chant of hope.
I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream – one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, 'We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal'. I have a dream . . .
The final mile from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial.
One man has marched into the water.
Approaching the Lincoln Memorial.
Fifteen people spoke, one after the other.  Martin Luther King was the sixteenth and the last.
A quarter of a million people stood in the heat listening to the speeches.
Two people standing next to me.
Like me, these two people must vividly remember that day.
Ovation for Martin Luther King. At the end of the speech I looked to the right, into the far distance where Kennedy sat in the White House.  And behind me the Capitol Building, home to the Senate and the House of Representatives.  How could anything remain the same after this?  Less than three months later Kennedy was dead. Four and a half years later King was dead. And right after that Robert Kennedy was dead.
Martin Luther's speech ended with these words.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.  And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!