DC50’s “…And The Dream Lives On” Dr. Martin Luther King Special


>>MLK: I still have a dream. It is a dream
deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream.
>>Robin: 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. inspired Americans with his landmark speech.
>>MLK: But 100 years later the Negro still is not free.
>>Robin: but how much of the dream lives on?>>MLK: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.
>>We have not made as much progress as we would hope.
>>What do we want?>>Jobs!>>District residents are employed at half
the rate of suburban residents in the construction industry.
>>Schools in the United States are more segregated now than they were since Doctor King was killed.
So we have gone backward in that regard.>>Many people misinterpret the dream that
King had a dream and we realized it.>>MLK: I have a dream that one day this nation
will rise… We hold these truths to be self-evident… that all men are created equal.
>>Robin: Doctor Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech is considered the most important
speech of the 20th century. But on August 28, 1963 he was simply listed as a concluding
speaker. He was only one of six civil rights leaders who spoke on these steps that summer
day. And even the journey to the March on Washington had stirred resistance and controversy
and had it not been avoided it is altogether possible that Doctor King’s iconic speech
might never have happened.>>Meet the Press is a public affairs presentation
of NBC news.>>Our guests today on Meet the Press are
the heads of the two major groups participating in the march on Washington this Wednesday.
Mister Roy Wilkins and Doctor Martin Luther King Junior.
>>Just before the March the deepest fears of a white establishment were spelled out
on a popular Sunday morning talkshow.>>Mister Wilkins there are a great many people
as I’m sure you know who believe that it would be impossible to bring more than 100,000 militant
Negroes into Washington without incident and without riot.
>>I don’t think there will be any rioting. I do not think 100,000 people just assembling
is cause for apprehension about a riot.>>The city of Washington closed all the liquor
stores. Which is really insulting to the people who came. The fear was that we would all go
out to a liquor store and get drunk and riot in the streets.
>>Robin: Later he would become chairman of the NAACP. But that day a 23-year-old Julian
Bond served as the communications director for the student nonviolent coordinating committee.
>>Army personnel were on call in case something untoward happened. They had a guy up in front
of the stage with an ax to cut off the sound if one of the speakers said something inflammatory.
A Whole series of things that really made you know that official Washington did not
think this was something that ought to happen and if they could they were going to make
sure it would not get out of hand.>>Robin: a peaceful protest had always been
the goal. In the days before the March volunteers made 80,000 cheese sandwiches to feed the
hungry crowd. In the night, few people had arrived. Black leaders feared that they had
failed.>>[Singing: we shall overcome]
>>Robin: those worries evaporated along with the morning dew. Attendees came by the bus
loads and Washington was alive with thousands of marchers. Many black celebrities and stars
from Hollywood came to support the cause.>>MLK: I have a dream that my four little
children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their
skin but by the content of the character. I have a dream.
>>Robin: by the time Martin Luther King reached the dais a crowd of nearly half a million
blanketed the mall. Despite the stature that history now accords him Doctor King was not
the acknowledged leader of the masses spread before him.
>>I think that many of the people that were activists felt that he was too cautious.
>>Robin: back then Doctor Clayborne Carson was a college student anxious to take up the
cause of civil rights.>>I was curious about the movement. This
was the biggest thing going on during my youth.>>Robin: Carson tells his story about attending
the march in his book, ‘Martin’s dream’. In time he would become the editor of Doctor
King’s papers and write his autobiography. Some of his thoughts about King might surprise
you.>>Rosa Parks. She is the one who made King
possible. She took the action that she thought was necessary in Montgomery. At that time
King was simply a minister of a church. She turned him into a civil rights leader.
>>MLK: Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill in Mississippi. From every mountainside.
>>Robin: The night before, King had crafted his speech on paper for hours. But when it
was over he spoke from the heart instead.>>MLK: Free at last. Free at last. Thank
God Almighty we are free at last.>>And now no one remembers the prepared text,
everyone remembers the extemporaneous remarks.>>Robin: when ‘and the dream lives on’ continues,
a look at the key to racial progress: education.>>50 years from now the only way that is
going to change is to not give people a hand out but a hand up. And that is through education.>>MLK: I have a dream that one day this nation
will rise up and live out the true meaning…. We hold these truths to be self-evident that
all men are created equal.>>Robin: Carver high school opened its doors
in 1951. In all, Montgomery County would operate separate but equal schools from 1866 to 1955.
Last October Montgomery County schools staged a reunion of these segregated schools. Nearly
300 former students and teachers came together to reminisce.
There was music. And dinner. But mostly there were memories.
>>Sign on the clock that Said time will pass, will you?
>>some of them have not seen each other for 30 or 40 years.
>>We can tell each other how old we are and not be embarrassed.
>>Robin: now in their 70s and 80s these one time teachers and students remember the hardships
of their segregated school days.>>Montgomery County is a rather large county
and some of students traveled long distances by bus.
>>We learned. In spite of the fact that our textbooks were often outdated and they were
hand-me-down.>>Robin: Carver junior high school closed
its doors in 1960 and its former students had to cope with the changes integration brought.
>>Our teachers cared for us more. They knew our parents. And we got a little bit of family
tenderness in the segregated schools.>>It hurt because we lost our community.
>>Robin: despite fond memories of their old schools these pioneers in integration know
that the changes were for the best.>>I think it helped because it helped the
races to get to know each other.>>Robin: but not everyone was welcoming.
Being first had its price.>>There was still a lot of insensitivity
on the part of many of the white teachers.>>Yes. It was tense. It was culture shock
and you learned that you are supposed to tell people when things happen. And not react and
have faith in the system. The system did not always work.
>>Robin: now senior citizens, they reflect on how things have changed since they were
in school.>>My boys did not know anything about segregation.
And their friends were of all nationalities.>>We’ve got a long ways to go. I feel personally
that is not what it used to be but is not what it can be.
>>Robin: few Washingtonians know the role that Anacostia’s John Philip Sousa school
played in school desegregation. It has become a forgotten chapter in local history. In the
early 1950s a group of 11 black schoolchildren petitioned the DC school board to be admitted
to the then brand-new all-white junior high school. When they were denied, they filed
a lawsuit against the school board and its chairman Melvin Sharpe.
The leading plaintiff was a young man named Spottswood Thomas bowling. The case went before
the Supreme Court in 1954. That year bowling versus sharp and the better remembered Brown
versus the Board of Education were both upheld by the court. In the fall Spottswood bowling
and his 10 schoolmates started classes at Sousa ending segregation in the District of
Columbia for what promised to be forever.>>It’s really a sad state of American history
that the civil rights movement got its chops by way of desegregation. The sad reality is
that we are probably as segregated now in terms of our education system than ever before.
>>Robin: for 12 years Kevin Chaves served on the DC city Council where he headed the
education committee.>>The District of Columbia is the only city
in America where we just do not have any poor ethnic whites. All the white folks in DC are
people of means. They are middle class or above. So it really exacerbates the issue
of race and class in schools in DC unlike any other place.
>>Robin: so while the counties that surround DC rank among the best school districts in
America, DC schools continue to languish. One solution, independently run charter schools.
>>The beauty of the charter school movement, which I was a strong advocate for when I was
on the council, is that you just do not have the bureaucracy. And I think that part of
the solution is not just more charter schools but more choice offerings for parents.
>>Robin: today 40% of DC students attend charter schools. Meanwhile the DC public schools
report card reveals that only 20 to 30% of its students get passing grades.
>>We are the only district in the country on high risk status with the Department of
Education. And only 9% of our entering freshmen class graduate from college within five years.
>>Robin: but as former school Chancellor Michelle Reid discovered changing the system
will not be easy.>>I think Michelle Reid was terrific in terms
of what she talked about. I think we need a jolt to the system. And I think she offered
that. I think that in her zeal and the mayor’s zeal to try to make sure that they were aggressive
about change and they got people to believe that they were serious that they forgot that
you have to bring folks along. So I think that we are really at a crossroads. I think
this is the most important issue in America and that DC is a fulcrum for what should be
possible. Because if we can educate our children in far southeast like we do in far northwest
then we can be a model for the country.>>Robin: when ‘and the dream lives on’ comes
back, racial differences that keep us apart.>>America is still fundamentally divided
by race and class.>>I have a dream that one day this nation
will rise up and live out the true meaning…. We hold these truths to be self-evident that
all men are created equal.>>Robin: in the 50+ years since segregation
ended the diversity of our Washington area neighborhoods has not changed all that much.
Back then it was called white flight. Families moving to the suburbs to avoid desegregated
schooling. And its effects linger on. With outlying affluent counties in Virginia and
Maryland still predominantly white and the farther away you move from the city center
the more white it becomes. In the late 60s and early 70s blacks with means moved to Prince
George’s County in sharp contrast within the district more than half of its residents are
black and 25% live in poverty.>>There’s been tremendous displacement of
the African-American community.>>Robin: one of those communities was Queen
city. Home to about 150 families near today’s Pentagon. Queen city had its own churches
and a few small shops but in 1941 when plans for the Pentagon got underway the families
were moved into trailers in a matter of days. And some of them would live there for years.
>>The inhabitants received a small stipend and it still hurts. It wasn’t any torn down
ragged place. It was a place of self-reliance and dignity. That narrative has been jettisoned
in favor of well, gentrification is the best thing going. In one of the great large instances
of urban renewal in Southwest Washington in the mid-1950s, 22,500 residents were forced
out of old Southwest. 110 residential blocks were basically plowed up and flattened in
an idea for urban renewal.>>Robin: DC’s Shaw neighborhood shows the
sharp contrast between urban renewal and urban revitalization. After the riots of 1968 the
community formed a grassroots organization to restore their homes and businesses. Today
it thrives as one of DC’s most vibrant areas rich in black culture.
>>People are not naturally against progress. What they are against is a heedless, thoughtless
plan that does not take their wishes and needs into account. What remains should be marked
and saved and too much of the city’s African-American history is disappearing brick by brick and
yard by yard every day.>>Robin: one look at the DC skyline these
days tells you that there is a wealth of construction here. But so far many DC residents are not
cashing in on it.>>District residents are employed at less
than half the rate of suburban residents. And that compared to these other cities along
the Northeast corridor the district ranks dead last.
>>Robin: Despite nearly $800 million of construction being spent in DC and first source
law that would guarantee local employment a lack of hiring led to this protest last
year. It was outside the construction site that will convert Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital
into the department of homeland security.>>The most recent estimates are somewhere
between 14 and 20% of local hiring which is much lower than what we would hope for.
>>We literally have people who could go on their back porch and look at the site but
cannot work on that site.>>Robin: Reverend George Gilbert heads up
the group called, DC jobs or else. In his part of the city, wards seven and eight, the
unemployment rate is more than 22%. Last year he brought vans filled with job seekers to
this trailer downtown twice a week, in all over 115 men and women filled out applications
here.>>At that time not one was called, interviewed
or hired. But they also made us take our applications and apply for the jobs out in the rain.
>>Robin: DC is a long way from filling a potential 11,000 construction jobs with its
residents. So you have to wonder why the mayors office presents plaques and letters to companies
who have hired less than 370 local workers. A number far below what is required by law.
>>Construction jobs tend to be very good jobs. They pay a living wage frequently and
are a pathway out of poverty for many. And they have been for decades.
>>Robin: Tom works for good jobs first. A nonprofit that looks at best practices in
employment nationwide. In his comprehensive report, taxation without employment, he names
the three reasons why companies say that they cannot hire the required number of district
workers.>>Some of their excuses are that the district’s
educational system is failing. And that there is not enough money being spent training residents
for these construction jobs. And they even point the finger at drug abuse. There is no
evidence that drugs are any worse here than they are in New York City. In terms of the
educational system, we know from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that many construction
jobs do not require even a high school degree.>>If you get hired you have to be the Jackie
Robinson of construction. All of us are not on drugs. All of us are not just baby makers.
But we are citizens who have a lot to offer to the community and to our society.
>>Robin: DC jobs or else helps strengthen laws requiring more local hiring and has filed
a grievance against one construction Company with the office of human rights. After more
than a year they still have no answers.>>We know that the people here want to work.
They are willing to work. But they’re not getting the opportunity.
>>Robin: when we return, interpreting the dream.
>>They will never be another Doctor King. He was a man unique. There was nobody like
him then and there will be nobody like him in the future. And we ought not wait for him
to come along.>>MLK: I have a dream that one day this nation
will rise up and live out the true meaning…. We hold these truths to be self-evident that
all men are created equal.>>Robin: after Doctor King’s speech was over,
Clayborne Carson hitched a ride home to Arizona. He never met Doctor King but after years of
poring over his papers perhaps no one alive knows Doctor King better.
>>My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
>>What King is doing is trying to say I have something to say about that continuing disjunction
between our ideas and American realities. I think that’s what the memorial is about.
That is what the King legacy is about. If King were around he would tell us, no my dream
has not been realized yet. I think that I would put it as a part of that continuing
dialogue about what does American democracy mean. The Jefferson Memorial is part of that
dialogue, this country was founded on the basis of certain ideas that have not been
achieved. Lincoln whose monument is just on the right, he continued that dialogue with
his great speeches and I’m sure in the 21st-century maybe right at this memorial there is going
to be someone else coming in and making another great statement. What is the idea of America?
The American dream? What does it mean in the 21st-century? And hopefully I’m still here
to see that.>>Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty
we are free at last!>>Robin: today the King legacy lives on in
the words of his remarkable speeches and now in this stunning memorial. But until his vision
for America comes true it is up to us to see that his dream never dies. I am Robin Hamilton,
thanks for watching.

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