I don't know how to work farmville.
But I need to start writing again. In fact, I'm going to Starbucks to do that right now!
I used this lecture as a capstone to my
The Civil Rights Movement: The Legacy of Memory
In 2005, civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks was laid to rest. 50 years before, Parks had made history in 1955 by refusing to give her seat to a white man on a
In 2007 the Little Rock Nine returned to the campus of Central High in
Most famously, in 1983 Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was declared a National Holiday. The Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated is now a museum interpreting the Legacy of the Civil rights movement.
In previous lectures we have considered this legacy and the tremendous distance the movement traveled to give African Americans the same citizenship rights that whites took for granted. But I wanted to speak on the legacy that we don't often consider – how the civil right movement presents itself in American memory.
After the Civil War, Both sides knew very well that the war was about the ending of slavery. Service in the army gave Blacks an increasing belief that they deserved a stake in society, And the advent of the Radical Republicans showed that many whites wished to make sure the sacrifices in the war were not in vain, By 1877, after the time the protections of Reconstruction was withdrawn, this vision of the war was slowly replaced in white national memory by romanticized images of mutual sacrifice, the elevation of the white soldier, the glory of the white race, and above all- reconciliation. The cause of the war, the end of slavery, was lost.
But when forget the cause of the war, you also lose its meaning. To forget that slavery was at the very heart of the conflict meant that it was acceptable not to follow up and give African Americans full citizenship, making much of the original sacrifice meaningless.
Yet, even if whites on both sides of the conflict were willing to forget the Black thread of memory and meaning, the African Americans were not. Those who lived through the war, and especially the ones who fought in it, never allowed the black memories to dim. They survived not in the erection of statues but in the stories of the elder generation who could still remember the times “when Blacks held office.” the submerged black memories resurfaced in the mid-20th century, creating the legislative, emotional and spiritual basis for the Civil rights movement. And a new generation of activists who demanded that the promise of the Civil War and Reconstruction finally be fulfilled. And as we saw, African Americans would win many of these battles.
Since the 1990s, the slave narratives of the Civil War, the African-American experiences, have been largely re-woven into the national narrative It has been done through the movies, the history books, the museums, the statues, the Martin Luther King Boulevard's, the Rosa Parks parks. But memory is always a function of the present, And these memories have created another set of issues.
To celebrate a holiday gives us a false sense that a movement is complete, that there is nothing left to accomplish. But let us look for a moment not only at the distance traveled, but the road left to go. Central high was successfully integrated. While Central may be 52% Black, almost all students enrolled in Advanced Placement classes are white.
Throughout the country, Inequality remains. No where is that more clear than in our ever expanding prison system. In today's nation, African-Americans are literally more likely to go to jail than to college. People of color are sentenced in grotesque disproportion to their population ratio. If current trends continue, only 15 years remain before the
And another irony. By turning anyone into the object of a national holiday, we strip them of their humanity and turn them into a God. Children learning about Martin Luther King today see him as a black Santa Claus figure, forgetting that in his time some found his vision of racial equality so threatening that the FBI director once called King ‘the most dangerous man in America.’ We also raise him up so high that we think that his actions are beyond the pale of human possibility. We risk convincing ourselves that we could never emulate him by community organizing, by volunteering, by daring to dream, or even doing something as simple and essential as voting.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the historical significance of having an African-American candidate for president this year. His candidacy will not abolish racism in