Civil Rights Movement

Martin Luther King Jr. Address at the march on Washing, August 28, 1963.  Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the emancipation proclamation.  This momentous decree came as a great beacon light hope for millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. 

It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.  But 100 years later the Negro still is not free.  One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.  One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.  One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.  And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.  In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capitol to cash a check. 

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to whichever American was to fall heir.  This note was a promise that all men, yes black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It is obvious today that American has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. 

Instead of honouring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.  But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.  We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation.  So we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.