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NAACP’s Ben Jealous: Beyond the Dream

Resource type: News

The Wall Street Journal | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

On Aug. 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. addressed marchers during his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Photo: Associated Press

By Benjamin Todd Jealous

Fifty years after Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, American apartheid is dead. We have Dr. King, Ruby Hurley, Thurgood Marshall, Ida B. Wells, Roy Wilkins, and the broader civil rights movement to thank for that.

But looking back on Dr. King’s speech from this moment in history, we see that we are still fighting some battles that predate 1963, we are engaged in new battles that Dr. King was unlikely to have anticipated, and we find ourselves re-fighting some old civil rights battles we thought we had won.

Undoubtedly, Dr. King would be dismayed that we have gone from fighting for school desegregation to fighting against school re-segregation. He would be devastated to learn that America’s young adults are both the most murdered and most incarcerated people on the planet. Perhaps more than anything, he would be outraged that the Supreme Court made the intentional decision to hobble the Voting Rights Act.

But if Dr. King were around today he would have done the same thing he did back then: encourage young people to get engaged, get informed and get involved. He would be proud of the Dream Defenders, who put their bodies on the line for justice, and the activists in North Carolina committing civil disobedience to protest attacks on the right to vote. He would be inspired by the thousands of people, young and old, who will pack the National Mall today for the 50th anniversary of his speech. More than being a dreamer, Dr. King was an organizer.

Benjamin Todd Jealous is the president and CEO of the NAACP.

Media Coverage

> Still work to do on Martin Luther King’s dream, civil rights leaders say, CBS News, 28 August 2013

> Cut from March ceremony, Dream Defenders take to YouTube, MSNBC, 29 August 2013

NAACP is an Atlantic grantee. United We Dream Action Network is an Atlantic grantee via the National Immigration Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Fund.