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50 Years After the Dream

Posted by T. Resnikoff // August 21st 2013 // Issues and Trends, Social Justice, UUA // one comment

Remembering the Civil Rights Movement


Wednesday August 28, 2013 will be – day for day – the 50th anniversary of what was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in the United States. On Wednesday August 28, 1963 between 200,000 – 300,000  people of good will and purpose gathered before the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C., standing in peace but with determination for civil and economic rights for African Americans. This is when and where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his seminal “I Have a Dream” speech. This event is widely credited for easing passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 2001, the UU World magazine featured articles on Selma, the Unfinished Journey, and today we revisit these issues in light of March on Washington’s anniversary and Rev. Dr. King’s vision.

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and recognize that as a society the cause of equality has advanced, it remains true that equality in the United States is still neither certain nor universally practiced. Authorities that abusively target minorities and the poor under the cover of laws or policies such as Civil Forfeiture, the War on Drugs or Mass Incarceration and the resulting forfeiture of the right to vote, eligibility for government assistance or possibility of gainful employment are increasing inequality in our society. Restrictions on voting which disenfranchise the poor and minority are on the rise, comforted by the recent Supreme Court decision invalidating Section Four of the Voting Rights Act. Incidents of racial profiling – whether explicit or conditioned cultural norms and habits – by officials or by common citizens are common. None with good outcomes, while others end with tragic consequences, as in the case of Trayvon Martin.

Telegram from Dr. Martin Luther King asking Rev, Richard Nash and 1st Unitarian Chicago for support. The call was answered.

Telegram from Dr. Martin Luther King asking Rev, Richard Nash and 1st Unitarian Chicago for support. The call was answered.

The commemoration of this anniversary is also a moment for lifting up the Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism and the work done by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations for social justice in its many forms through witness and action, and by Standing on the Side of Love.

During the struggle for civil rights in the United States during the 1960’s, the UUA was among the first faith-based organizations to answer the call. John Haynes Holmes, a Unitarian minister and social activist at The Community Church of New York—Unitarian Universalist was among the founders of both the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909 and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Achieving social justice requires struggle. Unitarian Universalist activism has come with cost, and we mourn the loss of activists in the struggle for Civil Rights:

Jimmy Lee Jackson was killed in Marion, Alabama on February 26, 1965, prompting Rev. Dr. King to call for demonstrations in Selma, Alabama.

Rev. James J. Reeb, a Boston UU activist and member of Arlington Street Church, formerly a minister at All Souls Church, Unitarian, in Washington, D.C., and a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, answered Rev. Dr. King’s call and was clubbed in Selma, Alabama on March 8, 1965, dying two days later of massive head trauma.

Viola Liuzzo, a UU activist from Michigan who also responded to Rev. Dr. King’s call, was murdered on March 25, 1965 during the Selma to Montgomery marches in Alabama.

Their sacrifice is memorialized on a bronze plaque at UUA Headquarters.

This is also a moment to celebrate the continuing efforts of Unitarian Universalists and the UUA to promote social justice and equality in its many forms, and to recognize that Unitarian Universalists and UUism make a positive difference:

The Action of Immediate Witness (AIW2) “AIW-2 Condemn the racist mistreatment of young men of color by police”,  decided upon at General Assembly 2013, the Youth Caucus statement in support of AIW2 and efforts to resist “The New Jim Crow” society; Marriage Equality; LGBTQ membership in the Boy Scouts of America, Shareholder Advocacy, Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, Economic Justice, Immigration Reform and the DREAM Act, and so much more.

All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington D.C. will participate in the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington Realize the Dream on Saturday, August 24 – join them or support them here.


Learn more about the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963:

National Public Radio series on the Civil Rights Movement.

Additional images and resources will be released by the UUA between now and August 28.



About the Author

Ted Resnikoff is the Digital Communications Editor at the Unitarian Universalist Association.
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