Jess Piper: I Didn’t Teach the “I Have a Dream” Speech
Jess Piper remembers which works by Dr. King she did teach.
In the spring of 1963, Dr King and his organization targeted Birmingham, Alabama, with a series of peaceful demonstrations aimed at addressing segregation. The Birmingham police reacted violently with vicious dogs and firehoses. Hundreds of protestors were jailed, including Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr King was criticized for protesting in Birmingham with eight white clergymen publishing a public letter calling his actions, “unwise and untimely.” Dr King responded in his own letter citing everyone from Jesus to Paul to Thomas Jefferson.
She remembers a trip that took her past the Lorraine Motel.
I couldn’t help but well up with tears. I wasn’t ready to see where the civil rights icon was gunned down. I wasn’t prepared to point out the place where a man was murdered because he fought for equality and a place at the table. I wasn’t ready that day, but I did it anyway because my kids should know the ground they were standing on belongs a dark history that we can’t manage to get out from under.
And, here’s the thing: I am a white woman and I dare not sit here and pontificate on anything, especially not on this day. But, I did teach Dr King for years to mostly white students. Here is some advice for my white friends…read “I Have a Dream” but study “Letter From Birmingham Jail.”
I won’t quote the letter, but I did link it. It’s six pages and I promise they will change your life and your outlook on Dr King. His legacy has been whitewashed and his militant opposition to racism has been tamped down. His words to white moderates need fresh eyes and his mission needs reinforced.
Dr King was a radical who led others to push for change. He was murdered for his words and deeds.