Beautiful Alabama, the home of my father's family, a place that I love, had a deeply ugly side in the Jim Crow era. Many of the most infamous events of the Civil Rights movement happened there; the violence against the Freedom Riders in Anniston, police beatings and bombings in Birmingham, including the tragic deaths of four little girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church, and the tear gas and billy clubs of Bloody Sunday in Selma.
We're at another difficult time now, with our black friends and neighbors struggling to get the message out that "Black Lives Matter," and our Latin American friends and neighbors fighting for dignity and respect, and our Muslim friends and neighbors asking us to see them as individuals, rather than the scary other.
Sometimes, I get discouraged by how polarized we seem to be, and how far there is to go. Then I think back to how far we've come since I was a little girl in Montgomery. The lives of black Americans, women, LGBT persons and Latinos are demonstrably better than they were when I was two and George Wallace made his infamous "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" speech. We've made great progress since then. Not for everyone, not everywhere, not as far and as fast as it should be, but we've gone from Gov. George Wallace to Pres, Barack Obama in my lifetime.
I was almost four when The Rev. Martin Luther King marched with 25,000 people to our city and gave this speech on the steps of the Capitol Building.
I know you are asking today, "How long will it take?" Somebody’s asking, "How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?" Somebody’s asking, "When will wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets of Selma and Birmingham and communities all over the South, be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men?" Somebody’s asking, "When will the radiant star of hope be plunged against the nocturnal bosom of this lonely night, plucked from weary souls with chains of fear and the manacles of death? How long will justice be crucified, and truth bear it?"
I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because "truth crushed to earth will rise again."
How long? Not long, because "no lie can live forever."
How long? Not long, because "you shall reap what you sow."
How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
How long? Not long, because:
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;Dear readers, what are your memories of the Civil Rights Era? And do you think we've come a long way? Or not?
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! Be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.