45th anniversary: Dr. King in Grosse Pointe

By WND Staff

By Stone Allen Washington

“Every city in our country has this kind of dualism, this schizophrenia, split at so many parts, and so every city ends up being two cities rather than one. There are two Americas.”

–Martin Luther King, “The Other America” (1968)

My name is Stone Allen Washington. I am a sophomore at Grosse Pointe South High School in Pointe Farms, Mich. Three years ago, I was first told by my seventh-grade English teacher, Mrs. Tamara Duffield at Brownell Middle School, that the famous Dr. Martin Luther King gave a speech at Grosse Pointe South High School back in the 1960s. When the anniversary of that famous occasion came this year, my father, Ellis Washington, did some research and, indeed, verified that Dr. King came here and that this year marked the 45th anniversary of when Grosse Pointe South High School hosted this landmark speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on March 14, 1968, just three weeks before his assassination on the second floor balcony the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tenn. –  April 4, 1968.

This was not King’s first time speaking in Michigan. Five years earlier, Dr. King had visited our neighboring city of Detroit on June 23, 1963, and led a march for racial equality in downtown Detroit, where he gave an early version of his most famous “I Have a Dream” speech (Aug. 28, 1963).

On a somber and stark winter’s day 45 years ago on March 14, 1968, 2,700 people gathered in the gymnasium to hear Dr. Martin Luther King speak at my high school. His speech was titled, “The Other America,” in which Dr. King contrasted the lofty language of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence which proclaimed, “That all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights … ” In contrast, King asserted that truly there are two Americas – one black and the other white. In his speech, King spoke about the America for the black community, where multitudes of black people in America were unjustly shackled down and held back from enjoying the American dream by racial segregation and corrupt Jim Crow racial laws.

Dr. King revealed to the audience the good America, an America that is prosperous, plentiful and where people in this good America have the freedom to pursue whatever dream they have in this country. But he reminds everyone of the bad America, another America void of freedom, justice and equal rights under the Constitution. Throughout this exciting speech, Dr. King courageously champions the cause of black people – his people, who in 1960s America, were suffering in constant agony, white racism and economic injustice manifested by the poverty-stricken and servile jobs they were forced to take. Even those growing numbers of black people who possessed college degrees because of racial discrimination were forced into servant jobs. This injustice caused many black people to view their lives as hopeless, and they began to give up on their families, careers and their futures.

For too long, Dr. King intoned, America has closed its eyes to its black brothers and sisters. America had failed to realize the deep hatred toward the black community, a hatred that clouded the freedom and rights promised to them through past battles and wars. Dr. King said:

And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear three out of eight that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last 12 or 15 years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.

Dr. King warned that as time passed, as America continued to ignore and deny these tribulations that have been pushed onto the oppressed lives of black people, those problems of racial injustice would lead to societal destruction, growing ever worse and ultimately resulting in continual hatred, moral and political war with all humanity. Dr. King further spoke:

Our destinies are tied together. Whether we like it or not culturally and otherwise, every white person is a little bit Negro and every Negro is a little bit white. Our language, our music, our material prosperity and even our food are an amalgam of black and white, so there can be no separate black path to power and fulfillment that does not intersect white routes and there can ultimately be no separate white path to power and fulfillment short of social disaster without recognizing the necessity of sharing that power with black aspirations for freedom and human dignity. We must come to see … yes we do need each other, the black man needs the white man to save him from his fear and the white man needs the black man to free him from his guilt.

According to Dr. King’s speech Blacks and whites are bound together by destiny. In other words, all races will rise or fall together unless the race question is finally dealt with in an equal and just manner. Every white person has something in common with a black person. We are all similar in biology, culture, ethnicity and language. Dr. King explains that there can be no fulfillment in the paths of both races if they do not first recognize their relations with each other and their intertwined fates as children of God. The black man needs the white man and the white man needs the black man, together they shall prosper, apart they shall fall. Dr. King gave a poetic history of the black man and the white man in America and said:

Before the Pilgrim fathers landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before Jefferson etched across the pages of history the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence, we were here. Before the beautiful words of the Star Spangled Banner were written, we were here. And for more than two centuries, our forbearers labored here without wages.

We are going to win our freedom because both the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of the Almighty God are embodied in our echoing demands. So however difficult it is during this period, however difficult it is to continue to live with the agony and the continued existence of racism, however difficult it is to live amidst the constant hurt, the constant insult and the constant disrespect, I can still sing we shall overcome.

We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.

I remember studying in my AP America history class that blacks were physically in America as early as 1502, just 10 years after the great Italian explorer Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492. However, further research alerted me to the fact that a black man had served as Columbus’ chief navigator and that there were other blacks in America long before Columbus arrived, according to professor John Jackson’s important book, “Man, God, and Civilization.” Jackson wrote:

[I]n 1492 when Christopher Columbus was approaching the shores of the Americas, his Chief Navigator was a Black Moor from Mauritania name Don Pietro Olonzo Nino, Captain of the Flag ship—Maria, who logged in his diary as their ships approached the shores of the Americas, seeing Black Africans on land, as well as some sailing in large canoes leaving the shores of the Americas, heading out to sea in the direction towards the African Continent.

Dr. King said that black people set foot on American soil long before America even had its name, and we were here way before Americans were recognized as a people under a free country separate from the British crown. Blacks inhabited this country before the Puritans and the Pilgrims came here and began a new civilization under the Word of God. Blacks inhabited this country before Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, declaring America’s independence separate from the tyranny of King George III and the British Empire’s control. Dr. King states that the black race will win its freedom because of their sacred heritage throughout past centuries and God’s almighty power that is embodied in the echoing demands of his children.

In conclusion, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his profound final words to the astonished audience at Grosse Pointe South High school with a collection of civil-rights hymns, Bible quotations and a poetic rhetorical flourish:

We shall overcome because the Bible is right. “You shall reap what you sow.” With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

Indeed, we shall all reap what we sow, in life and in death. With the powerful faith that Martin Luther King Jr. upheld, he and the black community were able to undermine the evil hatred brought upon them by racist whites and systematically eliminate the tyrannical segregation imposed on blacks that has festered on earth for hundreds and hundreds of years in the form of malicious enslavement. In King’s last words, he pronounced that these transcendent prophesies imbued with faith in God, hope for all humanity and confidence in man to create a more just society for all races of people – blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, Indians and all people of color. Dr. King ended his lengthy yet profound speech with a victorious crescendo of declaration that truth, justice, peace and love will one day triumph over lies, injustice, racism and hate. Dr. King’s concluding words to his famous “The Other America” speech was spoken for the ages:

With this faith we will be able to speed up the day when all of God’s children all over this nation – black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old negro spiritual, “Free at Last, Free at Last, Thank God Almighty, We are Free At Last.”

Stone A. Washington is a sophomore at Grosse Pointe South High School in Pointe Farms, Mich., and son of author and WND columnist Ellis Washington.

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