Beginning in 1763, Charles Mason, a British astronomer, and Jeremiah Dixon, a British surveyor and amateur astronomer, began mapping out the line of demarcation between slave states and free states. Their route became known as the Mason-Dixon Line, and now as the Mason-and-Dixon Line. One hundred years later, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation (1863), which technically freed slaves, but only in the counties and parishes of the states that fought for the Confederacy. Of course, Confederate states paid no attention to the decree because of the Civil War.
Another century later (1963), the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., stood in front of more than 200,000 people who had gathered at the Washington Mall and gave a speech that will live forever. Here we are, half a century later, and the words to which he gave voice still ring in our ears. Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of that event.
Although I usually enjoy putting my own thoughts in this column, today I’m going to give my space to King’s message. Incidentally, he began his speech by paying tribute to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: “Five score years ago….”
Speaking about the Emancipation Proclamation, King said, “But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.” ...