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Martin Luther King site Atlanta, Georgia
“ Let’s go see the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic site,” said Thelma and Vinod, friends I was visiting in Atlanta, Georgia. “ It’s pretty close getting to the site if I drive you down”. So in minutes we had reached the parking area and we went into the visitors centre.
As we walked in I was stunned to see a beautiful sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi right at the entrance. “ Gandhi was a great inspiration for King,” said Vinod and that really whetted my curiosity to know more about the man. Gandhi in far-flung India inspired him, I thought as we walked into the centre. That was an amazingly uplifting thought.
“ There is a birth home tour limited to 15 people which is free of charge and films about the civil rights movement are shown throughout the day,” explained the ladies manning the reception desk. However to our bad luck there were only two tickets left for the tour of the birth house, so only Thelma and me went for it. Vinod stayed on and watched the films being screened. Just before the tour we watched a part of the film, which was running in the little theatre, in a loop. Gave me a taste of the horrors of segregation and the Jim Crow Laws.
The Jim Crow laws were named after a 19th century black minstrel show character. Starting in the 1880’s these laws enforced segregation throughout the south, creating two different worlds, for blacks and whites. People were fired from their jobs, killed or jailed if they broke these laws.Supreme Court decisions finally brought in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 which finally ended the Jim Crow laws. Buses, restaurants, marriages, education, baseball, barbers, burial and would you believe it -- Circus tickets had segregated laws which kept the races apart. My flesh crawled when I saw the films and the despicable way in which whites treated blacks.
Martin Luther King grew up in Atlanta, Georgia surrounded by his immediate family including his grandmother.He lived in a prosperous neighbourhood and his life along with his family revolved around the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Both Martin’s father and grandfather were preachers in the church. His life was played out against the segregated South and Martin grew increasingly aware of words and actions that African American communities faced. That was the precursor of the modern civil rights movement that he was a vociferous voice, which demanded equality.
According to the text put up in the memorial site, in the 12 years or so that Dr King led the American Civil Rights Movement, African Americans made more progress towards equality than in the previous three centuries. King credited this success to the courageous men and women he led and the philosophy of non- violence that he learned from the teaching of Jesus and Mahatma Gandhi.
Most of us have heard his famous “ I have a dream--- “ speech and in 1964 became the youngest person to have ever received the Nobel Peace prize.One of the texts put up in the memorial was by Mahatma Gandhi --
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it — always.” — Mahatma Gandhi (October 2, 1869 - January 30, 1948)
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