MLK Essay Contest winner, high school: Caleb Francois

Never forget history of civil rights movement

Southeast High School10th gradeJanuary 19, 2014 

The civil rights movement was a movement that lead to the beginning of generations of freedom for the years to come and was a movement that changed not only the lives of people like me, but the world.

Civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. paved the way for boycotts and protests that all lead to the advancement of African Americans. Despite the potentially dangerous consequences African Americans faced in the participation of the civil rights movement, our leaders marched on and fought the good fight until Dr. King's dream became a reality.

Martin Luther King Jr., James Chaney, Vernon Dahmer, Jonathan Daniels, Medgar Evers, Fred Hampton, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Leon Jordan and many other civil rights activists were all people that participated in the fight for freedom, yet out of all the people I just mentioned most of our youth would only know of Dr. King.

But what do all the civil rights activists I just mentioned have in common? All of them were assassinated in the name of our freedom and civil rights, and most of our youth have never even heard of them. Although our youth knows of the civil rights movement, we have yet to fully grasp the prominent sacrifice, suffering, and struggle civil rights leaders endured for our sake.

In order for our youth to ensure that African Americans are never oppressed in the future, we must remember our past and never forget all those who fought for the present life we live freely today. Injustices toward African Americans in today's world makes our youth understanding of the importance of the civil rights movement ever more imperative.

In the case of Trayvon Martin, we still can see that even though we've come a long way, the fight still is not over, and it is up to our youth, the leaders of tomorrow, to continue the fight for civil rights and allow Dr. King's dream to live on.

In the words of Dr. King, "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. ... Every step toward the goal of justice required sacrifice, suffering, and struggle, the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals."

It is up to our youth to become those dedicated individuals by valuing and grasping the importance and significance of the civil rights movement by participating in the honoring of civil rights activists in competitions like this one, and doing all that we can to keep the peace in our communities.

In light of all civil rights activists had to endure to allow us to live the way we do today, honoring them is the least we can do. In our youth's goal of honoring and understanding the importance of the civil rights movement, we are commemorating the poignant day of April 4, 1968 and using the assassination of MLK as a day to honor, remember, and fight for what is right.

In a speech on Aug. 28 at the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. stated that "When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, 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!' "

The civil rights movement let freedom ring and speed up the day of freedom and equality. It denounced segregation, degradation and violence, and allowed America, a land that once enslaved, lynched and segregated people of color, to have its very first African American president.

The events of the civil rights movement are events that our youth must never ever forget, and must be fully understood and valued because those events are what have allowed our youth to be granted an equal education, they have allowed our youth to be allowed to be called by their name and not a derogatory term, to sit in front of the bus, and to live the dream that Dr. King fought for, a free and equal life for all of God's children.

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