Posts Tagged ‘legal and social equality’

Remembering the “Mother of All Marches”

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Louisvillian Raoul Cunningham was a 22-year-old college student when he participated in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Half a century later, Cunningham, who now heads the Louisville NAACP, questions how much the march improved employment or equality for African-Americans in the years since.

This weekend, thousands will caravan to Washington, D.C., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the monumental civil rights event. Nearly 250,000 people crowded together on the National Mall on August 28, 1963 to peacefully demonstrate for racial equality in rights and economic opportunities. For Cunningham, participating in the march was a natural extension of his activism that began when we has a teenager. During the civil rights era, Cunningham was arrested on several occasions at demonstrations he helped organize.

“At that point, civil rights was in the forefront and on every African-American college student’s mind,” says Cunningham. “You didn’t know that we would be sitting here today talking about a commemoration of the March on Washington. We didn’t know it was the mother of all marches at that time,” he added.

The most dramatic outcome of the march came less than a year later when Congress passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. You can watch excerpts of the signing ceremony and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s remarks here.

Recent events have prompted some to question the flat-lining or even regression of equality: U.S. Supreme Court rulings rolling back affirmative action and pre-clearance provisions of voting rights laws; disproportionate incarceration of minorities; higher than national average jobless numbers among blacks; and even the verdict in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Howard Fineman of the Huffington Post Media Group has been examining the state of black America. I spoke with him last month in Washington and he explained what prompted the Huffington Post to investigate civil rights progress since the 1963 march.

This weekend on Connections with Renee Shaw, we’ll reflect on the March on Washington and the dramatic events that precipitated it. Former Kentucky State Senator Georgia Davis Powers tells how the Washington march inspired planning for a civil rights march on Kentucky’s capitol that would occur seven months later. Independent journalist and adjunct professor Betty Baye shares her memories and the importance of studying the movement for a deeper perspective on current issues.

Connections with Renee Shaw airs Friday at 5 p.m. on KET2 and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. on KET.

PBS will mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington with a full week of special programming. A highlight includes a new documentary that reveals the dramatic story behind the massive demonstration. It features interviews with Harry Belefonte, Julian Bond, Oprah Winfrey, Andrew Young, and more. The March premiers Tuesday at 9 p.m. on KET. Learn more about the PBS coverage and online events at pbs.org/marchonwashington.

Raoul Cunningham says he’s excited about the celebrations, but is eager to see if the commemorations will inspire new efforts to expand the franchise of civil rights. In his words, “there is still a civil rights battle.”

Kentucky Beyond the Color Line?

Friday, January 13th, 2012

In the 1950s and ’60s, Kentucky and the nation were swept by the Civil Rights Movement. Kentucky’s story of courageous African Americans and sympathetic supporters who organized to demand legal and social equality was documented 10 years ago in Living the Story: The Civil Rights Movement in Kentucky.

On this 10-year anniversary of that landmark production, we celebrate those brave heroes still among us and discuss how far we have yet to go in race relations in Kentucky Beyond the Color Line, which airs Monday, January 16th at 9 pm ET on KET.

Living the Story precedes the follow-up program at 8 pm. Filmmaker, documentarian, and co-producer of Living the Story, Joan Brannon captures the strife, struggle, and victories of Kentucky foot soldiers in the quest for equality. She is featured in the anniversary program, discussing the project’s personal importance to her and what she discovered in Kentucky’s untold civil rights story.

Many on the frontline of civil rights are no longer with us, but Kentucky Beyond the Color Line is honored to assemble those who remain. I sat down with former state Senator Georgia Davis Powers, the first African American and woman to serve in that body; P.G. Peeples, the president and CEO of the Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County; Raoul Cunningham, NAACP Louisville leader; J. Blaine Hudson, EdD, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Louisville; and John Johnson, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, to discuss race relations today and the truth or fiction of post-racial society notion.

The program also features voices of three Kentucky high school youth, whose view of race relations may differ from earlier generations.

Young political operatives, graduates of Berea College, offer some provocative commentary about racial transcendence and the new frontiers of civil rights in Kentucky and the nation. Charles Badger, a Republican congressional aid and Christian Motley, a Democratic strategist chime in.

Kentucky Beyond the Color Line airs Monday, January 16th, at 9 pm on KET.


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