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August 27, 2013

Jesse Jackson assesses Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech

The Reverend Jesse Jackson was a trailblazer for a black politicians like Barack Obama and a symbol of the political power – or sometimes powerlessness – of the African-American community for decades.

A civil rights icon for the left and a dangerous radical for the right, Jackson, a close confidant of Martin Luther King, became the voice of millions of blacks who felt disenfranchised, discriminated and devalued.

In 1984 and 1988 he launched presidential campaigns, but had little chance of getting the Democratic nominations. After that, he stepped back from the political frontline, but remained an outspoken liberal activist, leading the Chicago-based Rainbow Push Coalition.

On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Jackson spoke with euronews in the US capital about his memories of August 28, 1963, race relations today in the US and the future of black political power after Obama.

Also read- Why the ‘I have a dream’ speech is so hard to find online-

euronews: “Reverend Jackson, thank you so much for being with us today. Let me start by asking you a personal question. What are your memories of that August 28, 1963? How do you remember that day?”

Jackson: “I remember coming here in ’63, I just left jail in Greensboro, North Carolina.. And there was anxiety and fear and hope. The anxiety was, will we make it to Washington and back. The fear was, if you drove a car across state lines with a different tag, something could happen to you. Medgar Evers had been killed on June 12 and the stain of his blood was all in the air. [Washington] DC was under virtual lockdown. The government was saying there could be a riot and at that time the mayor of DC was appointed [not elected].

“They closed all liquor stores for the first time since Prohibition. All police worked 18 hour shifts. They mobilised the military in the five surrounding military bases. This place was under lockdown. And yet in spite of that, out of that sprouts this beautiful flower of people: black and white, standing together, singing together, being inspired together, and our will to freedom and dignity was greater than the resistance to our getting our freedom and dignity.”

euronews: “Fifty years on, what is the state of the American dream that Dr. King had talked about?”

 

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