I seem to be starting an annual tradition on my summer vacations. Last summer, my family traveled the country on a “Civil Rights” tour to explore important moments and places in our nation’s history. This summer, I had the tremendously fulfilling experience of attending the Thornton and Lucinda Carter Descendants family reunion in Atlanta. This is a biannual gathering of the branches of the first 14 children born outside of slavery.
In addition to the usual staples of our family reunion – BBQ, scavenger hunt, and banquet – I visited the National Center for Civil and Human Rights while in Atlanta. The Rolls Down Like Water: U.S. Civil Rights Movement exhibit offered an interactive experience that depicted the courageous struggle for freedom and equality undertaken by those in the Civil Rights movement who stood up against violently enforced racial segregation. The exhibit concluded with the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. What many people forget, is that the march had ten demands for government to act upon. The final four demands laid out a clear vision for what was needed to create an equitable economy:
A massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers — Negro and white — on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages.
A national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living. (Government surveys show that anything less than $2.00 an hour fails to do this.)
A broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to include all areas of employment which are presently excluded.
A federal Fair Employment Practices Act barring discrimination by federal, state, and municipal governments, and by employers, contractors, employment agencies, and trade unions.
Civil Rights leaders understood the essential need for an equitable economy to secure freedom for all Americans. The fight for civil rights did not stop at ending Jim Crow laws, it continues today as we work to create an equitable economy. Only then, will true freedom for all Americans be secured.