In Context

Themes: Civil Rights Movements, Social Movements, 1960s, Non-Violent Protest, Folk Music

Speech Genres: Speech, Protest Song, Academic Textbook, Screenplay, Transcripts, Newscasts, Encyclopedic Entries, Magazine Articles, Presidential Addresses, Preaching

Grammar Concepts: Passive Voice

Critical Thinking:

The time is the 1860s.  The place is the American South.  What is life like for the African- American?  The time is the 1960s.  The place is America.  What is life like for the African-American?  The time is the 2060s.  The place is America.  What is life like for the African-American?

What was happening in your country during the 1960s?

What role has skin color played in the history of your country?

What are some famous social movements which have shaped the history of your country?

What do you know about Dr. King, JFK, or Bob Dylan?

In what ways can music shape society?

What is your perspective on America and racism?

How do you think African-Americans are any better or worse off than 50 years ago?

How do you think any other minority groups are any better or worse off than 50 years ago?

What other people, famous or non-famous, have engaged in non-violent protests to manifest social change?

Compare and contrast the situation with African-American in the U.S. with a minority group in your country.

Excerpts from “Civil Rights Address,” John F. Kennedy, June 11th 1963

“The Negro baby born in America today, regardless of the section of the State in which he is born, has about one-half as much chance of completing a high school as a white baby born in the same place on the same day, one-third as much chance of completing college, one-third as much chance of becoming a professional man, twice as much chance of becoming unemployed, about one-seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year, a life expectancy which is 7 years shorter, and the prospects of earning only half as much.”

We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.

The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who will represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?

One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.

We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?

Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them. The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Redress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.

We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives. It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the facts that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all. Those who do nothing are inviting shame, as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right, as well as reality.

Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law. The Federal judiciary has upheld that proposition in a series of forthright cases. The Executive Branch has adopted that proposition in the conduct of its affairs, including the employment of Federal personnel, the use of Federal facilities, and the sale of federally financed housing. But there are other necessary measures which only the Congress can provide, and they must be provided at this session. The old code of equity law under which we live commands for every wrong a remedy, but in too many communities, in too many parts of the country, wrongs are inflicted on Negro citizens and there are no remedies at law. Unless the Congress acts, their only remedy is the street.

I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public — hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments. This seems to me to be an elementary right. Its denial is an arbitrary indignity that no American in 1963 should have to endure, but many do.

I have recently met with scores of business leaders urging them to take voluntary action to end this discrimination, and I have been encouraged by their response, and in the last two weeks over 75 cities have seen progress made in desegregating these kinds of facilities. But many are unwilling to act alone, and for this reason, nationwide legislation is needed if we are to move this problem from the streets to the courts.

I’m also asking the Congress to authorize the Federal Government to participate more fully in lawsuits designed to end segregation in public education. We have succeeded in persuading many districts to desegregate voluntarily. Dozens have admitted Negroes without violence. Today, a Negro is attending a State-supported institution in every one of our 50 States, but the pace is very slow.

Too many Negro children entering segregated grade schools at the time of the Supreme Court’s decision nine years ago will enter segregated high schools this fall, having suffered a loss which can never be restored. The lack of an adequate education denies the Negro a chance to get a decent job.

According to the audio, where was Kennedy shot?

Excerpts from “I have a dream,” By Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., March on Washington, August 28th, 1963

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood…

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

According to the video, where had Dr. King been shot?   What exactly does the man say?

TIME MAGAZINE, Friday, Jun. 21, 1963

Nation: Life & Death in Jackson

It was hot in Jackson, Miss., a torrid 102°. It was hotter still in the barnlike Masonic Hall in the Negro quarter on Lynch Street. There was no air conditioning, no electric fan. The 4,000 Negro people who squeezed into every seat, into every bit of floor space on the stage, in the aisles, along the walls, turned their faces to a flag-draped coffin. Trumpeters arose and began to play a dirge. The people sang: “Be not dismayed, God will take care of you.”

This was the funeral of a man whose name was unknown one day and headlined across the nation the next. He was Medgar Evers, 37, Negro, father of three, N.A.A.C.P. field representative in Mississippi. A few nights before, he had been ambushed, shot in the back.

“They Saw It All.” It was just past midnight, less than seven hours after President Kennedy’s “moral crisis” speech to the nation, when Evers drove up to his Jackson home. He got out of his car with a bundle of T shirts, to be handed out next morning to civil rights demonstrators. Across the front of the T shirts was stamped: JIM CROW MUST GO. Evers took only a few steps. Then, from a honeysuckle thicket about 150 ft. away, came a shot.

The bullet tore into Evers’ back, plowed through his body, pierced a window and a wall in the house, and came to rest beneath a watermelon on a kitchen counter. Evers’ wife Myrlie cried to her three small children to fall to the floor. She ran outside. “Medgar was lying there on the doorstep in a pool of blood,” she said. “I tried to get the children away. But they saw it all—the blood and the bullet hole that went right through him.”

Soon state and local cops, along with FBI agents, were scouring Mississippi for clues. They found the assassin’s weapon—a Springfield rifle mounted with a new telescopic sight—in the honeysuckle patch across from Evers’ house.

The Target. The ugliness of the act aside, the killer of Medgar Evers could only have hurt his own blind cause. The national reaction was instantaneous. President Kennedy called it “appalling.” In Mississippi, even segregationist Governor Ross Barnett denounced this “apparently dastardly act.” Rewards totaling $21,000 were posted for information leading to the arrest of the killer.

As it happened, Medgar Evers, a World War II Army veteran, graduate of Mississippi’s Alcorn A. & M. College, varsity football player and onetime insurance agent, was quite a man. And he had premonitions of martyrdom. “I’m not afraid of dying,” he recently said. “It might do some good.” As the N.A.A.C.P.’s only fulltime worker in Mississippi, he was a constant target for threats, but he pursued his course nevertheless. He directed a big civil rights rally in Jackson recently that brought in such big-name Negroes as Lena Horne. Only a few weeks before his death, somebody tossed a gasoline-filled bottle into his carport (it did not explode). “If I die,” he said the next day, “it will be in a good cause. I’ve been fighting for America just as much as the soldiers in Viet Nam.”

Telephoned warnings were routine in Evers’ life. “I’ve had a number of threatening calls,” he said. “People calling me saying they were going to kill me, saying they were going to blow my home up, that I only had a few hours to live. I remember one individual calling with a pistol on the other end, and he hit the cylinder, and of course you could hear that it was a revolver. He said, ‘This is for you.’ And I said, ‘Well, whenever my time comes, I’m ready.’ ”

Born in Decatur, Miss., Evers was raised in black ignominy. When he was 14, one of his father’s closest friends was shot and killed because he was accused of insulting a white woman. The man’s clothing lay in a field for months afterward. “I used to see the clothes when I went hunting,” Evers recalled. “I can close my eyes and still see them.”

Among Mississippi Negroes, the anger over Evers’ murder coiled like a snake. Thirteen ministers began a silent walk, one by one, at widely spaced intervals toward city hall. To Jackson’s cops, this was just another protest march—and up came the paddy wagons to haul the marchers off. Next day, the cops rushed a group standing on a porch, clubbed some Negroes, grabbed a white man, throttled him with a billy club, kicked and beat him till blood gushed from his wounds. A day later, Negro youngsters again moved down the street in ones and twos, carrying tiny American flags (it was Flag Day). They, too, were blocked by police, relieved of their flags, and carried off to a hog-wire compound.

Only a Pawn in their Game, Bob Dylan, 1963

A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers’ blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man’s brain
But he can’t be blamed
He’s only a pawn in their game.

A South politician preaches to the poor white man
“You got more than blacks, don’t complain
You’re better than them, you been born with white skin” they explain
And the Negro’s name
Is used it is plain
For the politician’s gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool
He’s taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
‘Bout the shape that he’s in
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

From the powerty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks
And the hoof beats pound in his brain
And he’s taught how to walk in a pack
Shoot in the back
With his fist in a clinch
To hang and to lynch
To hide ‘neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain’t got no name
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught
They lowered him down as a king
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He’ll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain:
Only a pawn in their game.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s