Anyone who digs into the history of that summer of 1963 knows that it was more than black activists that took a bus to Washington and heard Dr. King.
Thousands of white college students were there too.
The following summer, this generation of idealistic war babies and rising boomers were grieving in the shadow of the assassination of the most idealistic and attractive leader they had ever known.
They took up the mantel of justice, registered black voters in the South, and joined community support organizations in the northern ghettos. Some of them were hurt. Some of them were murdered.
At the same time, the baseball major leagues were adding more and more blacks to teams that were previously all white. When young athletes watched their televisions, they began to see that heroes came in all colors.
When we thank Dr. King, we can also thank the likes of Jackie Robinson for that. We can also thank the team owners who went out on a limb to higher blackswho had previously been relegated to the Negro leagues.
Those who have benefited from the civil rights movement can also thank the hipsters -- those almost goofy musicians who didn’t care one bit about skin color. They just wanted to smoke a little weed and play music with those great musicians in Harlem.
Duke Ellington wrote “Take the A train” in 1939. At that point, only blacks stepped on that subway because it went to Harlem. As more black musicians came to the fore, taking the A train became less fearful. Along came black singers and groups -- first Nat King Cole and then the groups. Today, music is virtually color blind.
It is right that we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and his speech at the Lincoln Memorial. And it is appropriate that today’s recipients of his legacy are grateful and pay homage.
But it is also right to thank the kids who put their lives on the line to register voters and their (more conservative) parents who supported them through it all. Be grateful as well to the team owners to integrated their clubs and the record companies that knew good music came from more than the white musicians.
Civil rights have come a long way since 1963, and there is still some distance to go. But in the meantime, thank those who through the years have fought the good fight and follow their example into the future.