There's one of them in the tree. I just wanna let you
know those of you who are sitting down front here, that there are a
whole lot of people out there under the trees. My friends we are here
today because we want the Congress of the United States to hear from us
in person what many of us have been telling our public officials back
home, and that is we want freedom now. We came here to petition our lawmakers to be as brave as our sit-ins and our marchers, to be as daring as James
, to be as unafraid as the nine children of Little Rock
, and to be as forthright as the governor
, and to be as dedicated as the Archbishop
of St. Louis
We came to speak here to our congress, to those men
and women, who speak here for us in that marble forum over yonder on the
hill. They know from their vantage point here of the greatness of this
whole nation, of its reservoirs of strength, and of the sicknesses,
which threaten always to set the strength and to erode in one or another
selfish and stealthy and specious fashion the precious liberty of the
individual, which is the hallmark of our country among the nations of
We have come asking the enactment of legislation that
will affirm the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,
and that will place the resources, and the honor of the government of
all the people behind the pledge of equality, and the Declaration of
Independence. We want employment, and with it, we want the pride,
and responsibility, and self-respect that goes with equal access to
jobs. Therefore, we want an FEPC
bill, as a
part of the legislative package.
Now, for nine years, our parents and their children
have been met with either a flat refusal or token action in school
desegregation. Every added year of such treatment is a leg iron upon our
men and women of 1980. The civil rights bill
now under consideration in the congress must give new powers to the
justice department to enable it to speed the end of Jim Crow schools,
south and north.
We are sick of those jokes about public
accommodations. We think, for example, that if Mrs. Murphy, rugged
individualist that she must be, has taken her chances with the public
thus far, she can get along without the solicitous protection of the
august Senate of the United States. It is true, of course, that Mrs.
Murphy might get a Negro traveler here and there in her boarding house
or in her tourist home, but then we must remember this, she might get a
white procurer or a white embezzler too. So the congress must require
non-discriminatory public accommodations.
Now, my friends all over this land, and especially in
parts of the deep south, we are beaten and kicked, and maltreated, and
shot, and killed by local and state law enforcement officers. It is
simply incomprehensible to us here today, and to millions of others far
from this spot that the United States government, which can regulate the
contents of a pill, apparently is powerless to prevent the physical
abuse of citizens within its own borders. The attorney general must be
empowered to act on his own initiative in the denial of any civil right, not just one or two, but any civil right, in order to wipe out this shameful situation.
Now, the president's proposals represent so moderate
an approach that if it is weakened or eliminated, the remainder will be
little more than sugar water. Indeed, as it stands today, the package
needs strengthening, and the president should join us in fighting to be
sure that we get something more than pap.
And finally, we here talk of protocol, and
procedures, and rules, including the senate filibuster rule. Well, we
have a thought on that. We declare that rules are made to enable the
congress to legislate, and not to keep it from legislating, and we're
tired of hearing rules cited as a reason why they can't act. We expect
the passage of an effective civil rights bill.
We commend those Republicans in both houses, who are
working for it. We salute those Democrats in both houses, who are
working for it. In fact, we even salute those from the south, who want
to vote for it, but don't dare to do so. And we say to those people,
just give us a little time, and one of these days, we'll emancipate you.
You get to the place where they can come to a civil rights rally too.
If those who support the bill will fight for it, as
hard, and as skillfully, as the southern opposition fights against it,
victory will be ours. Just by your presence here today, we have spoken
loudly and eloquently to our legislators. When we return home, keep up
the speaking by letter, and telegram, and telephone, and wherever
possible, by a personal visit.
Remember that this has been a long fight. We were
reminded of it by the news of the death yesterday in Africa
of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois
. Now, regardless of the
fact that in his later years Dr. Du Bois
chose another path, it is incontrovertible that at the dawn of the 20th century
, his was the voice that was calling to you to gather here today in this cause. If
you wanna read something that applies to 1963
go back, and get a volume of the Souls of Black Folk by Du Bois
published in 1903
Well, my friends, you got religion here today, don't
black slide tomorrow. Remember, Luke's account of the warning that was
given to us all. No man, he wrote, having put his hand to the plow, and
looking back is fit for the kingdom of God. Thank you.