Tuesday, August 23, 2011

MLK memorial dedication salutes women ignored in civil rights era

A new national memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. has opened on the National Mall here in Washington, DC. A luncheon honoring the women of the civil rights movement is among this week's dedication ceremonies, and the announcement notes "Equally as important as their male counterparts, the women of the Civil Rights Movement have earned our respect and esteem.   At this luncheon, we honor the women whose legacy of strength and dignity continues to inspire hope." That's a long-overdue recognition. Most people familiar with King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, which culminated a march on Washington and a rally at the Lincoln Memorial don't realize that women were kept off the program on that historic day. Gail Collins recalls it in her book, America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines:
There was not a single woman scheduled to speak at the march, and when the lone woman on the 19-member planning committee protested, the organizers threw together a last-minute "Tribute to Women" in which A. Philip Randolph introduced [Rosa] Parks and other dignitaries...while they sat there silently..."Nowadays, women wouldn't stand for being kept so much in the background, but back then women's rights hadn't become a popular cause yet," said Parks later.
Keep the women of the civil rights movement in mind this week as the memorial ceremonies culminate with a dedication on Sunday, August 28. Below is a virtual tour video of the new monument based on the architect's rendering:

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