CHARLES JERMY: Welcome to the second of the summer series. My name is Charles Jermy and I'm the Associate Dean of the School of Continuing Education and summer sessions. Samuel L. Kelley is the State University of New York Distinguished Service Professor of Communication Studies and of Africana Studies at the State University of New York at Cortland. He is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama where he received a Master of Fine Arts degree in playwriting, and he is a member of the Black Theater Network, The Dramatists Guild of America, and the Playwright Center.
Sam's academic credentials include the PhD degree in speech with a concentration in radio, television, film from the University of Michigan, a Master of Arts in speech from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and a bachelor of arts in speech and drama from the University of Arkansas in Pine Bluff. Among the courses Sam has developed and taught at Cortland are the films of Spike Jone-- Spike Lee, I'm sorry-- African-Americans in television and film, screenwriting, human communication and interviewing. He also directs the Department of Communication Studies internship program.
Sam is a prolific writer and his award winning and frequently performed plays include "Pill Hill," "The Blue Vein Society," "Thruway Diaries," and "Faith, Hope, and Charity, The Story of Mary McLeod Bethune." His recent works include "Habeas Corpus" about the 1919 Elaine, Arkansas race riot, and "Retirement Blues," a contemporary comedy about a couple adjusting to the husband's first 24 hours in retirement.
In 1985 Sam founded the SUNY Cortland Gospel Choir, a group that through the years has performed internationally. He remains an advisor to that organization. In addition to his many professional and community service activities, he stays very busy as a director and as a performer of the works of James Weldon Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr. We're pleased to have him with us tonight. Dr. Sam Kelley, I Have a Dream, The speech and Personal Reflections.
SAMUEL KELLEY: 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 for the millions of negro slaves seared in the withering flames of injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But 100 years later, the Negro is still not free. 100 years later the life of the Negro is sadly crippled by the mangles of segregation, by the chains of discrimination. 100 years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. 100 years later, the Negro still is languished in the corners of American society and finds himself exiled in his own land.
And so we have come here today to dramatize this shameful condition. In a sense, we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our magnificent republic wrote the beautiful 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-- yes, black men and white men-- would be guaranteed the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this obligation in so far as our citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro a bad check, a 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 opportunities in this nation.
And so we have come to cash a 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 ground 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 make real the promise of democracy. 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 lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of now.
This sweltering heat of summer of the Negro's discontent will not pass until an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality exists. 1963 is not an end, it is a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be discontent will be in for a rude awakening if America goes back to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his full citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my own people who stand on the warm threshold which leads to the palace of justice. Let us not be guilty of wrongful deeds, let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
This model, this new militancy, which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to mistrust and distrust all white people. For many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny, and they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
Now as we walk we must pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, when will you be satisfied?
We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with fatigue of travel, cannot find lodging in the motels and the highways of the cities. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger ghetto. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs that say "For White Only." We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York feels that he has nothing for which to vote.
No, we are not satisfied. We will not be satisfied until justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream. I am not unmindful that some of you here today have come from great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come from narrow jail cells and some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom have left you battered and persecuted by the winds of police brutality.
You have been the veterans of honor and suffering. Continue with the faith that honor and suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of the northern cities knowing that somehow our situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
And so I say to you today my friends, that even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, 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, down on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves, owners of sons of former slaves will be joined together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day down in Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that one day my four little children will live in a world where they will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governors having its lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, right down in Alabama little black boys and white boys and girls will join together as brothers and sisters. Oh, I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted and every hill and mountain should be made low, the rough places made plain, and the crooked places straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh will see it together.
That is our hope. It is this faith that I go back to the South with. And with this faith we will be able to hew out of a mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that one day we will all be free.
This will be the day when we will be able to sing with new meaning, "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, I say let freedom ring. From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring. From the might mountains of New York, let freedom ring. From the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania, let freedom ring.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that. Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and from every hamlet, from every state and from every city, we will be able to speed up the day when all of God's children-- black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics-- will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last." Thank you.
I'm never sure if I'll have enough wind for that speech. You have to be in very good shape physically, I think. I want to thank you all for coming out and for joining me in tonight's presentation and this lecture. It's really great and an honor to have people coming out because in upstate New York whenever there's sunshine you go outside, so thank you for coming out.
I'm going to begin with a historical prelude which is-- it's thorough background leading up to the March on Washington. And I've interjected some experience there, it's family connections also. And then come down to where we are now.
But the speech itself was a powerful moment in American history. I know that I've met people in the last two weeks when I spoke to them about this presentation who were actually at the march. Is there anyone here who was at the march, just for the curious? I know-- yes. OK. Thank you. And we have-- I met Professor I believe Kennedy in the Department of Comparative Literature and someone else this past week and in Syracuse about the march.
But I want to go back to a historical prelude from the beginning. Because the point at which we arrive at the march really starts over 100 plus years before that time. And this is, of course, the march. We'll come back to that, King's speech. But let's go back to a kind of historical prelude, look at some of the landmark decisions that were made, some of the historical events.
We know some of those were the Emancipation Proclamation, Reconstruction Amendments. Looking a bit closer at these. One of the heroes of the movement, slaves who were very involved seeking their freedom. We know that Harriet- Sojourner Truth here was born in New York-- a slave also in New York-- and spent much of her life fighting for not only abolition up until the slaves were freed but also women rights and injustice.
Also here is Frederick Douglass, one of the former slaves who were certainly on the battlefield for justice. Another favorite one is Harriet Tubman. She went through some amazing brutal experiences as a slave. But not only did she manage to survive but she triumphed, living to be, I believe, almost 90 years old.
And this is really the first decision, was the Dred Scott Decision. And [INAUDIBLE] the Supreme Court were seeking to solve this problem once and for all by saying, you are African-- of African descent and you cannot be a slave because the Constitution was not written for you all. And so Dred Scott was actually a slave living in the Missouri Territory. He lived in the free territories in Illinois also Wisconsin and he was seeking his own freedom. And so this became really the first major seminal case regarding how the Supreme Court dealt with slavery.
Their response to him, denying his citizenship and freedom, did not solve the problem, it simply did what? Exacerbate it. Also, my grandfather here is 12 years old when the Dred Scott decision is rendered. He is on a slave plantation in Huntsville, Alabama, that is grandfather-- not my great grandfather-- is Wesley Kelley, and we'll go back to that later on. But he-- we know that following the Dred Scott Decision Lincoln is elected president, and as you can see here, my grandfather escapes the slave plantation in Huntsville, Alabama and he joins up with the Union Army.
Lincoln is assassinated in 1865, the war ends-- there's a date, May 10th-- but the last shots were fired-- I think the historian buffs would know that-- somewhere, I believe, in June. This is my father's service record. I was actually able to find this about three or four days ago and extremely excited because I've been trying to locate them. But there is a museum in Washington called the Civil War Museum for African Americans, and luckily I went to that and this is his record.
This is a bit-- did I go? Yes, there he is again. You can see here where he served in Nashville. So he actually fled the plantation, went up and joined the Union Army, and went back to fight. So historically, blacks have been a part of the fight for freedom in America going all the way back to the Revolutionary War.
The Reconstruction Amendments were designed to really improve and to bring into being a parity with the slaves who had been freed. One abolishes slavery. The Emancipation did not technically do it except through the president's directive. Then the 14th Amendment granted full citizenship which meant that we could go from state to state without being arrested. And then, of course, the 15th amendment guaranteeing the right to vote, which applied to males and not women at that particular time.
The Reconstruction ended, as you know, and Home Rule basically was established. Some of the terrorist organizations began to emerge. The KKK actually was established very early on, Jim Crow laws had begun to be instituted, and the Red Shirts, the White Leagues. Basically it restored white supremacy to the South.
This is a poster from how they felt about carpetbaggers-- whites who were helping blacks in the North-- at this particular time. The Freedmen's Bureau is one of the most important bureaus established even though it was despised by many of the southern whites, and also the president opposed it. But Congress-- this Congress did-- favored it because it was really essential to help try to provide a way or a basis for the emancipated slaves to function as citizens.
Remember that, in many states, it was against the law for a slave to be taught to read. And suddenly you have your freedom, and how do you fit into a society in which you cannot function as a citizen based upon literacy itself? The establishment of 4,000 schools-- industrial training schools as well as training institutes. And some of these schools, the ones that you see here now, are still functioning. Howard University, Johnson C. Smith, Clark Atlanta, Fayetteville State, Dillard University, Shaw, and many others.
The first black middle class really is going to emerge from this group of people who are now able to go to college and to start training. I should say that we didn't start with college, we began with elementary school. Then we moved to junior high school, high school, and then college-- two year then four year colleges-- because you had to start with a group of people who needed to be educated.
A couple of examples of some of the Freedmen Bureau schools. This is a rather faded picture but you can see, and this is a poster which reflects the attitude towards the Freedmen's Bureau. It says, "An agency to keep the Negro in idleness at the expense of the white man, twice vetoed by the President and made a law by Congress." So Congress is not in favor at this particular time in our society. Bear in mind that in this day and age, the Republicans were the people out really promoting liberty for the slaves as opposed to where the Democrats were.
This is the second most important case in the history, and it is based upon what led to segregation and the confirmation, essentially, of Jim Crow laws. It's Plessy v. Ferguson. Plessy Homer was a very fair skinned man as was my grandfather here. This is not my grandfather, this is Homer Plessy. And so they really tested this case. He got on to a street car and he was arrested and this case went all the way to the Supreme Court and the Court ruled that separate but equal was acceptable. Essentially it meant that blacks were segregated and it kind of solidified what happened as a result of that.
Here you can see that my grandfather is aged 51 by now, and the Jim Crow laws from this point on really rule-- will rule America up until the 1960s at the point when King is giving his speech and also beyond. This is the 1900 census. If you can look a little closer here, you can see-- it's not the best, they don't even spell his name correctly-- but my grandfather is age 55. He was actually born in Huntsville, Alabama and his father was born in Virginia. This is his wife Mary. She is age 31, he's 35, a little difference there in age. This is Sarah-- my aunt Sarah-- I fondly remember her. And this is James Wesley Kelley. He is my uncle by birth but will eventually become my adopted father.
The issue of scientific racism was very prevalent at this particular time. And as we can see, it still lingers in the minds of people. This was something that was sent out by a politician [INAUDIBLE] state New York, and of course when she was called on this she said she wasn't a racist but-- and she had black friends. But clearly, you can see that these kinds of attitudes that were operating at that point in time are still there.
The KKK terrorizes blacks as part of what was happening here. What's the most disturbing part of this picture seems to be the glee on the faces of the people here. It's a kind of picnic. They had a huge number of lynchings during this particular time, and if you go all the way to 1963, it comes up to over 3,000 people according to Tuskegee Institute.
Formed in 1909 is really a multicultural organization called the National Advancement for the Association of Colored People. And this group remains one of the most potent and powerful groups for civil rights and human rights in America today. The president was actually [INAUDIBLE] who for a long time was the most well known powerful lawyer before the Supreme Court and he headed this organization.
This is one of probably the most well-known intellectual of the time, and would-- W.E.B Dubois. He was a scholar, professor, and activist, and also a Harvard graduate. He reflected the attitude of the academic approach to scholarship, the arts. By contrast, of course, we had these competing ideologies between Washington and Dubois. But I think that if you look closely, people can find a kind of balance between depending upon where you are and what your needs are. But they both serve, I think, in important areas in American history.
This is my favorite person in-- can you see my pointer? This is Mary McLeod Bethune. She filled the gap between Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King. She's the first woman to get a federal appointment in Washington and she's starting her college here with a group of black girls. She landed in Daytona Beach and started this school with $1.50 and it's still there today with over 3,000 students.
World War I was very important, because in addition to the Civil War, blacks often sought participation in the war as a way to prove their loyalty. But when they were going to Paris, this is the message that was left by General John Pershing as to how they should treat black American soldiers going to France to fight. They fought-- one division was given to the French. They fought with the French in the trenches, they were decorated by the French, but this is what they were told to do by General John Pershing. He's given more positive statements, but this was the world in which these soldiers were going in to fight and yet they fought valiantly.
As you can see here, one of the fascinating things about this is that when one of the battalions arrived in France, the band was led by a phenomenal jazz conductor and he got off-- they got to the boat and they began playing the French national anthem in jazz. And it took a few minutes before the French realized what was going on and they started applauding. More soldiers.
So 13% of the inductees were blacks, two division saw combat in France, and they not only brought-- they brought jazz and music to France. And if you look at the entertainment side, think of Josephine Baker and the role that she brought-- that she played in Paris following her success there.
In 1919 the war ends and you had about 135 race riots in America. And one of those race riots took place in my county, in Phillips County, Arkansas, where I grew up. It was a group of black farmers trying to get fair crops for their wages and they were trying to start a union. They were meeting in a church and somebody fired into the church. It led to a riot. The number of blacks that died is reported to be somewhere between 40 and several hundred, some people as high as 700 pronounced that. There were seven whites.
No white was ever arrested but 12 black men were-- well, 100 or so were arrested, but these 12 were to be executed. And the NAACP came down from New York, they hired a white law firm in Little Rock, they also-- the blacks hired a black lawyer, the two work together, and after six years this case-- they actually win this case at the Supreme Court. And it's the first time in the history that they used the habeas corpus ruling to win. Before that they had tried to use the habeas corpus ruling with Leo Frank.
How many people remember Leo Frank, a Cornell grad? He was in the-- moved down South and he was actually lynched. Supposedly he had murdered and raped a white girl at his factory. He was proved innocent but he was lynched. And they were trying to use part of this case to free these men because that was their only hope. And they actually did succeed in getting all 12 men free thanks to this great lawyer to your left, and also everyone who had been arrested was founded free after six years.
World War II, blacks were very involved in World War II. These are the first women officers. The woman who was there when they began training and selecting black women officers was Mary McLeod Bethune. She was supported by Roosevelt to be the head of the Negro Division of Affairs for the National Youth Administration which was almost cabinet level appointment.
This is my father, Booker T. Kelley. He's drafted into the Army at age 37 and he leaves behind a wife and two children and goes to the Army. Once again, that sense of devotion, that loyalty which we see among blacks, they see themselves as patriotic, they want to be a part of it. And of course, when he comes back home, he as well as all the other black soldiers here in the South, had to take the segregated train home.
A. Philip Randolph leads the fight to end segregation and he threatens to march on Washington. So the first march on Washington was about to take place in the 1940s, but thankfully Roosevelt agreed-- in this case it was Truman who issued the order but he'd also dealt with Roosevelt-- and this is basically designed to abolish racial discrimination in the armed forces. That was the first place where it really, really took place.
This is Mary McLeod Bethune in the center here, a very close friend to Eleanor Roosevelt. And she-- Lillian Smith here is a southern writer. And Bethune was very bold. She would in-- around 1920 or so she was disappointed with the women's rights march and the segregation behind it, especially dealing with the white women in the South and how they would force the black women-- they even marched at the back of the line for the women's rights march when it took place.
You may not be aware of that, but the black women at the back of the line, they were a newly formed sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, and they had broken away from the Alpha Kappa Alpha women because they felt the Alpha Kappa Alpha women of the Alpha Phi Alpha men-- which was formed here at Cornell-- were too close to the men. They wanted their own identity and so they broke away and they had just started in less than two months but they decided to participate in the march. And so they're at the back of the line. And that group was about 20, I believe, 21 to 24 at that point. Today they number 300,000 women. And you can account for just about that many also with the AKA's and two other well-known sororities. But they're also very, very active in the community. Bethune, I believe, is an honorary Delta.
Here is Bethune with-- is that-- what's his name, Truman? I believe this-- I believe this is the very first woman to head the President of the United Nations. I believe she's Indian. And this is Ralph Bunche, the first black to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
This was Roosevelt's Black Cabinet. These are all black men, and you can see the black woman. Roosevelt would organize and meet with these people on a regular basis. Not Roosevelt-- but he did, too with Bethune-- and they would carry their demands, recommendations to the president. And so what this indicates for us is that, in the background, even though blacks have been cut out almost completely out of the system of equality and social parity, they were very, very active in fighting in the background. And many people-- you couldn't see that because they were basically invisible. You didn't see them in the press unless it was negative, for the most part. But the black press was extremely active during this particular time.
Here's Bethune. Look closely. This is a group of black women at Howard University at a luncheon. And bear in mind, they were totally segregated at this point in time, and these are the women who can match any group anywhere. But because they are quote, black, and some of them as white as anybody in this room, they have the one drop of black blood, then they are designated as black. And so here we still have a fully segregated society in 1949.
This is the most important decision since Plessy v. Ferguson and basically overturns it. And now America is prepared to move forward with the recognition that separate but equal is unconstitutional. What would be the effects of this actually happening? Think about that for a moment.
Well, my uncle here succeeds in getting the white school board to provide buses for black youth to attend school in Marvell, Arkansas. I was born in Memphis, now I'm in Arkansas. My twin brother and I begin first grade in Marvell. If that had not happened, we would have had a 10 mile walk to school.
Gertrude Dew Kelley-- that's his wife-- Elnora Kelley is my biological mother. There I am, my twin brother and I. This is on the steps of the home in Memphis, Tennessee. And he is a physician in Arkansas. Whenever they see us they just ask, which one is the doctor? So I don't count, I think. This is Emmett Till.
I'm the PhD, that doesn't really matter, but he is the real doctor in the process. This is one of the most tragic cases, takes place in 1955. Emmett Till, a young man who was a visitor in Mississippi-- this is not too far from where I grew up in Arkansas, actually, because I grew up in the heart of the delta-- and Till is actually-- I believe he is 15 and he speaks to a white woman and her husband goes with a group of men, gets him, he's murdered and he's chained and placed to concrete in place in the bed of a lake. And this becomes one of the most sensational stories and events of all time in this movement.
The Montgomery bus boycott is a very significant event because when Rosa Parks elects not to give up her seat to a white man, it starts really the civil rights activism at a very different level. Martin Luther King was not planning on becoming a leader. He had gone down to take his pastorate at this church in Montgomery, but he was called to lead this march and did so. And that was the beginning of his career as a major civil rights activist.
He came to Cortland, actually, in, I believe, it was 1956 because it was the anniversary of the Unitarian Universalist Church and I was actually given a speech that he gave to present at the church on that occasion. This is Little Rock Central. We had to have state troops to get-- troopers to get blacks into school. The nine blacks that integrated Little Rock Central.
Here I am somewhere around-- here I am, my twin brother-- this one and this one, they're also twins-- dropped off at 11 months with my uncle and aunt who then takes them and raised them. And this is my baby sister.
So in 1957, the sit-ins are taking place. They're in Durham, North Carolina, Wichita, Kansas, Oklahoma. And on October 1958 my father dies-- he'd never been ill-- from a brain tumor and he leaves behind eight kids between the ages of two and 16 years old. So my uncle and aunt who didn't have kids, and who also had hopes of having a family, ended up with six of us and they had adopted-- actually just taken in two 11-month-old twins and they raised a family of eight somewhere between their 60-- 50s, 60s and 70s.
In Greensboro, North Carolina the sit-ins are taking place. Also in Nashville. And my oldest brother enrolls in college at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. It was called AM&N. In those days you had a black college and a white college in the state. And you went to the state college-- if you were black you went to the black college, if you were white, you went to the white colleges. It's pretty much the way it was.
In 1961 my second brother enrolls in college. This is the first time I've actually seen my father in something close to a rage because he was trying to get the second son off to college and he was struggling financially to do that because we were cotton farmers. And a gin merchant-- a white gin merchant said to him, well, you should take your boys out of college. And I'd never seen him so angry. So he says to the guy, would you take your kids out of college? And the guy couldn't-- almost got choked on his words.
But he pulled everybody out of school until he got tuition money and my brother's arrived at school on the very last day-- the very first day of-- last day of registration to get into college. But they were in college. This is in 1961, the Freedom Riders. This is what's really happening. The ride for freedom, the brutality that people suffered in order to actually make this happen.
Many of these are college students. This is one of the pictures. You can find this person actually on video and his experiences. This is the first black to integrate the University of Mississippi, James Meredith. And once again, riots, state troopers, this was all a part of this scenario and the process.
1963 was also a Freedom Summer, and many of the people who arrived at the march had been on the battlefield. They were down South trying to register voters. And that includes students from right here at Cornell. And this is 1963. I believe this is John Lewis. Am I right? He is now a congressman.
Medgar Evers was assassinated in 1963. It was really a kind of traumatic year. The police dogs were turned on. This guy's making sure he pulled this elderly black man forward so he can get bitten by the dog. But these students, many of them high school students, were involved in this process. And King, during the Birmingham experience while in jail, wrote one of the most powerful pieces entitled "A Letter From a Birmingham Jail."
Another case, 1963. So you have a sense of what the world is like and what the issues are in 1963 when they arrive in Washington. Also, in June of that year, I believe earlier that year, George Wallace is standing in the door of the University of Alabama to prevent blacks from getting enrolled. And so he stands in the doorway here. Of course, later on that day they enrolled, but he had to make his stand. And if you notice his words, segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.
And this is Lou Serene Arthur. James Wood was also going. And she is enrolling at the University of Alabama. They didn't just select black students to take them to enroll. They screened them, they had to be honor student's among the best students, because when they go-- when they went into this environment they also had to compete. But think about the kind of stress level that may have also been there to operate as a student with state troopers around, potential riots. This is the world in which they were actually dealing and studying.
In 1963 the elders of my family came together in Clarksdale, Mississippi at what is the very first Dew-Kelly family reunion. And so next week, on the 18th through the 20th, my family will celebrate its 50th annual family reunion. This is my aunt who raised us and these are her brothers. This guy here was the first one, and the only one of 14, to go to school. He went to college in Mississippi.
But he was heading off to teach school in Mississippi one day, dressed up-- you can see they're all dressed up-- and a white guy was standing there with his wife and she said to him, that's a sharp nigger. And he says to my-- his brother who comes along later on-- you tell him if he comes by here-- you tell that nigger if he comes by again I'm going to kill him. And that was his last day as a teacher in Mississippi.
He caught the bus and fled Mississippi and ended up working in an office but found himself having to deal with issues of people jealous of his typing so he ended up working for a steel mill for 27 years in Chicago. And he still went to the steel mill every day in a suit and tie. And he worked as a laborer. He got out of his clothes, put his suit and tie on, and he went back-- he went back home.
These are some of the organizers of the march here in Washington. James Farmer is here, A. Philip Randolph is really the head of this march, John Lewis is a student, Martin Luther King, Roy Wilkins, and Whitney Young. The march is noted for what it did do but also for what it didn't do. This as a group of people here who were among the speakers that day. Roy Wilkins, Walter Reuther, [INAUDIBLE] I believe, this is A. Philip Randolph, this is Rabbi Joachim Prinz who had escaped Nazi Germany in, I believe, it was 1937, Martin Luther King, Whitney Young, Matt Ahmann from the Catholic Organization. I believe that's [INAUDIBLE] and this is, I believe, Archbishop O'Boyle. He wouldn't agree to come to the podium to speak until John Lewis toned down his speech at the march.
These are the two men really behind the march. And this is Ralph Randolph-- I'm sorry, Philip Randolph-- A. Philip Randolph-- and Bayard Rustin. Bayard Rustin was-- at this time, he was denied being a part of the main group because he was gay and he was not hiding his sexual orientation. And so they decided to make him a deputy director rather than one of the directors because two people opposed his being there.
He is the genius behind this march. It was incredibly organized from A to Z and he did not miss a step. But because of the opposition of two people, he was given a deputy role, but he was still the one really organizing this march. And he was awarded the post-- the Medal of Freedom posthumously in 2013 by President Barack Obama.
Here's some of the themes of the march, some ideas, the number of people, the broadcast coverage. Interestingly, you can see the networks are there but also the Voice of America gets in on that. They could package that and show this as a great example of democracy at work. Right? So that was how it was getting packaged and sent abroad in some cases.
We've got the date, the attendance. And of course, Washington is nervous. They can only think that there's going to be riot. The DC is practically on lockdown, you've got all these troops. There were four people arrested and they were all white people. So there were not black people arrested at the march at all. And I think there was-- I believe one of the Nazi leaders was protesting somewhere out at the time and that may have been where that came from.
Some of the performers. Mahalia Jackson, of course, was the top bill. Shout the name if you recognize them.
SAMUEL KELLEY: OK. Joan Baez and--
SAMUEL KELLEY: OK. Thank you. All right. Who is this?
SAMUEL KELLEY: All right. Yes.
SAMUEL KELLEY: James Baldwin. And?
SAMUEL KELLEY: Brando.
SAMUEL KELLEY: Charlton Heston. All right. We got Sammy Davis, there's Roy Wilkins again. And?
SAMUEL KELLEY: Yes. I heard it. Who said it? Who is it?
SAMUEL KELLEY: Yes. Thank you. And this is? Ozzie Davis. His wife of 56 years who just died last month and age 91, Ruby Dee. Yes?
SAMUEL KELLEY: That's the subject of my dissertation, Poitier. Harry Belafonte and, of course, once again, Charlton Heston. This is Ralph Bunche again that you're seeing. Yes?
SAMUEL KELLEY: Jackie Robinson. Broke the barriers in baseball. The speakers. Whitney Young, Mathew Ahmann, Roy Wilkins. Can-- what's our time?
SAMUEL KELLEY: 8 o'clock? OK. So I'm going to kind of rush through because I want to have a little time for questions. But the speakers, as you can see, were a part. It was very organized. The idea was to create this sense of unity, so we needed to bring as many organizations as possible. And they succeeded in doing that.
We had them across Catholic organizations, United Workers, Jewish organizations, labor organizations, they all came together on this mall for what was the greatest march on Washington. And Mahalia Jackson-- you remember Mahalia Jackson? She brought the house down and you can still go and find her on YouTube and find this.
King's speech was the last major speech of the day, and Mahalia Jackson set him up to do a great job. And there are several things to note about his speech, and that is-- these are the speech writers, by the way. Quite a few people here involved in this. But in the end, King basically said to them, all right, gentleman, thank you for all this, I have to go and write my speech.
Several significant things about the speech, and that is King uses what Hansen calls set pieces. The famous I have a dream part, for instance, that's something from another speech in the past. The same thing about let freedom ring. And so a great speaker-- because King traveled hundreds of thousands of miles and gave speeches-- he would often pull from the past.
And all of this comes together because, in the speech, believe it or not, once he got to towards the end-- actually, I have it here-- the last four minutes of the speech is pretty much-- oh, yes. He has a prepared speech and he has a delivered speech. And he breaks away from the delivered speech and goes, towards the end, everything that you see coming from him is basically improvised as he begins to talk about the "I Have a Dream." He finished the speech a bit earlier than he had anticipated.
Now, this gets cut from his speech. This is what King puts in place of that. Notice how concrete this is as opposed to abstract vagueness in the previous speech. This is pretty amazing. He also connects seamlessly because he's goes back to part of the previous speech and kind of connects and then he moves forward.
So you can see the prepared speech and then the delivered speech. He also taps into the Bible. He's a preacher, and a great one at that. Had a reputation even in divinity school. And Mahalia Jackson is supposed to have shouted, according to one study, "Tell them about the dream, tell them about the dream." And from that point he began talking about it.
We can see the pacing, the resonance. I didn't have 250,000 people in front of me today so-- but you were a great audience. Thank you. It's manipulated within the sentence. You see the pace and the rhythm. And this is the biblical reference here, Amos and Isaiah. Very strong in his speech, and many of these speeches have been done before.
Let freedom ring, this appears to have been from an Archibald Carey speech in Chicago. And King had begun the I have a dream concept early on. We've talked about the audience. In the concept of ethos-- excuse me for citing just a professorial here-- we know that you bring to an occasion what we call extrinsic credibility-- that you have when you come-- and then you have intrinsic, that which you achieve. So King came with extrinsic credibility pretty much among the black audience, but he left with intrinsic credibility as a result of this powerful speech. Would his speech have been famous had he stuck to the prepared script? It would have been OK.
"I Have a Dream" did not solve all the problems. Within a few months, this church was bombed and these four little girls were murdered. And one of them was a very close friend of, actually, Condoleeza Rice. This is Kennedy's-- in his last ride. And this gentleman here is a Cornell graduate, these three guys were murdered on the very first day of the Freedom Rides.
The impact. Very few blacks were registered at this particular time. But it led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in which they outlawed discrimination based upon race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. My sister enrolls in college. The Voting Rights Act passes. It ends major obstacles used to disenfranchise American minorities. Of course, we know what the issues are with regards to voting-- ID-- and many young people now have become activated and they're getting back into this because they realize what this issue is about.
Freedom-- it laid the foundation and Mississippi now has more elected officials than any other state. My twin brother and I enrolled in college in 1966, the same black colleges of the state. In 1970, in January, I began teaching at a predominately white school in Memphis. That's my graduation picture.
In 1970 I applied to grad school in Mississippi and Arkansas. My twin brother and I enrolled at the University of Arkansas-- and that's a predominately white school-- and I began teaching college full time in '71. My youngest sister completes college in 1979 and Wesley Kelley has turned 80. He's finally got the last one out of the house.
That's my early days as a college teacher. Yes, we had the-- the Afro. Don't tell me you don't know anything about that if you're my age because, you know those bell bottoms? Polyester? Oh, God, those Nehru jackets. And I had my platform heels. I was pretty cool.
This is my siblings. There are 10 of us. And take a look at this young lady right here. She's just a baby. This is-- you want-- he's a pastor in Niagara Falls, New York for more than 20 years, physician , my twin brother, principal-- assistant principal in Little Rock and head football coach of 27 years. Quite an issue when he became the first black football coach of this high school in Little Rock.
This is me here, this is my oldest brother in California. Charles, the youngest, if you happen to not succeed with a doctor, he owns two funeral homes, this one right here. My sister actually owns a gymnastics business, retired early. She's a retired teacher. And this is the twin, the only one out of 10 kids who did not go to college. And so, in that, we have quite a diverse family. And my father died, leaving a tremendous responsibility to my uncle and aunt who took that responsibility, and we succeeded.
That's the little baby girl I was showing you just a minute ago hanging to the side of the family. She is now at the School of Engineering at MIT. This is the family, and take a look at her daughter. This is not a big sized crowd. But this is their daughter-- this is her daughter here and this is my twin brother, he's a physician, this is his eldest son, a cardiologist. She's a PhD and MD, that's the mother, that's the daughter who's also an MD. And that's the husband, also an MD. They didn't know that when they were buying their home in Chicago, that they were actually-- would be living on the same block as the current President of the United States.
I know we hear a lot of-- we've heard a lot of negative things about Chicago, but my family has a lot of positive things from Chicago. And this is the little daughter here, this is dad. He's-- I'm sure some of you know about the Broad institute. It's a combination of universities working together.
Voting issues today. We are still dealing with the issues of ID. I remember a few months ago-- because I spent the sabbatical in Florida publishing four plays, and before I left, of course, I registered and voted. I think I may have missed once in my life. I would just be terrified not to vote because of the history of the struggle.
But the issues today deal with ex-felons getting the right to vote. It's still a potent weapon for power and change in our culture. The most potent, I believe. And I think that's why we're having issues with regards to ways in which people can block minorities from voting. And when I mentioned to a white colleague, I said, you know, think about the difficulty this is for senior citizens. And he looked at me and said, I hadn't thought of that. Why should my mother, 84, have to go through an ID to vote. You are a citizen, you've been here, you paid your dues, you should not have to be-- should not have obstacles placed in your pathway.
Yes, we have an issue when it comes down to incarceration and prisoners. I'm not going to dwell on that because Michelle Alexander is the author. I'm sure she's been here and spoken, but she has a book on the issue. But, yes, we do have the issues of incarceration. But I'm also thankful of the success that I've had in my family and my family's families. 151 years later.
These are the four books that I published on sabbatical year before last. And this is Mary McLeod Bethune. And these, by the way, are published-- they're published plays, I should say that. And this is racial profiling. I know Cornell had, I believe some of your professors were involved in this, especially as it dealt with women who had been strip-searched, many black women who have been strip-searched at a point in the late 1990s. And before that, that was when it really became an issue and hearings were held.
That inspired this book along with racial profiling. My uncle, one of the men that you saw from Mississippi, was sitting in his car in the early '60s when a black pulled up in a Cadillac from Chicago and they made him get out of the car and lick the headlights. That scene is in this play. But that was the kind-- that was the world that they were dealing with.
This is based upon Charles Chesnutt, the very first black to achieve literary prominence, around 1900. It's called "The Blue Vein Society." It looks at class and color within black America. And this is "White Chocolate," looking at black identity. It's set somewhere at a professor in upstate-- professor-- at a college in upstate New York. So we won't say what college. I'm going to wrap up here because I've taken up more time. If you have questions, I'd be glad to answer them. Thank you all for coming out.
Oh, yes. OK.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 1: Voter ID. I don't understand why the big thing that--
CHARLES JERMY: Use the mic, please.
SAMUEL KELLEY: Use the mic.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 1: On the voter ID, I don't understand the big problem. I can't go anywhere where I don't have to show a picture ID.
SAMUEL KELLEY: It's one more burden you don't need. That's how I see it.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 1: I know. But we have-- even-- everybody has one.
SAMUEL KELLEY: The right to vote ought to be so-- it's already established, why do we need to add something to it? That's how I see it. I mean, the right to vote is guaranteed, so why do we need to have one more proof on to that.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 1: Just proof for voting, is that what you're talking about?
SAMUEL KELLEY: Yeah. Yeah.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 1: Because, I mean, I can't even go into a-- look I'm 62 years and I-- years old and I still get a picture ID for when I buy wine coolers at the grocery store.
SAMUEL KELLEY: I know about IDs.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 1: I was just wondering why the big thing.
SAMUEL KELLEY: It's another burden. That's how many people see it. And an inconvenience.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 2: [INAUDIBLE].
SAMUEL KELLEY: Yes. That's true, too.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 2: So you're [INAUDIBLE] by having to have a picture ID whether you drive or not--
SAMUEL KELLEY: Thank you.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 2: [INAUDIBLE] for a lower income-- a low income person, that is a big problem. Plus, people who are rural, because they have to go and get a picture ID, it's become a burden.
SAMUEL KELLEY: Or the infirm.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 2: Right. Anybody that [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 1: As far as the low income is concerned, I just took two young-- two seniors from low income housing to get their ID's so they could go play casino so they could get there freedoms and stuff. So, I mean--
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 2: But that's a choice. Voting in many ways should be as it is in Australia-- a duty. That's like putting more of a burden on people, and if you're not able to--
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 3: We can't hear what you're saying. [INAUDIBLE].
SAMUEL KELLEY: What she's saying is voting is a guaranteed right. A constitutional right.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 1: Absolutely. And playing-- going anywhere is a right, but in other places we still have to have ID. And the people that you're talking about probably have to have ID to do other things. I mean, I went to the doctors today, I had to have my ID-- picture ID-- I mean, everywhere you go so I don't understand why you're saying it's a race thing when it's not a race thing.
SAMUEL KELLEY: No. I'm not saying it's a race thing, I'm saying it's inconvenient. It does effect disproportionally minorities. And I don't think there's any question about that. And the people who are trying to get the voting rights passed are those who have a history of trying to sideline and prevent these people from voting. That is very important.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 2: You already asked your question.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 1: Oh, I'm sorry.
SAMUEL KELLEY: Yeah. That's OK. Yeah. Yes?
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 4: I really liked your presentation.
SAMUEL KELLEY: Thank you.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 4: But I wanted to know, where do we go from here?
SAMUEL KELLEY: Yes.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 4: You didn't say anything, you know, what things do we need to do that are on the top end and who are the leaders that we should be following looking forward-- looking to lead us to the next step. Because, obviously, equality is not complete yet.
SAMUEL KELLEY: No, it's not. And I really am not the one who would have the answer to that complicated question because it is much more complicated now than it was then. The basic rights that we were looking for-- the right to vote, ending segregation-- those rights were pretty much taken care of. We have not addressed some of the things-- and just to go beyond King's 1963 speech, he had really began to focus on poverty. That was a real central issue for him.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 4: I also feel that there's, especially in New York City, they get-- the people in New York City are constantly stopped on the street and searched--
SAMUEL KELLEY: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 4: --and just because they're black or--
SAMUEL KELLEY: Yeah. Well--
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 4: --because they look bad.
SAMUEL KELLEY: If I could just give you an example. I was-- in the class I taught last semester a student said to me-- we were looking at the concept of a profile, had been working on it with a play of mind-- and this is a student who's Latino and Jewish and he was stopped. And the very first thing that happened was-- they have a white friend, these are all friends, and many friends now, they're diverse. So if I'm with my white friends or black friends and somebody comes in, that person will not recognize that we're together. Or doesn't matter.
And so the white friend was-- he said, you stay here and he pushed the black Latino kids over, searched them, and the white guy had the drugs on him. So-- and the complication with that issue is that the most likely to be searched, the most likely to be pulled over, when you look at drug use, for instance, the use is pretty much the same among people, white and black.
However, when you begin to look at how the incarceration rate-- going back to that last slide there-- the difference is amazing. And America has a larger incarceration rate than any other country. I do think that the current mayor of New York served notice about how he felt about that and how that he would have to deal with it with regards to that. So that's still an issue.
The concern-- I think Obama's legis-- or at least his proposal to try and release those-- many of the people who are arrested sometimes for life for something as minor as marijuana, and the likelihood of you getting arrested again in that case is that you were-- you'd be black. And so the jails-- if you recall the three strikes law and you're out-- many people ended up in prison for lifetime as a result of that. And that's the high cost for which we're still paying in various ways.
And also, since 911 the whole concept of racial profiling has changed in many ways. And that, they've had to go back and look at because there was also the shift from those who were, say, black and Latino, Middle Eastern. And also, when you started searching people, they were not discerning and anybody can pulled out of a line including somebody who might be in a wheelchair or might be an infirm, elderly person.
I do think that with regards to how-- your specific question about profiling-- that's an issue that still has to continue. And that going back, reviewing some of these cases-- notice the number of people now getting out of jail because it turns out they were not guilty. That's a disturbing issue. And imagine the ones in there, as I said, for the minor crimes, and then dealing with the felons, for instance, who also need-- should be able to vote once they've served their time. Thank you for your question. And thank you for your question also. Yes?
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 5: Thank you. Thank you. That was an excellent presentation.
SAMUEL KELLEY: Thank you.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 5: I realize it would just be speculation, but where do you think Dr. King was headed both politically and socially?
SAMUEL KELLEY: King was increasingly frustrated at the slow play-- pace of progress with regards to poverty. When he changed and began to support the Vietnam War-- I was looking at his speech from the Riverside Church several days ago, extraordinary speech-- he was really, really frustrated and he was trying to begin to broaden his coalition. And this is what brought the issues of justice as it related to Vietnam.
He was also beginning to look more internationally. Don't forget that in 1964-- we are looking at this purely from King's speech, and also in 1963, '64-- but what's happening in South Africa? Nelson Mandela is on trial and he's going to prison for 27 years. The Rivonia Trial is in progress. So the international concerns that he had.
He also was up against the pressure and the anger of impatient blacks who had begun to become impatient with the pace of the movement and was beginning to go through some self, I think, analysis about where things were going because he was very frustrated. And he was still being followed. I had it-- I don't think I had it there-- but, anyway, the King's speech, it was followed, as you know, by the FBI. The FBI, at the end of his speech, said to someone, we have to follow him, he's dangerous.
Is that speech dangerous? That was the FBI, as part of that. So King was moving forward but he was beginning to even question the whole concept that he espoused in terms of "I Have a Dream" because the issues have become more complicated. And I think they get increasingly complicated. How do we begin to address them? Thank you for your question.
I'm told I have one more question. So would someone-- yes.
AUDIENCE SPEAKER 6: What's in a name? With a name like Kelley, could you tell us how you feel about your name?
SAMUEL KELLEY: Kelley? Well, I understand-- as you saw, the census people got it wrong. Samuel is a biblical name, and I understand that my mother was also-- my biological mother-- was also very aware of that and so that might be a biblical name. But then, for some reason, Manuel is not. It rhyme's with Samuel. And as an eighth grade student, when we entered the class with a rather stern teacher, Ms. Simms, and she said we had to give our names and so she gets to my twin brother and she says-- and he says, Manuel. She says, no, that's not your name, your name is Emmanuel.
So he-- and you didn't tell Ms. Simms that it was not Emmanuel. So he didn't say anything. But Kelley, I understand-- and I'm still doing some research on that-- K-E-L-L-E-Y is the name of a judge that somewhere in the family-- a white judge-- and that when they moved to Arkansas, part of that was also adapting that name.
And kind of getting back to the concept of name, right after slavery, or during that time, many blacks chose names that identified them a certain way. Your name might be Queen. My great grandfather on my mother's side is named Major, Major Dew. Where would you come up with a Major? And so you often chose really, I think, names that had meaning to them.
But Samuel Lawrence-- the one that has the distinction is my oldest brother. His name is James Wesley Kelley and mine-- the Lawrence from my name may also come from an uncle who has a Dew name but Lawrence as part of his name. And Wesley he comes from my adopted father who raised me. And then my oldest brother has the name Wesley-- John Wesley. So he was named after an uncle and then the other uncle. And so that's how [INAUDIBLE] happened.
And just to point out, my-- the eldest Kelley brother, the one that you saw-- my father's oldest brother-- married my mother's aunt. So two brothers married the aunt and the niece. So one couldn't say, I'm sorry, but that's your family without being told, I'm sorry, but that's your family, too. So they worked together and our family kept this concept of unity even though the youngest brothers were raised in Memphis and went to the University of Memphis. We were still together. We would come together for gatherings.
But getting back to the name, it's a kind of amalgam, but the last name is based upon a name that had been inherited somewhere in the family during slavery. My great grandfather, actually when the Confederacy came through, they hid the heirlooms-- the white slave holders hid the heirlooms on him because they felt they wouldn't search him. So I've been able to learn a few more things about this from the past. But thank you for your question. I'm not sure how well I did answering it. And thank you all for coming this evening.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this request.
Samuel Kelley brought Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have A Dream speech to life July 9, 2014 with a dramatic performance of King's classic work, followed by a presentation on the historical, socio-political, biblical and artistic influences that converged to give birth to one of the most famous speeches of the twentieth century.
Kelley is an award-winning playwright and professor of Africana studies and communication studies at the State University of New York College at Cortland. The presentation was part of the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions summer lecture series.