This February, we celebrate Black History Month. Black Americans who serve society through the excellence of their achievement and the many who were born into slavery are recognized during the observance.
It forms a part of the rich history of faith and courageous black men and women.
Not all of the people in our history had the same ideals, but it takes faith and courage to defend people who hold unpopular beliefs.
There is a history of stunning accomplishment in every field of human endeavor and, like Martin Luther King Jr., they all decided to become drum majors and serve humanity whether it was expressed in books, inventions or songs. They found something outside of themselves to achieve goals and a guide to serve others instead of living only for themselves.
I was truly blessed to hear Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech firsthand. I took refuge in the reassuring image and sound of Dr. King, a preacher unlike any I have known. Yes, it was my first glimpse of human dignity under fire, an “evil spirit.”
The route of bitterness causes trouble and defiles many and is capable of being transmitted – and it will cause a person or persons to struggle against difficulties.
How grateful I am that through strife, I was entrusted to parents and a grandmother who never succumbed to the easy temptation of hate. They dared to think for themselves, often against the grain of friends and relatives, but were faithful to the belief that one should treat others as you would want to be treated. The promise that now lives in me has been passed on to my children.
I remember Dr. King’s assassination, bells tolling, adults talking in hushed tones. Mr. Obama’s acceptance speech echoed the final words of Dr. King: “I want you to know tonight that we as people will get to the Promised Land.”
These black Americans had no less faith and courage than George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin. They had offered their homes, their possessions, and their very lives in the fight for liberty, the right to be free and have equal justice and to have opportunity to chase the American Dream.
If you are not familiar with rural South Carolina in the 1950s, and the marginal existence in which some of these historians live, you may not have the same respect for the sacrifices they made for our children and grandchildren. They were fired from jobs, evicted from homes, their churches burned to the ground, denied credit, thrown off the land – but they refused to back down in the face of overwhelming adversity. They kept their God-given faith.
What is so striking about their history is the faith and courage it took to stand up to the establishment.
Some of us forget that a new and more tolerant generation is taking over. Historians may mark 1960 as the year the Civil Rights struggle of the 1950s finally came to a close, though the mopping up remains.
(Faith, courage of black Americans saluted.)
Edward R. Allen, Camden