CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY
Fulfilling Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dream
By Hannah Goodwyn
CBN.com Senior Producer
With the opening of the Washington, D.C. memorial in 2011, our country rightfully honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The reverend's powerful voice called for the non-violent protest of the civil rights injustices African-Americans faced on a daily basis.
Learning about Dr. King’s speech and our American Civil War history in elementary school, I remember thinking, “I wished I lived north of the Mason-Dixon line. Those who fought to free slaves didn’t come from my neck of the woods.” Whenever the Civil War came up, I always was interested in finding out about slavery. Many argue that slavery was not the issue of the war. Regardless of how signficant a role it played, slavery was and remains to be a disgusting mark in America's history.
Digging Up the Family Roots
As a kid, I saw quite a few TV shows addressing the issue of race. One particular sitcom tackled the issue in such a way that its message has stayed with me ever since.
Saved by the Bell, a 1990s popular teen show, aired an episode in its second season called “Running Zack”. In the episode, Zack Morris and his Bayside High School friends discover their roots as they complete an ancestral research project for class. Jessie, a friend of Zack's, realizes her ancestors were in the shipping industry - slave ships. Hearing that her friend Lisa's ancestors were slaves, Jessie wants to make up for the guilt she feels over her family's past. Lisa reassures her that the sins of her ancestors aren’t hers to carry.
Their conversation hit home with me because of my own family's past. At a young age, I discovered my great-great-grandfather Elisha was a slave owner in North Carolina. When I first heard the story, I felt ashamed as Jessie did. Years later, I learned more of the story and that the selfless acts of my great-great-grandfather’s slave, Elijah, saved my ancestor’s life during the Civil War. Elijah rode a horse approximately 100 miles to recover my injured great-great-grandfather from a war hospital outside of Richmond, Va. Determined to get home, Elijah walked next to the horse carrying Elisha, stopping along their route through the war-torn countryside to care for my ancestor’s life-threatening wounds. Instead of taking the opportunity to seek freedom for himself, Elijah walked back to North Carolina. In gratitude, Elijah's family was granted freedom and given portions of the farmland (property Elijah's descendants still own today).
Hearing this incredible family story of how my great-great-grandfather was saved by the man he "owned" was unspeakably moving. It's a true-life picture of how even the gravest of sins -- ruling over another man -- can be forgiven. These many years later, we are helpless to change the past. All we can be eternally responsible for is what we believe, say, and do today.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Famous Speech
Though Dr. King’s dream is more a reality today than ever before, there is still room to grow in our love for each other. In agreement with his dream, I share part of his visionary speech, "I Have a Dream". (Watch the full speech.)
…I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of 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 my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the 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 struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a 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."
- Dr. Maritn Luther King, Jr.,
"I Have a Dream" (1963)
What the Bible Says about Racial Division
Our Heavenly Father does not prefer us over another. The Bible contains at least four references that show our Lord does not play favorites (see Deuteronomy 10:17, Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, Ephesians 6:9). In John 13, we are commanded by Jesus himself to love one another.
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” John 13:34
Racism can’t live in the presence of love. A loving, godly heart cannot hold hatred. As God is love, racial hatred holds no place in the Church. Let's break down the dividing walls as Jesus unified Jews and Gentiles through His sacrifice.
For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. Ephesians 2:14
We are created by One and are made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Each of us is connected through our creation and our redemption.
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
Fulfilling Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream pleases our Heavenly Father. Therefore, let us love one another, caring for all of God's children. As we look back at King's life and his march against injustice, let us also remember and pray for those enslaved today through sex slavery and forced labor in our country and around the world.
Hannah Goodwyn serves as the Family and Entertainment producer for CBN.com. For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.
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