Mahalia Called out to King: “Tell them about the dream, Martin!”

What a wonderful back story Drew Hansen tells about the March on Washington, Sunday, August 28, 1963

When King arrived at the Willard Hotel in Washington the night before the march, he still didn’t have a complete draft. King called his aides together in the lobby, and they started arguing about what should go in the speech. One wanted King to talk about jobs, another wanted him to talk about housing discrimination. Finally King said: “My brothers, I understand. I appreciate all the suggestions. Now let me go and counsel with the Lord.”

King went up to his room and spent the night writing the speech in longhand. Andrew Young stopped by and saw that King had crossed out words three and four times, trying to find the right rhythm, as if he were writing poetry. King finished at about 4 in the morning and handed the manuscript to his aides so it could be typed up and distributed to the press. The speech did not include the words “I have a dream.”

Oh read it all!

Over in Paris, James Baldwin led a petition writing campaign and presentation at the US Embassy.

More than 550 petitions were delivered; petitions also went to diplomatic posts in Rome, Madrid and several cities in Germany. …

Americans were not the only ones marching on Washington: 1,200 to 1,400 people marched on the American consulate in Amsterdam, led by the local Action Committee for Solidarity with the March on Washington. The mayor of Kingston, Jamaica, led a march of 2,500 in his city. One hundred marched through heavy rain in Oslo, Norway.

There were smaller protests in Israel and Burundi. In Accra, Ghana, a small group held signs reading “America, Africa Is Watching You” and “Stop Genocide in America and South Africa.”

And, Joseph E Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner in Economics was in the crowd on that day, his decision to do graduate work in economics rather than theoretical physics being confirmed.  His reflection, as of others, is how wide the gap still is between white life and black life in America.

The raw numbers tell much of the story: There has been no significant closing of the gap between the income of African-Americans (or Hispanics) and white Americans the last 30 years. In 2011, the median income of black families was $40,495, just 58 percent of the median income of white families.

Turning from income to wealth, we see gaping inequality, too. By 2009, the median wealth of whites was 20 times that of blacks. The Great Recession of 2007-9 was particularly hard on African-Americans (as it typically is on those at the bottom of the socioeconomic spectrum). They saw their median wealth fall by 53 percent between 2005 and 2009, more than three times that of whites: a record gap. But the so-called recovery has been little more than a chimera — with more than 100 percent of the gains going to the top 1 percent — a group where, needless to say, African-Americans cannot be found in large numbers.

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