Civil rights movement carried on by ‘great souls’

Participants at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington (CNS/Reuters)

Participants at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington (CNS/Reuters)

Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, a 15-year-old seminarian in Chicago during the March on Washington 50 years ago, said he “realized that history was being made” when he watched the event on television.

In an interview with the Georgia Bulletin, archdiocesan newspaper, the archbishop talks about his own brushes with discrimination as a seminarian and a young priest. He also notes how the civil rights movement has made huge strides but can still make stronger inroads.

He said the movement has always been “much larger than any single individual” even Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., pointing out that “all of the great souls who spoke, wrote, sat-in, endured water hoses and vicious dogs” contributed to its success.

“The civil rights movement is a testimony of the courage of a pantheon of martyrs from Medgar Evers, to Malcolm X, to Viola Liuzzo, to James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, to the little girls who died in the church bombing in Birmingham, to Dr. King and thousands of unnamed others. Those names punctuated my youth as the civil rights movement advanced toward freedom,”  Archbishop Gregory said.

He also indicated that there is still much work to be done.

As he put it: “We have made unquestioned progress on many fronts, including in the political arena, but we now face other challenges in the pursuit of justice. Violence against all forms of life has persisted, if not increased. We may no longer lynch people, but we euthanize the unwanted, experiment with fledgling human life, kill those we deem dangerous and expendable, we slaughter those within the womb as a perverted expression of freedom. We could certainly learn powerful lessons from nonviolence in such a violent context, as we now seem to find ourselves.”

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