Once a man had a dream. He dreamed of a land of peace and harmony. He dreamed of a place where people were not judged by their skin color. He dreamed of a country where children of different races could play together. He dreamed of a nation where all people were equal. Some people didn't like his dream. They said it would never happen. Some people applauded his dream. They wanted to make it happen. This noble vision has come true for some. For others, it's still just a fantasy.
In 1963, this man, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., expressed his vision in the famous speech, "I Have a Dream." But the dream-rooted in the American Dream-wasn't really new. From the beginning, this nation of immigrants welcomed people desiring freedom and a new start. However, the coming together of different races and ethnic groups created some tensions. The early Americans (except for the native "Indians") were almost all white Europeans. As more immigrants arrived, European groups fit into society easily. Others found it more difficult.
Black people were the only "immigrants" who didn't choose to come toAmerica. For hundreds of years, Africans were taken from their homes to be slaves in theNew World. Even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had slaves. The phrase "all men are created equal" didn't apply to blacks in their day. The end of the Civil War finally brought freedom to the slaves in 1865, but blacks still had a lower position in society. Many Southern states practiced segregation to "keep blacks in their place." Blacks and whites went to different schools, ate at different restaurants, even drank from different water fountains.
The Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s helped black people secure many of the rights promised in the Constitution. A 1954 Supreme Court decision ruled that segregation had no place in public schools. Gradually, American education became more fair. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white man. Her courage sparked a bus boycott inMontgomery,Alabama, that ended segregation on city buses. Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged black people to use nonviolent means to achieve their goals of equal treatment. Finally, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to stop discrimination in all public places.
In spite of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement, racial problems still exist. The laws have changed, but some people-on all sides of the color spectrum-remain prejudiced. Ten-sions sometimes erupt in violence. The 1992Los Angelesriots sprang from the verdict of a racially-charged court case. Moreover, blacks and whites are not the only racial groups struggling to get along. MulticulturalAmericahas numerous minority groups that argue for equal treatment. Some contend that current immigration laws unfairly discriminate against certain racial groups.
Even so, in the past 40 years, race relations nAmericahave greatly improved. Minority groups now have equal opportunities in many areas of education, employment and housing. Interracial marriages are becoming more accepted. Children of different races-and their parents-are learning to play together and work together. Maybe Dr. King's dream will come true after all.