Posted at 11:19 AM
Fifty years ago, on August 28, 1963, on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Martin Luther King Jr. led a “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” that culminated at the Lincoln Memorial. A quarter of a million traveled to Washington, DC, to hear what Dr. King had to say. Millions more listened on television and radio.
The day began with Marian Anderson, one of the greatest singers of the 20th century, singing the National Anthem. The day ended with Dr. King delivering one of the greatest speeches ever given in American history.
It is interesting to note that no one ever called Dr. King’s speech the “I Have a Dream” speech until after he finished it. The original title of his speech was “The Cancelled Check.” He also called it “The Normalcy Speech.” Dr. King chose those titles because an important part of his speech was about jobs. America, he said, was defaulting on a “promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.” He said “America has given… a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds’” because of discrimination in jobs, limited job mobility, jobs that offered only minimum wages and high unemployment for the rest.
There has been notable progress since he spoke those words 50 years ago. The number of African-Americans living in poverty has declined 23 percent since 1963, and 22 percent fewer African-American children are living in poverty. Now, approximately three times more African-Americans are enrolled in college than in 1963, and for every one of those who graduated college in 1963 there are now five.
For MBDA, Dr. King and the civil rights movement ushered in a heightened sensitivity to promoting justice through economic empowerment and entrepreneurship. It was six years later, 1969, that President Nixon signed an Executive Order establishing an Office of Minority Business Enterprise, which became the Minority Business Development Agency 10 years later.
We commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that was so eloquently shared on that day. We are still inspired by the promise of the American dream and the legacy of Dr. King’s address, which was a major step toward transforming the minds and hearts of our nation.