Bells ring on Stone Mountain for King’s famous speech
Ken Watts | 8/30/2013, 7:02 a.m.
STONE MOUNTAIN On the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, bells rang from Stone Mountain to Washington and around the world.
The bell-ringing and speeches by President Barack Obama, King’s children and family members, foot soldiers of the civil rights movement, and local officials commemorated the now famous speech made from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on April 28, 1963, that helped galvanize public support for civil rights legislation during a historic decade.
In DeKalb County, about 200 adults and children joined elected officials on the summit of Stone Mountain, referenced in the speech delivered before 250,000 people during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
On that sweltering day in 1963, when King called for freedom to ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, the mighty mountains of New York, the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania, the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado, and the curvaceous slopes of California, he also said:
“But not only that: Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.”
The Stone Mountain of his day was a favorite rallying place for the Ku Klux Klan, a point noted by several elected officials during the 90-minute program of speeches, prayer and music leading up to the bell ceremony.
The Stone Mountain ceremony and bell-ringing was replicated in Washington where Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, spoke from the same spot where King delivered his speech five decades earlier.
In a speech punctuated with “because they marched,” the president said that laws changed, legislatures changed and that even the White House changed, but that income inequality, troubled inner cities and stagnant wages amid growing corporate profits demonstrate that challenges remain.
“Because they kept marching, America changed,” he said. “Because they marched, a civil rights law was passed. Because they marched, a voting rights law was signed. Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open.”
Obama said that King’s generation dared to dream differently, to imagine something better.
“I am convinced that same imagination, the same hunger of purpose stirs in this generation,” he said. “We might not face the same dangers of 1963, but the fierce urgency of now remains. We may never duplicate the swelling crowds and dazzling procession of that day so long ago – no one can match King’s brilliance – but the same flame that lit the heart of all who are willing to take a first step for justice, I know that flame remains.”
After the speech, King’s surviving children – Martin Luther III, Bernice and Dexter King – his granddaughter, 5-year-old Yolanda Renee King, and other family members rang the bell that once hung in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where four little girls were killed during a racially motivated bombing in 1963.
When state Sen. Emanuel Jones and Stone Mountain Mayor Patricia Wheeler rang a Freedom Bell outside the visitor’s center on top of the mountain at 3 p.m., they were accompanied by a group of small children ringing hand bells.