Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Dream

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood . . . .

That's a powerful line in one of the greatest oratories in American history--"I Have a Dream," delivered by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C. It was the zenith of the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," organized by a coalition of civil rights groups.

This particular line resonates with me because, among other reasons, I am the descendant of former slave owners in Georgia as well as the descendant of former slaves. I'm not unique in that regard. So at such a cosmic picnic, I would break bread with the modern descendants of Reuben Henry Sanford, who owned my great-great-grandfather, Billie Sanford. And I would parlay with the Birdsongs. Although I'm not descended from a Birdsong-owned slave, I'm here because the union of George Preston Birdsong and Matilda Manson, a free woman of color in Upson County, Georgia, produced my great-grandfather, Otis Manson. I would come to the table with the descendants of Nathaniel Emmons Johnson of Mason County, Kentucky, and Clay County, Missouri, who apparently owned my great-great-grandfather, Ezekiel Johnson and his mother, Harriet Mitchell (Zeke’s father was the prominent Kansas City-area merchant and civic leader, Dan Carpenter). All in the spirit of brotherhood . . . Loyal and Constant Readers know that I regard any debt as having been cancelled in my case long ago.

If this great breaking of bread and healing of hearts were to take place literally, it would be a banquet for all Americans. Who would be sitting across the table from you ? And, indeed, who would lift a glass with the children of Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Did you know: Martin Luther King, Jr. was named after his father, Michael Luther King, Sr.? That's no typo. Both the civil rights icon and his father, sometimes known as "Daddy King," were named "Michael" instead of Martin at birth. In April, 1957, "Daddy King" told the New York Post the story behind the name changes. When he was about 22, his father, James Albert King, told him that his true name was “Martin” and that his mother had nicknamed him “Mike.” Daddy King said that when Martin was born (at home), the attending birth specialist, having known the senior King for a very long time, "automatically" put down "Michael" on the son's birth certificate. Daddy King claimed not to have discovered this until 1934, some five years later, he applied for a passport. By this time, the erstwhile farmer had completed his studies and was a minister.

Tomorrow: The Genealogy of Martin Luther King, Jr.

1 comment:

Miss Trashahassee said...

My sentiments exactly. What a beautiful post.

Miss T