Civil rights takes center stage

Two seminal events will be retold on Panhandle PBS this week. They’re both worth our attention.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, PBS will rebroadcast “The March.” What is that precisely? It is the march on Washington that on Aug. 28, 1963 culminated in one of the most stirring speeches of the 20th century. It was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in which he told of the day when “all God’s children” can look past the color of each other’s skin and live together peacefully.

“The March” tells how King spoke off the cuff for much of that speech, taking the crowd of some 250,000 spectators gathered on the Washington Mall along with him on a journey that would seek racial justice.

Then, at 8 p.m., PBS will broadcast “Freedom Summer: American Experience.” This special is both heartbreaking and triumphant.

It tells the story of how more than 700 students descended on Mississippi in 1964 to protest segregation and overt racial discrimination in that Dixie state. They sought to fight white supremacy and to demand civil rights legislation and laws from state and federal governments.

They would win, eventually, with the enactment of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts of 1964 and 1965.

Those laws were enacted with a grievous price in blood and persecution.

Three of those young student volunteers — James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman — disappeared in that Freedom Summer. They were captured and murdered by Ku Klux Klansmen and became martyrs to the cause they sought to move forward.

Back to back, Panhandle PBS will present these programs to remind us yet again about the struggle we’ve endured to get to this point — and also to tell us the campaign must continue.

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