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Professors Preview Anniversary of King's March

Professor Donald Tibbs

August 22, 2013

Professors Donald Tibbs and Kevin Woodson discussed the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s historic March on Washington with the press.

Tibbs spoke with veteran Washington correspondent Jon Decker about the commemoration of the historic event on August 20 (subscription required). He and Woodson were quoted by the Philadelphia Tribune about the march on August 23.

In the radio interview, Tibbs said the occasion marks an opportunity for President Barack Obama – who will speak at the ceremony – to draw parallels between the vision King laid out in his “I Have a Dream” speech and the nation’s present state of affairs, Tibbs said. 

“Certainly things are better than they were during the 1960s, but we still have a lot to reckon with,” Tibbs observed, citing the shooting of Trayvon Martin and a recent court ruling that tactics employed for more than a decade by the New York City Police Department violated the rights of racial minorities. 

Although Obama’s previous remarks about racial matters have sparked criticism, Tibbs said, the anniversary of the March on Washington represents “ a moment for the president to put aside concerns about backlash that he might experience.” 

“The March on Washington began as an issue about race,” Tibbs said. “It led to the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act and all the legislation related to race and civil rights in the country.”

Although Obama’s election and re-election reflects progress the nation has made since King’s historic march on August 28 1963, mass incarceration and other issues continue to disproportionately affect racial minorities and others who live in impoverished communities, Tibbs said. 

Tibbs told the Tribune that lingering issues show that King’s dream “remains just that: A dream.” 

Woodson said “structural inequalities” persist in the nation that require “substantial education reform, changes in our country’s approach to drug addiction and the punishment of low-level drug offenders, and , perhaps, greater job training programs that might help provide some workers valuable skills."