ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
August 28, 2013
Guests: Martin Luther King III, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Phillip Agnew, Karen Bass>
CHRIS HAYES, HOST: As dawn broke on Washington, D.C., 50 years ago
today, no one knew what to expect. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been up
most of the night in his room at the Willard Hotel, writing and rewriting
the speech he was to give that day -- though the most sublime passage would
never appear on that page.
The earliest press reports that morning suggested that only about
25,000 people would show up. Organizers of the March on Washington for
Jobs and Freedom were nervous. Putting out fires, working behind the
scenes to keep the collision behind the march intact and preparing to
channel the sea of humanity that they hoped to call forth.
And then the buses and the trains came, and the people came with them
by the thousands. And by that afternoon, more than 200,000 people -- black
and white -- spread out before the shadow of the great emancipator,
disciplined and exuding the spirit of solidarity.
They listened to speakers one by one who called the nation to meet the
demands that justice placed upon it, and about 2:40 in the afternoon, the
last speaker rose to the lectern. Some fretted the TV cameras would be
already gone by the time the reverend spoke having already left to process
film for the evening`s news. But the crowd leaned forward and this is what
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS ICON: I am happy to join with
you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for
freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we
stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree
came as a great beckoning light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had
been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous
daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro is still not free. One hundred
years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles
of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty
in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the comers
of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.
In a sense we`ve come to our nation`s capital to cash a check. When
the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the
Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a
promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a
promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be
guaranteed the "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty and the pursuit of
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory
note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring
this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a
check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We
refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of
opportunity of this nation. And so, we`ve come to cash this check, a check
that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of
We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the
fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling
off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the
time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit
path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the
quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is
the time to make justice a reality for all of God`s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the
moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro`s legitimate discontent will
not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.
1963 is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the
Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude
awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.
And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the
Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will
continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of
But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the
warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of
gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let
us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of
bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and
discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into
physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights
of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community
must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white
brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize
that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.
And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound
to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the
pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When
will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is
the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be
satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot
gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.
We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro`s basic mobility is from a
smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our
children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by
signs stating: "For Whites Only."
We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote
and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.
No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until
"justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."1
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials
and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And
some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left
you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of
You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work
with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina,
go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos
of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I
still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the
true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that
all men are created equal."
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.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state
sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of
oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a
nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the
content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious
racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of
"interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama,
little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little
white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill
and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and
the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall
be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair
a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the
jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together,
to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom
together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God`s
children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country `tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land
where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim`s pride, from every
mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so
let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let
freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from
the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let
freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that: Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from
every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it
ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city,
we will be able to speed up that day when all of God`s children, black men
and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able
to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at
last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
HAYES: You`ve been watching Dr. Martin Luther King`s "I Have a Dream"
speech delivered 50 years ago today.
Good evening. I`m Chris Hayes.
And joining tonight on this special edition of ALL IN: Martin Luther
King III, human rights activist and the eldest of Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr.; Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat representing the
District of Columbia, she was an organizer of the 1963 march. And Reverend
Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, my
colleague, host of MSNBC`s "POLITICS NATION".
When you listen to that speech in its entirety, what thing that comes
through is the rhetorical tight rope that your father was walking. He was
speaking to the crowd. But he was also -- knew that he had one of the
largest audiences he was probably going to have. Who was the audience to
MARTIN LUTHER KING III, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I think the audience
has become different than who it was. That day the audience was not just
the crowd, but it was Congress. It was the president.
It really was a nation. Now it`s become the world in a real sense.
Even though it was a dream he shared for this nation.
HAYES: There`s a repeated return to a very insistent tone, that if
you think we`re going to blow off steam and go away, if you think that you
kind of slough us off -- and he manages to do this in a way that it is very
deftly graceful and gracious and openhearted. But what comes through is,
we are not moving.
SHARPTON: Well, you know, one of the things that you have to think
about, when you hear the speech in its entirety is that he laid out some of
the same issues that Martin III and I are dealing with today and dealt with
Saturday. And the congresswoman deals with all the time.
He mentioned at least twice police brutality. He talked about
economic inequality. He talked about blacks not being able to vote in the
South, not feeling we had a reason to vote in the north.
If he were to make that speech today and as Martin Luther King, they
would call it the grievance industry because he laid out some of the same
grievances that we are accused of exacerbating today. It`s amazing to hear
him raise issues that we get condemned for raising.
HAYES: And particularly the passage, the very striking passage on the
promissory note, which is that we have been given a bad check marked
"insufficient funds", which got a huge laugh from the crowd of recognition.
REP. ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D-C), 1963 MARCH ORGANIZER: But, by the
time he got there, he had laid the predicate. The speech was brilliant.
Leave aside its oratoricals.
He starts out, before you get to the promissory note. He gives you
the historical basis for it, the emancipation proclamation. And by the
time you get to modern times, that has become a real promissory note.
When you consider this man -- the speech every -- virtually every
other line is a metaphor for the audience. There was -- what the reverend
said is very important to the note. How do you speak to the audiences that
Martin indicated, when you know that most of the people there were black, a
third were white. You`re speaking to the larger American public, to the
HAYES: "The Washington Post" editorial page for instance.
NORTON: He was speaking to us, the young militants. He`s talked
about the marvelous militancy. He managed to admonish us at the same time.
Don`t go overboard.
Here was the penultimate skill of an orator who can speak to several
audiences at one time, and it as if he -- you would say, yes, that line was
for me. And somehow else will say, and yet -- you`re right, it doesn`t
read like a set of grievances. It reads like a poem. It reads like the
oration of a poem.
HAYES: And it`s precisely that genius that has brought about the
mini-industry of appropriating the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther
King, because there is so much in that speech. And so much in the message,
that people -- I want to play a brief sound clip. We`re going from the
most sublime to the most mundane, I apologize.
But this is what 30, 40, 50 years does, which has been appropriated by
the conservatives, the right, by all sorts of folks about what he actually
meant. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: If Dr. King were alive today, I believe he
would be broken hearted about what has happened to the traditional family,
and not only among blacks.
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: We feel the spirit of Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr. who would challenge us to honor the sacred charters
of our liberty.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe that gun appreciation day honors the
legacy of Dr. King. The truth is, I think Martin Luther King would agree
with me, if he were alive today.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
HAYES: I`m not asking you for a sort of definitive historical account
of who would not be in the graces of the departed. But it is now a game in
American politics to appropriate the legacy of your father for these
different political lines.
KING: Actually, it is. That is good and bad. So, you know --
HAYES: How is it good?
KING: It`s good because everyone can sort of immerse themselves and
say we do believe in Dr. King. Now, it`s upon others of us, must challenge
them to enforce what dad wanted to happen, and not to try to say, well, Dr.
King fits -- Dr. King is against affirmative action -- well, that`s just
KING: Even though he wanted to see the day when his children would be
judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their
character. Reality is, maybe I as an older person am judged by the content
of my character. But masses of black folk, we saw that with Trayvon
Martin. He was profiled and tragically lost his life.
So, masses of young black people are not looked at by the content of
their character yet. We`ve got to work on that about.
NORTON: And, you know, Jesus Chris -- if you forgive the metaphor,
Jesus Christ is appropriated by everybody from the far right to the
Catholic Church. And that`s what happens when you become a universal
figure, when what you said appeals across the board. So, in a real sense,
I don`t think Martin Luther King would mind. He would make sure we
clarified the way Martin is doing now.
SHARPTON: I think even Jesus, we at least let the disciples
interpret. It was amazing to me, these guys and ladies on the right seem
to feel they know Dr. King better than his children, better than the people
that worked with him, the people that were on his team. I mean, it`s like
HAYES: Or even better than the plain historical record.
SHARPTON: He was speaking for himself.
HAYES: The march for jobs and freedom pamphlet, OK, this is the
pamphlet. And I`d like to hear you talk about this. You`re one of the
organizers. We marched to regress old grievances and helped to resolve an
American crisis, the crisis born of the twin evils of racism and economic
deprivation. They robbed all people, Negro and white, of dignities, self-
respect and freedom, their livelihoods destroyed. The Negro unemployed are
thrown to the streets, driven to despair, to hatred, to crime, to violence
-- all America is robbed of the contribution.
At a later point in the pamphlet, they talk about organizing the
unemployed for the march. It will serve no purpose to hold a march for
jobs and freedom if unemployed people are not able to come and add their
voices and presence to demonstration.
There was a profound economic message of economic justice and
NORTON: At first, it was going to be a march for freedom. A. Philip
Randolph, you have to get contents of that word. In 1963 --
HAYES: It`s fascinating. Freedom is too errant.
NORTON: You can appropriate by the way, very easily. But if you put
jobs in there, one of those who are denying African-Americans the right to
a job going to do, what are those who don`t mind having what we have today
twice the unemployment rate for blacks and whites. You got to face those
By the way, the speech was full of facts. It was full of
incontrovertible facts. And somehow he managed to do that under the guise
HAYES: This event was an organizing event, as much as it was an event
of oratory. The speech was a crowning moment of American oratory. But we
think now, march on Washington. Oh, there`s going to be a march on
Washington, these people are going to march on Washington.
There was no march on Washington until there was the march on
SHARPTON: I think it`s critical, the organizing that congresswoman is
talking about, the organizing to bring people together is what really was
the message. You`re talking about hundreds of thousands of people that
never happened before. They did not know what Dr. King was going to do.
You know, in hindsight now, we look back. You would think they went to the
"I Have a Dream" march.
They did not know about the dream until they got to the march. They
went to stand up for freedom and jobs. And once you remove the purposes,
then you don`t have to deal with the issues.
HAYES: How did you -- this is a mundane question. It`s fascinating
me. My father is an organizer. I grew up in a household of organizers.
There`s no -- obviously, there`s no Facebook. There`s no internet.
No one had pulled this off before. I mean, 200,000 people, where are they
going to use the bathroom in the mall. This was an unbelievable feat of
NORTON: It was, never had so many people gathered in any single place
for a single cause. Not to mention black and white people together.
Frankly, but for Bayard Rustin, I don`t think there was a human being who
had enough experience you could put together and pull this off, and
remember they had been mentored by A. Philip Randolph.
And think of who A. Philip Randolph was. He was the only living
African-American who had organized a lasting national movement, the
Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
There was all of the expertise there was, and there was enormous doubt
everywhere, that it could be pulled off.
HAYES: And you father, of course, had been through years of working
with buyers and others to build up organizing around the boycott, and build
up organizing all through the south. You can`t flip a switch on and get
200 people at the Capitol.
KING: Two hundred, you mean --
HAYES: Two hundred thousand.
KING: Yes, 200 plus thousand, in fact. No, absolutely not.
But you know, it was -- it really was a coalition, but as the
congresswoman stated, Bayard Rustin was critically -- it could not have
been done without this huge monumental organizing effort.
HAYES: Human rights activist Martin Luther King III and Congresswoman
Eleanor Holmes Norton, one of the amazing organizers who made that happen.
Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Rev. Al Sharpton`s going to stick
around. Coming up - we`ll take a look at the 10 demands of the March on
Washington which included "a national minimum wage act that will give all
Americans a decent standard of living." Sound familiar? And Chris
Matthews joins us next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.: We cannot be discouraged
by a Supreme Court decision that said we don`t need this critical provision
of the Voting Rights Act, because look at the states. It made it harder
for African-Americans and Hispanics and students, and the elderly and the
infirm and poor working folks to vote. What do you know? They showed up,
stood in line for hours and voted anyway, so obviously we don`t need any
kind of law. But a great democracy does not make it harder to vote than to
buy an assault weapon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was former president Bill Clinton today marking the 50th
anniversary of the March on Washington, the step to the Lincoln Memorial
part of a nationwide commemoration. Still with me is Rev. Al Sharpton,
founder and president of the National Action Network and host of MSNBC`s
"Politics Nation". And joining me is my colleague Chris Matthews, host of
"Hardball" on MSNBC at 7:00 p.m. This speech happened in Washington. The
march happened in Washington for a reason which was Washington was where
the movement wanted to see action on civil rights legislation. That was
the predicate. The first demand is comprehensive and effective civil
rights legislation from the present congress without compromise or
filibuster to guarantee all Americans -- and they list different things
they wanted. Kennedy had announced his intentions - his support for such
an act. What was the dynamics here politically of showing up with 200,000
people in the mall?
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST OF MSNBC SHOW "HARDBALL": Well he was forking
his way. I mean you get the tapes, you can get some tapes to hear the
conversations. Kennedy was working his way through the Judiciary Committee
in the House, so he was working - Dick Daley in Chicago, the boss - he was
working him to get some of the liberal members who were being a little bit
too perfect-o. They wanted to be perfectionists. They wouldn`t push the
liberal -- the civil rights bill. This is the one on public accommodations
and fair employment practices. This was the one that said you can go to
the restrooms, you can go to the hotels, you can go to the restaurants.
And this is the doors that had been closed to African-Americans especially
in the South. And he was pushing that through right up `til he died. Now
you could wonder whether he would he have ever gotten past (Comer) and
those guys on Rules Committee, but he was doing what he could do. And then
of course the shock of his assassination, and the legislative genius of the
President, and of course the outside - as you`ve said so many times - the
partnership between outside and inside - all came together and magically
they got a bill through and the Supreme Court said yes.
And that`s the other thing we keep forgetting.
MATTHEWS: We had a liberal Supreme Court. A right wing Supreme Court
might`ve stricken that down and said `Sorry. Interstate commerce is
stretched too much here.` But they didn`t.
HAYES: And there`s this incredible moment that happens after the
March and after the speech in which a bunch of the folks who had just
spoken go over to the White House, right? And this is - this is John Lewis
saying after the March on Washington was over, President Kennedy had
invited us back down to the White House. He stood in the door of the Oval
Office, he greeted each one of us. He was like a beaming proud father, he
was so pleased, so happy that everything had gone well. They were sweating
it in the White House. Because if this didn`t go well, they were ...
SHARPTON: Well it had never happened before, so they didn`t know if
violence was going to break out, they didn`t know what was going to happen,
and I think that the President invited them over because he was relieved
and congratulated them for making their point which he had in many ways
associated, therefore putting a lot of political capital behind.
But the other thing I think that is very important is the reason the
demonstration was in Washington. It was that they wanted the federal
government to supersede the state laws. They were fighting states. Notice
King`s words `governors` lips dripping with the words of interposition and
nullification.` They were nullifying federal law in opposing state law
over federal law. That`s why they wanted a bill from Washington - to
protect them from Alabama and Mississippi, et cetera.
HAYES: One of the things that happens in history, right, is that when
we look back, everyone seems like they`re all on the same page. But at the
time of course it`s incredibly contentious, and there`s tons of conflict.
You`re talking about ...
MATTHEWS: All Kennedy`s pals in the South were segregationists. His
best friend was George Smathers, his best friend was a segregationist.
Richard Russell - the beloved Richard Russell. The Russell Building is
named after the guy - an out and out segregationist. The great anti-war
hero Fulbright, total segregationist. Twenty-two southern democrats. The
Republican party, a great irony I talked about tonight - only two
Republican senators voted against Voting Rights - John Tower of Texas and
Strom who was always a secret Dixiecrat anyway.
HAYES: (Inaudible) over recently.
MATTHEWS: He was a (inaudible) Dixiecrat ...
HAYES: There was also - there was also conflict and contention
inside the movement. John Lewis shows up with a speech in which he says
he`s going to get up at that podium and say `we do not support the
President`s civil rights legislation because it doesn`t go far enough.`
SHARPTON: But there was always conflict in the movement, the unsaid
things that we haven`t mentioned through all of the last few day is black
politicians couldn`t speak. Adam Clayton Powell couldn`t speak because of
the politics of it.
SHARPTON: Adam Clayton Powell had to sit at the side and listen to
HAYES: Why couldn`t he speak?
SHARPTON: Because no one knew what he would say.
SHARPTON: And there was the tension with the Kennedys and all of
that. So it was a lot of - of what we hear today, we romanticized that it
didn`t happen yesterday - it did. (Inaudible).
MATTHEWS: I remember Dr. King. I have to tell you. He was
controversial right to the end.
MATTHEWS: When he started pushing for jobs, and then he started
pushing against the Vietnam War, I remember my brother saying `Why doesn`t
he stick to his thing?`
MATTHEWS: Because the thing meant blacks were getting killed in
MATTHEWS: So that thing enlarged.
MATTHEWS: It wasn`t like he started the Vietnam War, you know?
HAYES: Rev. Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC`s "Politics Nation" and of
course Chris Matthews, host of "Hardball" on MSNBC. Thank you, Gentlemen.
MATTHEWS: Thanks, Chris.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
HAYES: Up next, 50 years after, the speech of the nation`s first
African-American president helped preserve the memory of the March on
Washington. We`ll hear what President Obama had to say as he stood in the
same spot as Dr. King.
HAYES: On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr.
laid out his vision for an equal society, telling those who marched
alongside him "1963 is not an end but a beginning." A half century later
the nation`s first African-American president stood on those same steps.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.: Because they kept marching,
America changed. Because they marched the civil rights law was passed,
because they marched, a voting rights law was signed. Because they
marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters
and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing
somebody else`s laundry. Or shining somebody else`s shoes.
Because they marched, the city councils changed and state legislatures
changed, Congress changed, and yes, eventually the White House changed.
Because they marched, America became more free and more fair. Not just for
African-Americans, but for women and Latinos, Asians and Native Americans.
For Catholics, Jews and Muslims. For gays, for Americans with
disabilities. America changed for you and for me. And the entire world
drew strength from that example. Whether it be young people who watched
from the other side of an iron curtain and would eventually tear down that
wall. Or the young people inside South Africa who would eventually end the
scourge of apartheid.
Those are the victories they won with iron wills and hope in their
hearts. That is the transformation that they wrought with each step of
their well-worn shoes. That`s the debt that I and millions of Americans
owe those maids, those laborers, those porters, those secretaries, folks
who could`ve run a company maybe if they had ever had a chance. Those
white students who put themselves in harm`s way even though they didn`t
have to. Those Japanese Americans who recall their own internment. Those
Jewish Americans who had survived the Holocaust. People who could`ve given
up and given in, but kept on keeping on, knowing that weeping may endure
for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: How can what happened 50 years ago shape what happens now?
We`ll talk about the new frontier of civil rights with a special panel,
including Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain civil rights leader
Medgar Evers, who talked on Monday about the ways in which her generation
has failed to carry that day forward.
HAYES: The placards at the march read "Now" on this inspiring day as
we look back 50 years and see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears
the message and the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We also encounter
the now. What needs doing now. When we return, how the next generation of
civil rights leaders are following in the footsteps of Dr. King to advance
the dream. And MSNBC wants to hear from you - what is your cause? What is
your vision for the future? Share it with us by going to
advancingthedream.msnbc.com, or Tweeting with the hashtag
#advancingthedream. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP AGNEW, EXECTIVE DIRECTOR OF DREAM DEFENDERS: We are the
forgotten generation. We are the illegals, we are the apathetic, we are
the thugs, we are the generation that you locked in the basement while
Movement conversations were going on upstairs. We are the generation that
you chose to be afraid of our light, our darkness, who we came to love.
But we are here today to join in a conversation that will shake the very
foundations of this Capitol.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was Phillip Agnew of the Dream Defenders who just ended a
31-day occupation of Florida Governor Rick Scott`s office, speaking over
the weekend in Washington, D.C., nearly 50 years after the March on
Washington. Joining me now is civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams,
widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, founder and chairman of
the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Institute and former NAACP chair; the one and
only Phillip Agnew, executive director of Dream Defenders as you just saw
on there, a civil rights group; and Congresswoman Karen Bass, Democrat from
California and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Ms. Evers-Williams, I have to start with you and ask about what it has
been like to relive 50 years ago when that time came so fresh off the worst
day in your life.
MYRLIE EVERS-WILLIAMS, WIDOW OF SLAIN CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER MEDGAR
EVERS, FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN OF THE MEDGAR AND MYRLIE EVERS INSTITUTE AND
FORMER NAACP CHAIR: Quite honestly it`s been very difficult. But it`s
been very encouraging and exciting. All in the same. Let`s go back.
Medgar had been assassinated about a month before the March on Washington.
One of the most tragic and unnerving experiences of my life and of my
He came home from a meeting holding tee-shirts that read "Jim Crow
Must Go," and as he got out of the car, he was shot in the back. We heard
the rifle shot. The children ran to the bathroom and tried to get into the
tub. It had had been described as the safest place in the house - Medgar
had taught them that. I went to the front door. The force of the bullet
had pushed him forward in his car, and with the strength of whatever he was
able to move himself to the door with his keys in his hand. That`s what we
I must tell you at that point in time, all of the civil rights
activities disappeared. It was the loss of my husband and my children`s
father. We got through the first funeral. He was buried at Arlington
Cemetery, and my life as a widow became front page. So, today I felt
myself going through so many, so many, many emotions. That of being so
proud of seeing young people step up, a younger generation step up and
seize the moment and the opportunity, and having that feeling that
everything is not lost, by golly, we have such a bright future here with
these young people. But also, in the back of my mind there were all of
When I saw the King children, I became very full, because I remembered
Coretta Scott King as well as Dr. King and how much they wanted that family
unit together. How much they have suffered, of hearing the Reverend
Bernice King speak and deliver such a forceful message. It reminded me of
her father and I felt this sense of pride with that, so I`ve had all of
these mixed emotions.
HAYES: Phillip, when you hear that, one of the things that`s been
striking to me about the Dream Defenders is how clearly and forthrightly
you place yourself in the tradition of the civil rights struggle ...
PHILLIP AGNEW, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF DREAM DEFENDERS: Yes.
HAYES: ... of direct action, direct non-violent action.
HAYES: How do you feel being here and when you hear the story of Medgar
Evers, knowing the line of sacrifice that has ...
HAYES: ... come before you?
AGNEW: You know I speak for myself and others and say we`re just
humbled to be here. The Civil Rights Movement is our compass, it`s our
blueprint, it`s the reason for being, it`s the reason why we`re here. And
it provides us - we`re blessed with having that as a compass, a due north
for us, and so it`s humbling to be here, it`s humbling to hear you speak so
highly of us, and really the work that we have to do is sadly reminiscent
of the work that was spoken about in the "I Have a Dream" speech.
HAYES: Well, one of the things I think that`s interesting is you did
this occupation - Dream Defenders did this occupation for a special session
and that a law named after Trayvon Martin and racial profiling, and the
school to prison pipeline - are you reinventing direct action or are you
going back and reading the old manuals?
HAYES: Are you learning the ...
AGNEW: Right. The way we look at it is you know we`ve got a car.
And that car was built very well. But we`ve got the benefit of some GPS
AGNEW: Anti-lock brakes, and technology we have to use at our
disposal. So, no, we`re not reinventing the wheel, but we`re using
everything at our disposal to make sure that our car goes fast, our car
goes far and that we see victory in everything that we`re doing.
HAYES: Congresswoman, there were I think four African-American
members of Congress on the day that Dr. King gave his - gave his speech.
REP. KAREN BASS, D-CALIFORNIA: Yes.
HAYES: There are north of - I guess ...
HAYES: ... 44 today. How do you understand yourself as someone who
is both in some senses - you inherit the tradition of outside direct action
activism, and you also are within the halls of power yourself.
BASS: Exactly, well, it`s absolutely what shaped my life. I mean, I
remember 50 years ago, I was nine years old, but I remembered very well.
And you have two and a half generations here. Because it was the struggles
of the Civil Rights Movement that absolutely shaped my life, and made me
make a commitment at a very young age that I was going to devote my life to
fighting for social and economic justice.
And so I spent many years before being in office being involved in
direct action, studied the Civil Rights Movement and have spent a great
deal of time trying to raise the next generation of activists ...
HAYES: So how does your - how does the psychological experience of
being the person who is sitting in a politician`s office and being the
person who is going to work in the politician`s office? How does that
change you? How do you view that now? Is there a part of you that changes
BASS: Well there is a part of my behavior maybe that changes, but not
my gut, not my soul, not my principles. And so to me, I fundamentally
believe the way you bring about true change is through an inside and an
BASS: And so direct action community organizing - I`ve had a ball
trying to apply it in a legislative context. And there`s absolutely a way
to do it. And so I think it`s very consistent. I love your GPS.
AGNEW: Yes, thank you.
HAYES: Do you think -- one of the things that I think when you go
back to the actual history of this was - one of the things that they had to
do with the speech was press on allies, right? I mean, there were allies
in power who were sympathetic to the Movement ...
HAYES: ... But also (inaudible) were sympathetic to the movement but
didn`t want to move too fast and lose too many Southern Dixiecrat votes,
EVERS-WILLIAMS: That`s true. But it`s something about momentum.
When it starts, it`s difficult to slow it down, particularly if it`s for
the right cause. And this is the case. And to see what is happening today
- if I may turn to you and say your generation - I am just so happy and
pleased to see what`s happening.
HAYES: Can you feel that momentum when it`s happening? Do you know
the momentum is happening when you feel it.
BASS: Yes. Absolutely you do.
AGNEW: I think all you have to do - if I can - all you have to do is
look around the country, and you can see it in different pockets and
there`s been a long-running question - where are the young people at? And
I think a lot of young people are saying "we`re here."
AGNEW: We`ve been in North Carolina defending voting rights, you know?
We`ve been here in Florida fighting against racial oppression, we`ve been
in Ohio fighting for fair wages. And so we`re here, I mean, you can feel
it, and you can see it, and I think we`re in a very interesting time.
BASS: And the skill of an organizer is to always have your pulse on
your people so that you know when that is happening. But even though I sit
in the House of Representatives, I think the outside pressure is absolutely
HAYES: Does it bother you when you have outside pressure?
HAYES: I feel like every policy - even the ones ...
HAYES: ... in their heart of hearts are there ...
HAYES: ... that there`s some party that thinks `Aw, man, you`d make
my life so much easier if you ...
BASS: You`re supposed to hold me accountable. That`s why I love to
have town halls.
EVERS-WILLIAMS: But one of the things that I hope for is that there
will be more and more publicity on what our younger people are doing today.
It`s absolutely necessary to move forward.
HAYES: And there is a lot of really exciting stuff, Dream Defenders
being just one of them. Civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams, it`s
a great, great honor to have you here. Phillip Agnew from Dream Defenders
AGNEW: Thank you.
HAYES: ... and Congresswoman Karen Bass, thank you all so much.
BASS: Thank you.
AGNEW: Thank you.
HAYES: That`s it for this special edition of "All In." Thank you so
much for being here with us tonight. It`s amazing to be able to watch that
speech and share it with you. The Rachel Maddow Show starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST OF THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: Good evening, Chris.
That was amazing, and I have to say, looking back at last night, I need to
commend you for kicking my butt in the ratings last night.
MADDOW: In the hope that you don`t make a habit of it.
Congratulations, my friend (inaudible).
HAYES: Thank you, Rachel.
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