Updated at 2:22 pm EDT
In the run-up to President Barack Obama’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. described his dream, the rhetoric has been somewhat measured today.
Which gave the Rev. Al Sharpton an oratory opening, and he took it.
King fought the Jim Crow laws of the Old South, he said. “We come as the children of Dr. King to say that we are going to face Jim Crow’s children.” And he named one: “James B. Crow Jr.”
That’s the author of laws restricting voting rights today, Sharpton explained, his voice rising, adding: “Just like our mothers and fathers beat Jim Crow, we will beat James B. Crow Jr. esquire.”
King “brought us from disgrace to Amazing Grace,” he said. “He brought us from the butler to the president” — and Forest Whitaker, who plays the black butler to several presidents in a new film, was on hand as well today as speaker after speaker passed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in preparation for Obama’s speech.
A subdued Julian Bond was here, “the grandson of a slave.” His grandfather, born into slavery and college-educated in freedom, belonged to “a transcendent generation,” Bond said. And so did King.
Linda Johnson Robb spoke of her father’s signing of the civil rights and voting rights acts.
Caroline Kennedy spoke of the Supreme Courts “evisceration” of the voting rights act.
Afterward, he said, Kennedy shook his hand and said to King: “You have a dream.”
“Too many of us still believe our differences divide us,” Lewis said.