The Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr at March on Washington, August 28, 1963. Here he delivered his “I Have A Dream” oration.
At the march, Bob Dylan sung “Only A Pawn In Their Game” (link to verse and audio clip) which was a paean to the recently assassinated N.A.A.C.P. Mississippi leader Medgar Evers. Mr Evers was involved in desegregation and voter registration in the state and was shot to death in his own driveway.
Mr Dylan had traveled to Greenwood, Mississippi earlier that summer in July and had sung the song in a cotton patch as he demonstrated solidarity with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee [S.N.C.C.] and other voter-registration civil rights groups in the area.
The song’s last verse would again be tragically applicable when Dr King, perhaps the twentieth century’s greatest figure, is murdered five years later in 1968 while in Memphis, TN supporting a strike by refuge collectors:
Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught.
They lowered him down as a king.
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He’ll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain:
Only a pawn in their game.
Many of us never expected a minority presidential candidate to have a viable opportunity to be president of the United States. While many forget that the Reverend Jesse Louis Jackson won THIRTEEN primaries and caucuses in 1988, Governor Michael Dukakis was the presumptive nominee early on in the campaign. Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, has won one caucus in Iowa but is poised to win his first primary in South Carolina this Saturday.
Senator Obama at the King family’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on January 20, 2008.
Dr King’s maternal grandfather, Reverend Adam Daniel Williams, and father, Martin Luther King Sr, were pastors of the church. Martin Luther King Jr actually began his full-time ministry at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama while he was still completing his doctoral dissertation, not without considerable carelessness, from Boston University. This was fortuitous because the Rosa Parks civil-disobedience incident on the bus commenced there on December 1, 1955. Dr King eventually assumed the pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church when he returned east in 1960 to his birthplace in Atlanta.