Today someone asked me, referring to the recent events of Charlottesville and the WH response, “How long will this last?” It is a question that continues.
On March 25, 1965, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a crowd of 25,000 marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in support of voting rights for African-Americans. At the conclusion of the march, King delivered this speech, familiarly referred to as “How Long, Not Long.” The speech was defiant at times, referencing the violence that beset the movement at the time. In fact, a previous march on March 7 was met with a violent response from state troopers who beat and gassed marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. King’s speech makes it clear that the movement cannot be dissuaded after coming so far, encouraging the people to keep up the struggle.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr:
I know you are asking today, “How long will it take?” Somebody’s asking, “How long will prejudice blind the visions of men, darken their understanding, and drive bright-eyed wisdom from her sacred throne?” Somebody’s asking, “When will wounded justice, lying prostrate on the streets of Selma and Birmingham and communities all over the South, be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men?” Somebody’s asking, “When will the radiant star of hope be plunged against the nocturnal bosom of this lonely night, plucked from weary souls with chains of fear and the manacles of death? How long will justice be crucified, and truth bear it?”
I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, because “truth crushed to earth will rise again.”
How long? Not long, because “no lie can live forever.”
How long? Not long, because “you shall reap what you sow.”
How long? Not long:
Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne,
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above his own.
How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.