While a federal court order ultimately forced the integration of Montgomery’s public transportation system rather than the boycott itself, the Montgomery Bus Boycott dealt a crushing blow to the belief that minorities had neither the will nor the opportunity to change the rules and encouraged African Americans to believe that black lives mattered.But the day of liberation from the shackles of segregation would be a long time in coming, for the Sixteenth Baptist Church and the Edmund Pettus Bridge still lay ahead.While history reminds us of the heroics of the giants of the Civil Rights Movement, it sometimes fails to acknowledge the struggles and sacrifices of the men, women and children that marched behind them. For they too faced the humiliation of shouting mobs and hate filled faces as they walked along the blacktop roads and city streets of America. They were housekeepers and maids, laborers and farmers, students and teachers, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who dared to believe that their lives and their dignity mattered.
On August the 28th, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and spoke to the heart of America. It was one of his finest moments. It was the day he told America that he had a dream. In that speech he said, “I have a dream that one day, . . . right [down] 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.”On the day of the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery march, Bernice King and I stood on the steps of the Alabama capital and held hands as thousands of people marched towards us. For that moment of time, we became the embodiment of the little black girl and the little white girl holding hands as sisters down in Alabama.
Fifty years ago, you stood here in front of your state capitol and sought an opportunity as a citizen of Alabama to be recognized and heard by your governor. And he refused. But today, as his daughter and as a person of my own, I want to do for you what my father should have done and recognize you for your humanity and for your dignity as a child of God, as a person of goodwill and character. and as a fellow Alabamian and say, “Welcome home.”