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DANIELS: Celebrating the 'Masses' of the Mass Movement

Lee A. Daniels | 8/21/2013, 3 p.m.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn't there by himself.
Lee A. Daniels

In all these actions, it was the masses who gave certain individuals or a group of people among them the authority to represent them.

Of course, the Movement’s national leadership understood the role of the masses better than anyone. So, King, in his historic speech paid homage to them in words that are still too little recalled: “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 cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”

Tragically, they would for some years after that continue to endure such “unearned suffering.”

But the masses of the Movement persevered then and beyond the 1960s, and over the last four decades have brilliantly used the power of the vote their activism brought them to help redeem the Constitution’s “self-evident” declaration about the “unalienable rights” of human beings.

So, as America marks the hallowed moment of the 1963 March on Washington, let us remember not only who was on the podium but also who made up the vast throng surrounding the Lincoln Memorial – the ones who in equal measure made it an event for the ages.

Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His latest book is "Last Chance: The Political Threat to Black America."