When I was writing my novel, DEED SO, which is set in 1962, I re-experienced the world of segregation. I had forgotten how many constrains and barriers there were. While writing the novel, those separations came back to me -- the balconies in churches and theaters were the Negroes were expected to sit. The buildings with two water fountains and two entrances. The 'whites only' signs. When I looked back as a white person, an author and an adult, I also saw what my childish eyes could not -- the shrunken opportunities and the broken dreams.
In retrospect, it is breathtaking what Dr. King and others accomplished. However, it also underscores the importance of educating people about those times. A little chill went up my spine when I realized people can no longer picture how things were, because it suggests they might not fully value what is. They have to reach to embrace the urgency, audacity and authority of King's message. Writers, teachers and parents must continue to find ways to make history come alive, so we never lose the image in our rear-view mirrors of what we have left behind.
To go backward is unthinkable, but ignorance can make it possible. The same sun that shines down on me on this peaceful holiday of reflection, shone this morning on people who are in bondage. Separatism is not dead, and slave holding and slave trading stalk the planet. The work of a free people is never done.