I can remember the moment in 1974 when I first heard Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I was in 4th grade at Lake Highlands Elementary, and Mrs. McKee was teaching us about the civil rights movement. What made her task more challenging was that Dallas was undergoing court-ordered busing intended to solve the district’s long history of foot-dragging on desegregating the city’s schools. The civil right movement still had work to do, and it was focused on us.
Unlike my many of my white peers, I was already aware of what was going on. My parents supported civil rights, and I’d watched the riots in Boston over school busing on the evening news. I’d even spent time visiting South Dallas to pick up and drop off an African American teen that my father was mentoring. My father had also told me about our ancestor’s slave plantation, and the African American family that took the name Tomlinson after emancipation. But it was King’s speech that drove it home for me when he said:
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.