The Song Behind the Speech

Yesterday I saw the by now iconic video of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech which contains the line, “Free at last, free at last.” I’ve heard that a thousand times and remember it from when I was a kid. It made a powerful and immediate impact on our country.

But what’s often over looked is that Dr. King was referring to an old spiritual, sung by slaves years before. I got to thinking about that because the people showing that video had edited (censored?) Dr. King by cutting out the word “Negro.” King said “the old Negro spiritual,” but these people dropped out Negro since it’s no longer considered a proper way to refer to Black people.

Of course back in the 1960’s it was what you were supposed to say. I was taught to use that word till in the late 60’s the term Black superseded it. I have no argument with any group choosing the way they are referred too. I do however reject editing the past in a vain attempt to make it conform to our PC standards today.

So having been fired up I decided I’d actually look up what that old Negro Spiritual actually said. Here’s what I found:

from ” American Negro Songs ” by J. W. Work

Free at last, free at last
I thank God I’m free at last
Free at last, free at last
I thank God I’m free at last

Way down yonder in the graveyard walk
I thank God I’m free at last
Me and my Jesus going to meet and talk
I thank God I’m free at last

On my knees when the light pass’d by
I thank God I’m free at last
Tho’t my soul would rise and fly
I thank God I’m free at last

Some of these mornings, bright and fair
I thank God I’m free at last
Goin’ meet King Jesus in the air
I thank God I’m free at last

As you can see Dr. King expanded the meaning of the song, yet I believe stayed true to its essential meaning. Just wanted to shed some light on the source material he used in his most famous speech.

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The Song Behind the Speech

Remembering MLK At Work

I’m remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today just like I always do, by doing ministry. That’s what I’ve been called to do so today I’ll just keep trying to bring more light into a very dark world. Given how he lived his life I’m pretty sure Dr. King would much rather we do that than take another day to goof off and entertain ourselves.

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I’m actually old enough to remember Dr. King. Of course I never saw him in person or spoke to him, but I did see him on the TV. Even through that medium you could feel the impact of his personality and faith. I remembering hearing part of his “I Have a Dream Speech” and even at that age being moved.

He wasn’t perfect. Far from it in fact as we now know. But no one’s perfect and his lack of perfection doesn’t in anyway diminish what he tried to do. 

Sadly today we’ve wandered far from what he spoke of. Instead of ignoring color and focusing on the “content of our character” we are move focused on race, color and creed than ever before. Most of those who tried to take up Dr. King’s mantle of leadership have either failed to understand him or just aren’t listening. So we focus on race and then wonder why racial tension is rising?

The answer is obvious and I believe Dr. King would have called us out on it if he were still here. You become what you focus on. By focusing on our differences we only divide ourselves from ourselves. This Greek Tragedy that’s being played out today in America doesn’t have to happen. If we’d only listen to the prophetic voice of Dr. King we could still find that promised land he spoke of at the end of his life.

Martin-Luther-King-Quotes-Faith

If only…  

Rest in Peace Dr. King. God willing we’ll still find our way to the Land you now inhabit. Amen. 

 

Remembering MLK At Work