Aretha Franklin, Martin Luther King, and the call to Let Freedom Ring…

Aretha at Obama InaugurationOn August 28, 1963, at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I Have A Dream speech.

Just two months earlier, on June 23, 1963, he gave an earlier version of that speech at the Walk to Freedom in Detroit, Michigan.  One of the organizers for that earlier event was Reverend Clarence L. Franklin.  Reverend Franklin’s young daughter, named Aretha, stood by her father’s side as Dr. King gave his speech.

Though the phrase “I Have a Dream” is the best known from the speech, Dr. King also made great use of another phrase. Note the way Dr. King emphasized “Let Freedom Ring,” truly bringing it to life (from the manuscript of the Aug. 28 version of the speech):

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:
My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,    From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

And years later, at the inauguration of the first American African-American President, Barack Obama, Aretha sang those words “let freedom ring.”

RIP Aretha.


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