50 years after "I Have a Dream:" Tyler then and now

50 years after "I Have a Dream:" Tyler then and now

TYLER (KYTX) - Martin Luther King Jr. changed history with his momentous "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington.

It's a day many Tyler locals remember very clearly, as they think about the beginning of change in their own city.

"It used to be a different place," says Tyler's current school board president, Orenthia Mason.

She was 15 years old when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told the world about his dream for equality - the type of equality that didn't exist in Tyler 50 years ago.

"If you walked downtown, we as African American children had to step aside if any of our native Caucasian Tylerites walked by, you had to go through the back doors of all the buildings," Mason says. 

She was raised in a segregated Tyler community.

"I was a graduate at Emmett J. Scott High School in 1970 and that was the year that the public schools integrated, so I remember that firmly," she says.

Exactly 50 years after king's speech, Mason stands in downtown Tyler alongside other city leaders, reciting his powerful words.

"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 at a table together with brotherhood. I have a dream."

That specific piece of King's speech is dear to Tyler Pastor Stuart Baskin's heart.

"This day is so important to me because my great great grandfather was a judge in Waco. He came to Texas from Alabama and he brought with him a slave. When the Emancipation Proclamation came down, he freed his slave and helped him get into business. We discovered just a few years ago that the great great grandson of that slave happens to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas," Baskin explains.

Baskin eventually got to meet Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson in person.

"Fulfilling in some ways Dr. King's dream," he says proudly.

He is one of many in our Tyler community, who hope to keep that dream alive.

"Forget about color of skin," Mason says. "Let's just work together to make the world a better place!"

She listens to Martin Luther King's words: "Free at last, free at last, good God almighty we are free at last."

Mason and other community leaders say while Tyler was not as progressive as many other cities across America with the civil rights movement, there have been great strides made right here in our local communities, and that effort will continue.


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