Knoxville civil rights activist remembers MLK's "I Have a Dream"

Knoxville civil rights activist remembers MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech

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By DREW GARDNER
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech. It was a key moment in the civil rights movement and one local activists still remember well.

Dewey Roberts, Jr.'s roots in the civil rights movement run deep. He is a former president of the Knoxville Chapter of the NAACP and current volunteer at the Beck Cultural Center. His father Dewey Roberts, Sr. was a pioneer in the civil rights movement who fought for fair wages for all regardless of color.

Roberts still remembers the impact Dr. King's famous speech had on the movement.

"Those events shaped history, I think, for the country and the world in terms of the impact that it had," said Roberts.

He says in communities like Knoxville, that impact wasn't felt as quickly.

"I don't know if it made a lot of difference in terms of civil rights activities, because we were engaged in boycotts," said Roberts. "It was part of a general movement."

Pictures from that time in the city's history line the walls of the Beck Center as a daily reminder of the struggle.

Now 50 years later Roberts believes it's time for us as a country to re-visit Dr. King's message.

"This country has the potential to be the greatest country in the world, even greater than what it is, if we only realize the dream and be inclusive of all folks," said Roberts. "The dream is out there and it's a dream that not only African Americans have, but whites, Hispanics and all the other people who inhabit this country have to make come true. It cannot be one segment making it happen."

Roberts believes the election of President Obama showed huge strides in the movement, but there are still even bigger strides to be made.

"We have to re-visit that era and just look at what happened and how it did make things better and realize that we can make things better now," said Roberts. "If we don't learn from our history we're doomed to repeat it."

Roberts says we have already lost too much for his dream not to be fully realized.

The Beck Cultural Center features several exhibits on Dr. King and his "I Have a Dream" speech, as well as Knoxville's own civil rights history.

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