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Weekend Highlights US Civil Rights Journey

  • VOA News

It is a four-day weekend in the U.S. capital city of Washington, with a holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., on Monday and Inauguration Day on Tuesday.

The significance of the back-to-back holidays honoring the slain civil rights leader and the swearing-in of the first African-American president is not lost on President-elect Barack Obama.

The president-elect told CNN (in an interview broadcast Sunday) that the inauguration would be an extraordinary personal moment, one which he hopes children will take for granted, even as it stuns older generations.

Mr. Obama noted that he choked up (became emotional) while preparing for the Democratic National Convention last August, which coincided with the 45th anniversary of the Reverend King's "I Have a Dream" speech on racial equality.

The president-elect will take the oath of office on the steps of the Capitol building, which was built by slaves centuries ago. The majestic landmark overlooks the National Mall, the expansive lawn at the heart of Washington where African slaves were once bought and sold.

The Reverend King's influence was also apparent today (Sunday) when the Obama family attended services at a Baptist church in Washington.

At the end of a reading, a young boy quoted a song that famously served as the conclusion of Reverend King's "I Have a Dream Speech," -- "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last."

Martin Luther King, Jr. led non-violent protests in the 1950s and 1960s against racial segregation and discrimination in the southern United States. Blacks were subject to intimidation and violence -- sometimes deadly -- at the hands of whites.

The Reverend King, who had a doctorate in religion, was a preacher in Montgomery, Alabama. He was assassinated April 4th, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had traveled to support striking garbage collectors.

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