March on Washington, August 1963

“You cannot get to where you are going if you don’t know where you have been.”- Anonymous

Any quick Google search about the Civil Rights Movement will yield results that include images of protests, sit-ins, marches and violence. You will also find steadfast statements from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many other civil rights leaders. And there wasn’t just a few sit-ins and marches. There were hundreds of demonstrations, large and small and many turned deadly. The fight for civil rights legislation and enforcement was decades long.

In some places, the fight for enforcement is still a struggle today. This is where history and knowledge are power. A quick peek back in time can show us how easily things can turn ugly, how easily people can turn a blind eye and go about their lives. By learning about the struggles of past generations, we can feel hope and strength. We can glean from their experiences and look for ways to change the world around us today.

It is easy to become discouraged when you see how prejudice and racism still abound. Just about any day of the week, you will see news stories that show hatred. When we know about the past, we know that change is possible. Change starts small, with just one person saying, “That isn’t right.” It starts when someone rejects racism. It starts when we talk to the children in our lives about how everyone is equal and they deserve equality under the law as it is stated. We must call it what it is, say it out loud. Let children know, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

When we are able to see the world without bias, we then have a responsibility to carry on that knowledge. Teach children about the past and what those struggles for civil rights looked like. And teach them that they have the power to make changes in their communities, big or small.