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During the mid to late 60’s I learned a few of my civil rights lessons at our family dinner table.

My family is white, and we lived in the south suburbs of Chicago. I recall my dad was often agitated – in a negative way – by the work of Martin Luther King. So much so I remember (at maybe age 7 or 8) asking him if King was his new boss at work (!) – as he would often grouse about work issues at the end of the day.

In hindsight, I believe my folks had attitudes that were pretty typical of that era (think Archie Bunker). They were pretty provincial – all the way around. I know their own childhoods were very strict and there are days when I wonder how they survived the 20th century. Must have been quite a ride for them. Of course I remember 1968, when Dr. King and then Bobby Kennedy were killed within a couple months of one another. Shocking, shocking events – even for a 10 year old.

Later, when I was in my 20’s I volunteered at the Peace Museum in Chicago helping to put together a show about Dr. King. My mom, I’m proud to say, was still alive and came to the opening and was quite excited to have (nearly!) met Harold Washington. It was a thrill for her to be at that event – and in hindsight I suspect now it was a longer road for her to “get there” than merely driving into the city.

Last time I went by our old house I saw that an African American family now lived there – which wouldn’t have likely happened in our era without some angst. This neighborhood is now well integrated in the 21st century, and I have more than once thought about my old man complaining about Dr. King…. and now…a half century later….Look!

It just goes to show that sometimes good things can and do happen. Not nearly as fast as they should – I agree. Still, I am glad that I have seen things improve in my lifetime. One of my nephews married a black girl and they have a solid marriage and a wonderful family – learning their own life lessons now at their own dinner table. Thank God that love has brought them together in a world where that is tough to find.

Oh, I wish my parents had lived to see all these things, but they did not. I truly do wonder what they would think. I know what I think, and I think these are good and hopeful times.

Thank you for letting me post this up.

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The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is a film by Kunhardt McGee Productions, THIRTEEN Productions LLC, Inkwell Films, in assocation with Ark Media.