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50 Years Later, Youth Reflect on Race in America and MLK’s Dream

PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs gathered voices of American youth, who reflect on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. King delivered his famous address 50 years ago on Aug. 28 at the March on Washington.

To watch these reflections, visit the Student Reporting Labs’ Race and Change blog.

Fifteen-year-old Lonnie Buchanan stands in front of a video camera waiting for his interview to begin. The Chicago native exudes a natural confidence and engages in friendly banter about his on-camera presence.

With a flip of a switch the tone in the room changes and so does Lonnie’s demeanor.

Lonnie has just been asked whether or not he believes Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream has been realized.

With the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington approaching, PBS NewsHour mobilized the youth reporters within its Student Reporting Labs network to gather youth perspectives on King’s dream and race in America today.

Aria McDonald, a student at Brooks College Prep Academy in Chicago, believes that America has seen progress since the 1960s.


However, she still believes, “America doesn’t value black life in accordance to a white person’s life.”

McDonald, 18, goes on to say that people are too used to the idea of black people, especially young black people dying.

Many of the students, including Jesse Horseman of Fort Mill, S.C., believe aspects of King’s dream have been realized, but say there is still much change left to be accomplished.

Schools and media programs participating in this report include:


  • Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis, Ind.
  • Fort Mill High School in Fort Mill, S.C.
  • Free Spirit Media in Chicago, Ill.
  • Maui Waena Intermediate School in Kahului, Hawaii.
  • Paseo Academy in Kansas City, Mo.
  • Trevor G. Browne High School in Phoenix, Ariz.


Related Content:

Students Remember King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech: In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., fourth graders gathered on the Lincoln Memorial’s steps to commemorate his famous speech in 1963 and the nation’s civil rights movement. (From Jan. 17, 2011 broadcast)

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