This year, MLK Jr. Day fell on Jan. 15. The International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro hosted a special presentation, including a speech titled “Promissory Note”.
At the museum, staff emphasized that civil rights started with documents such as the Declaration of Independence as well as the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments.
Will Harris, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and speaker for MLK Day at the museum, spoke about the Declaration of Independence’s promise that all men are created equal and how MLK Jr. reminded the U.S. of it.
“There is a huge promissory note lingering in our country's background, waiting to be redeemed,” Harris said. “That promissory note is more than just a note with a promise. A promissory note is a mortgage and that promissory note, at some point needs to be satisfied,” Harris said.
Harris expanded on the justification of a promissory note within the United States.
“We're actually looking for justification. And I think that a lot of what we do in terms of our explanations of ourselves for the world are basically saying, ‘Hey, we deserve to be here,’” Harris said. “I want to suggest to you that Dr. Martin Luther King knew that too. And as part of what he leveraged when he talks to the American public, what do you need to do, American people, in order to deserve to be a country?”
According to its website, the International Civil Rights Center and Museum is home to innovative ways that educate visitors about the history of civil rights and its historical figures.
Elon seniors Matt Boyle and George Krupkin visited the Museum to learn more about Civil Rights and MLK Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream '' speech.
“I'm excited to hear more about how the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech came about, but I think it's important for this not to just be a day that people have off of school — but to be reminded of how difficult of a time the 60s were for everyone involved and to sort of be as educated as we can about that to prevent that from happening in the future,” Boyle said.
Boyle said that another reason he was interested in visiting the museum on this day was because of his “MUS 2740: Woodstock, Hippies, and Others” class he’s taking this J-term.
“We talk a lot about civil rights and the impacts music has had on civil rights,” Boyle said.
Tour Coordinator of the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, Dillon Tyler, said MLK Jr. Day is also representative of Greensboro being an important part of the Civil Rights Movement.
“For us today, it is really about setting a new benchmark of ‘How do you ensure that we as a country are honoring our commitments that we made?’” Tyler said. “Whether it's through our Declaration of Independence, whether it's The Constitution itself, Dr. King even talks about the ‘promissory note’ in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.”
Tyler said MLK Jr. Day is not only a day to be celebrated, but one that teaches and reminds us all of what King stood for.
“I think a lot of it revolves around not only a day of service, but an idea of reminding ourselves of our history and why it informs our future,” Tyler said. “Dr. King really focused on the ideas of integration and the overall uplifting of a population.”