LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Thousands of people gathered near and on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Wednesday to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. on the 50th anniversary of his “I have a dream,” speech and the history of the civil rights movement.
In Louisville, the leader of the local NCAAP chapter applauds years of change but warns about dangerous to the accomplishments.
Raoul Cunningham attended the march as a college student 50 years ago and he was back again last weekend. He said there is no denying gains like ending segregation, but warns, a recent Supreme Court decision could potentially be a major setback - paving the way for voter ID laws, which he said he sees as one of the main reasons for the civil rights movement in the first place.
Before the world heard King's dream at the Capitol, a young Cunningham was listening to it as a young activist in Louisville at the Zion Baptist Church - which at the time was home to Louisville’s largest black congregation, and often host to guest Pastor Martin Luther King Jr., since it was his brother's church.
While notable names preached from the pulpit, demonstrators planned in the pews. Organizing many of the marches and sit-ins that ultimately brought about a moment last May when a marker was dedicated on Fourth Street celebrating the 50 year anniversary of desegregation in Louisville. Cunningham, the president of the Louisville chapter of the NAACP, was there at the ceremony.
The 1963 March on Washington did more than show unity, it was a catalyst for tangible change. One of the most notable - the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act - breaking down barriers that previously kept many African Americans out of the voting booth and paving the way for the election of the current 44 black lawmakers in congress and activists like Cunningham.
The Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down some of those protections is seen by many as a major setback to the progress that has been made and the NAACP said they plan to propose a new law by 2014 that will combat the changes to the Voting Rights Act made by the Court.