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Marchers in Stanford celebrate Martin Luther King legacy

January 18, 2007|NANCY LEEDY

A diverse group of marchers took to the streets Monday in downtown Stanford, braving the rains to participate in the community's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

Raincoats and umbrellas protected the few dozen people who gathered at the foot of the Lincoln County Courthouse steps for the opening program.

Mistress of ceremonies Sara Givens gave the opening and, after an a cappella version of "Amazing Grace" from Elder Jerry Wilkinson and words of scripture and prayer from Revs. Floyd Raglin and Vola Brown, the crowd moved onto Main Street for the march.

After winding their way along Main, up Danville Avenue and out Martin Luther King Street, the participants entered the sanctuary of First Missionary Baptist Church where a much larger crowd awaited their arrival for the remainder of the day's program.

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Michael E. Crutcher of Nicholasville, who is recognized for his portrayal of Frederick Douglass, an American abolitionist, editor, orator, author, statesman and reformer, was the day's featured speaker.

Crutcher, who spoke at the dedication of headstones on the graves of Lincoln County African-American soldiers in 2006, said he was pleased to see the community remember those "special" people in this world. The soldiers who joined the Union cause and gave their lives in the fight to bring slavery to an end and King who lost his life during his fight to end racism.

"Any time a man is willing to lay his life down for family, for his friends and for his country, it is very special," he said. "Those men (soldiers) gave their all as Martin Luther King gave his all to see that all men are free and equal."

"You are honoring a very special man today," said Crutcher.

In the image of Douglass, one of the most prominent figures of African American history and one of the most influential lecturers and authors in American history, Crutcher educated the crowd on what caused King to have to dream that all men, women and children of every color would be treated equally one day, recounting the early struggles of the slaves, including his own.

He spoke of how he, "Douglass", was separated from his mother, Harriet Bailey, while still an infant so that she could be farmed out to another plantation. His mother died when he was about seven years old but he would have another woman to take him under his wing - for a time.

Sophia Auld, the wife of his master Hugh Auld, broke the law by teaching Douglass his ABC's. She did so until her husband caught her one day.

"He broke in and said, 'Woman! Don't you know that if you teach him to read and write that he will no longer be fit to be a slave,'" Crutcher stated. "And 'if he teaches the other slaves to read and write, they'll no longer be fit to be slaves.'"

Douglass, who later referred to Sophia Auld's lessons in his first abolitionist speech, would learn to read and write. He educated himself by seeking out poor white children in the neighborhood that he lived in and observing writings of the men with whom he worked.

"I'd put a piece of sweet bread or biscuit in my pocket and I'd go up to the children and offer them the bread in exchange for telling me a word," said Crutcher as Douglass.

Douglass got his education and became the slave owners' worst nightmare.

He would soon be joined by many. As his writings were published and more slaves became educated, the door started opening. And, when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, thus opening the Union forces to African Americans - the change was on.

Slaves, approximately 200,000, took up the cause of the Union and its fight to abolish slavery. When the war ended and the "walls of slavery tumbled down", four million black men, women and children marched out forever free.

But they would not be completely free, Crutcher noted.

"Frederick Douglass and others at the time dreamed that everything would be okay," he said. "But it wasn't."

"And that's why King had a dream and why you should continue to have a dream," he added. "It's good that you marched this day but you must not only march from the courthouse to the church. You must march to city hall when necessary. You must march to the board of education when necessary. And you must march to the police and say get this junk off the street."

In closing, Crutcher said that people should continue to carry the torch that has been passed by many and to always remember ...

"Right is of no sex and truth is of no color," he stated.

During the afternoon service at First Missionary, Ollie Raglin gave the welcome then turned the microphone over to Kelly Gambrel who soloed on "Go Light Your World' and "Feel the Nails".

Elder Oliver Miller welcomed all city and county officials to the program after Gambrel's presentation then William Booker Brown handled the candlelighting duties.

The service closed with thanks from Barbara Miller and a benediction by Rev. Raglin.

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