JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Wednesday is the anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act anniversary, a date that stirs up emotion for one Johnson City man.
Ralph Davis was a Memphis high school sophomore the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. "They shut that whole city down," Davis told us. "I mean, you couldn't move if they didn't want you to. The feeling was just overwhelming."
So a day four years earlier, July 2, 1964, has special significance for him, especially on this the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.
"That date in '64 was groundbreaking, historical making," Davis said. "It launched the movement into a new era. We had some legal protection behind us which enabled the movement to really gain momentum."
But Davis, the vice president of the Tennessee State Conference NAACP, tells us that momentum has slowed down a bit in 50 years. "We've come a long way, but the momentum seems to have subsided," Davis said. "We really need to get that energy back."
He says education is the key to recapturing that energy. "We really don't teach the history," Davis said. "Not only in the Civil Rights movement back in the '40s and '50s, but what was going on in America as a whole. I don't think we put enough emphasis on where we were therefore, our youth really don't understand where we were."
To help them understand, Davis says more history programs in schools are needed, along with more museums, more exhibits, and more of kids visiting key historic sites.
With more education, he says Dr. King's vision of half a century ago is still attainable. "I think the future is that his dream is possible," Davis said.
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