Well, 2013 is already shaping up to be quite a memorable year. On Jan. 1, we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order to free the enslaved Blacks in the 10 states in rebellion as part of Abraham Lincoln’s strategy to defeat the Confederacy during the Civil War and re-unite the union.
Now, President Barack Obama is using a bible owned by President Lincoln as he is sworn in on Jan. 21 to his second term as the first Black President of the United States.
And as if that weren’t fitting enough, this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington during which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a Dream” speech. To mark this signal event, President Obama is also using a copy of one of King’s bibles during his swearing-in ceremony which will also take place on the 2013 King Holiday.
It’s hard to get any more symbolism than this. The combination of Lincoln, King and Obama is certainly one for the history books. It’s especially moving to me, a child of the 1960s who grew up in the segregated South.
“President Obama is honored to use these bibles at the swearing-in ceremonies,” said Steve Kerrigan, President and CEO of the Presidential Inaugural Committee. “On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, this historic moment is a reflection of the extraordinary progress we’ve made as a nation.”
The Lincoln Bible is part of the collections of the Library of Congress and was originally purchased by William Thomas Carroll, Clerk of the Supreme Court, for use during Lincoln’s swearing-in ceremony on March 4, 1861.
The King Bible was Dr. King’s “traveling bible.” It was used for inspiration and preparation of sermons and speeches, including during Dr. King’s time as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
“We know our father would be deeply moved to see President Obama take the Oath of Office using his bible,” Dr. King’s children said in a statement. “His ‘traveling bible’ inspired him as he fought for freedom, justice and equality, and we hope it can be a source of strength for the President as he begins his second term.”
While I wasn’t old enough to have marched with Dr. King, Andy Young, John Lewis and others, I feel privileged to have grown up in Atlanta seeing these icons at work.
As my family chronicled the fight for equal rights and desegregation through the pages of the Atlanta Daily World, I came of age seeing and experiencing many dramatic changes — from racial segregation to the election of Atlanta’s first Black mayor in 1973, and the nation’s first black president in 2008.
We have indeed come a long way from the “colored only” signs of my youth to the Obama signs of “hope and change.”
And now look at what Bernice A. King is doing as CEO of The King Center. The MLK birthday observance Annual Commemorative Service, also on Jan. 21, will feature Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the first time a Latino leader will serve as keynote speaker.
Elder King calls him “an electrifying orator” and “one of the most dynamic and inspiring proponents of the social gospel in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.” The program, which will be held in Ebenezer Baptist Church Horizon Sanctuary, precedes the swearing-in of President Obama.
So here we are, not a month into 2013, and it looks like it will be a remarkable year. I can’t wait to see what happens next.