Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dr. King - Spiritual Freestyling for Mahalia?

(Photo by Bob Adelman)
I got a spiritual chill tonight while I was watching the Tavist Smiley show on Channel Thirteen this evening and one of his guests was the noted photographer Bob Adelman.

The photographer talked with Tavist about some of the famous photographs he took during the Civil Rights struggle in the 1960's; many of them chronicled in a book called Mine Eyes Have Seen.

Like the photo (pictured left), which was taken by Adelman in Birmingham, Alabama in May of 1963.

It shows black protesters being hosed by members of the Birmingham Police.

Adelman worked with civil rights groups like the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in an effort to use photography to document the struggle for justice and equality in the south.

One of his most interesting stories concerned the infamous black and white photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the famous address he gave in front of the Lincoln Monument in Washington, DC.

Photographer Bob Adelman
Adelman (pictured left) managed to inch his way forward through the massive crowds gathered on the Mall where he shot 3 rolls of film; the most famous photo shows Dr. King as he reaches the apex of the "I Have a Dream Speech".

According to Adelman, after King was at the podium for some time speaking, at about 12 minutes into the speech, he paused as the crowd applause swelled and a woman loudly urged Dr. King, "Tell 'Em about the dream Martin!"

The woman was none other than unparalleled gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who later sang a stirring rendition of "How I Got Over" after King's speech.

Adelman says that in response to  Jackson's urging, Dr. King reached up and removed the sheets of paper with his speech written on them and put them into his pocket.

He then proceeded into the uplifting and hair-raising "I Have a Dream" portion of the speech which is recognized as the apex of the speech; none of it was scripted.

Something about the moment Adeleman described struck me as so profound, so powerful; so full of hope and healing.

I wondered to myself, had Dr. King shared this vision with Mahalia Jackson before the speech? Did he plan to share it with the crowd that day?

What a conversation that must have been. Words like that can only come from the deepest of spiritual places.

Did those words just spill out of his heart?

Watch the speech:

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