I love history. What I love about history Is learning about the great reformers and radical activists who fought to expand American freedoms to marginalized groups within this country. I learned a lot about them from reading history books from the library or watching a documentary on T.V. These are the abolitionists, women suffragists, union leaders, civil rights activists, feminists, LGBTQ rights activists, immigrants rights activists, advocates for the poor.
Some of these people were great leaders and great speakers like Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony, Mother Jones, W.E.B. DuBois, Dorothy Height, Gloria Steinem, Dolores Huerta, Martin Luther King Jr, Harvey Milk. Some were behind-the-scenes people who walked picket lines, passed out flyers, got signatures for petitions. Some would open their homes to activists in hostile communities and cook them breakfast, or quietly give them money for bail to get out of jail, or just give an encouraging word. And some people would show their support for a cause just by voting.
They tried to change opinions and attitudes. And slowly the country improves. A white Southerner tries to change and makes his first black friends. A husband begins to share in the household chores and supports his wife’s decision to get her first job. Christian parents support and continue to love their child who comes out to them as gay. A wealthy person volunteers at a food shelter and learns of the struggles of being poor and homeless.
This country will make mistakes as it moves towards change. It’ll take two steps forward and one step back. But if we persist and stand up for what is right, America will get better.
Here is an excerpt of the last speech that Martin Luther King Jr gave just a day before he died. I think it summarizes the goal of all reformers in history: to get American to live up to its high ideals.