As Summer Fades, Education Stories in Tennessee Heat Up and Urban Districts Are on the Hot Seat

And all at once summer collapsed into fall. – Oscar Wilde

I seriously cannot keep up with all the stuff going on in edu-world today – like Wednesday today, not the universal today. I’ve scrolled through a number of articles that forced a pause only to be preempted by the next pause-worthy story. It seems a perfect storm of good-to-great and bad-to-worse is converging upon us as the school year settles in and long-awaited test scores make an appearance. Let’s dig in, shall we?

A bit of good news…

Nashville’s crack edu-watcher and writer Zack Barnes recently went on a data bender and tweeted out the amazing growth outcomes for many of our schools – traditional and charter. The most fascinating chart shows a list of schools achieving the greatest growth (level 5) for the 2016-2017 school year.

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Great for these schools!

Note to ponder: every level 5 performing school on this list is a magnet or charter except for the dual-enrollment Middle College.

Follow @zbarnes for more chart love!


Not so good news…

Did you see the story “Regular Public School Teachers Miss More School Than Charter School Teachers?” 

A study performed by the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute found that on average traditional public school teachers miss 10 more of school than charter school teachers. The EdWeek article explores two possible reasons for this gap in teachers showing up to work — collective bargaining and school culture.

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Teachers in traditional public schools are protected by unions that negotiate sick leave while the majority of charters are not unionized. For instance, Tennessee’s teachers are greatly protected by the Tennessee Education Association (MNEA in Nashville) while not one of Tennessee’s charter schools has union influence. Could that be the reason our traditional public school teachers miss 25.3% of school while charter teachers miss 7.6%?

Of the 6,900 charter schools nationally, about 1 in 10 have teachers’ unions. According to the report, 18 percent of teachers in unionized charter schools are chronically absent. It’s about half that in charter schools without unions.

Culture is the other possible explanation. Charter schools pride themselves on creating a culture of exceedingly high expectations for students, parents, and faculty.

Teachers who work in charters “agree to go there as an at-will employee in most cases,” said Miller, who once served as a president of his local teachers’ union in Palo Alto, Calif. “This means you’re buying into a school culture and a way of doing business. That doesn’t include the elaborate leave policies you can often find in a collective bargaining agreement.”

But the million dollar question is “does teacher chronic absenteeism affect student achievement?” The article briefly touches on a study by Raegan Miller, a Georgetown University researcher quoted in the article, that concludes math students fall behind and are less engaged when their teacher is chronically absent. I’m no researcher, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest the “less engaged” part of his conclusion is pretty important.

For the past two years, Tennessee (and Nashville, specifically) has been plotting and planning to triage the chronic absenteeism problem within our schools — for students. Maybe they are following the examples set before them? Don’t misunderstand me, parents need to be sure their child is in her seat, but if we have a problem with teachers showing up, then let’s make it, too, a prominently acknowledged and measured indicator for student success.


Downright ugly…

But most students in three of the state’s four largest districts — in Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga — aren’t growing academically as they should, and neither are those in most of their “priority schools” in the state’s bottom 5 percent.

Tragically, the districts with the greatest number of vulnerable students are not growing. Hamilton County has gotten unwanted attention after scoring ones across-the-board except in one area. There is no shortage of articles about Memphis and their academic struggles, but Nashville has avoided the spotlight – until now.

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An overall score of one is a sure-fire way to regain exposure – whether you want it or not.

Admittedly, I’ve been generous to the district that educated my entire family and helped me provide a nice life for us. Additionally, working hard every day are Metro School staffers I care for deeply making it more difficult for me to call foul when foul clearly needs to be screamed.

But where I’ve failed to acknowledge weaknesses in our district, fellow blogger Thomas Weber of Dad Gone Wild (norinad10) has been on the case- for years. While we tend to see things differently, I understand the importance of respecting different points of view

You never know, there might come a time when the two points of view converge.

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No One Can Explain Widening Wage Gap Between Blacks and Whites And The Elephant in the Room Is Not Happy

Last week The Washington Post published on its opinion page the most infuriating piece I’ve read in a long time. The opinion-piece by Robert Samuelson titled “The growing black-white wage gap is growing — and it’s scary” is, dare I say, scary.

The basis for Samuelson’s opinion-piece is a study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco which offers five possible reasons why black men earn only 70% of white men’s earnings (down from 80% a few short years ago) and black women earn only 82% of what white women earn:

  1. Education
  2. Age
  3. Geography
  4. Occupation/industry
  5. Part-time status

The reasons are quantifiable and academic potentially protecting the study from any real resistance, but, disappointingly, before things get kicked off in the study, the researchers concede failure in identifying an explanation for the consistently widening wage gap:

Especially troubling is the growing unexplained portion of the divergence in earnings for blacks relative to whites.

Samuelson acknowledges the San Francisco study’s failure to explain the growing gap and cites an earlier study published by Federal Reserve economists out of D.C. that offers an entirely different set of possibilities for the “unexplained” increased in the wage gap since 1979.

  1. Blacks are undereducated
  2. Black men are incarcerated at higher rates
  3. Outright discrimination (ya think?)

The economists in both studies go out of their way to blame black people for their own unemployment, underemployment, and poor and disparate salaries. Unfortunately, Samuelson falls in lockstep with the blame game with his repeated use of “unexplained” refusing to acknowledge the truth of structural racism that feeds our education and criminal justice systems and fails to call out the cognitive dissonance of those bleeding hearts who talk about diversity but fail to walk it.

I get it — it’s difficult to quantify something as insidious as structural racism or the discriminatory thoughts of those with the power and means to hire. But just because we can’t (or won’t) attach percentages to the generational barriers many are born up against, doesn’t mean they are not there. Any failure to acknowledge this American-bred construct dissolves all credibility.

A final exasperating thought from the article:

Another hypothesis — consistent with poor schooling — is that employers value achievement, as measured by test scores, as much as degrees, says economist Harry Holzer of Georgetown University, chief economist of the Labor Department in the Clinton administration. “There are big racial gaps in achievement” that could be depressing black wages. “But we really don’t know,” he says.

Nationally, our public school system is plagued with low-performing schools churning out underperforming students and dropouts often leading to incarceration, unplanned families, and poverty. We are all well-educated about the evils of this cycle, yet we allow it, and then lay blame to the products of it. 

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Read the full opinion piece– if you can stomach it.

 

In Times of Upheaval, Teachers and Spiritual Leaders Calm Minds and Feed Souls

Exactly twenty-eight days ago, filled with anger and a hint of disgust at the display of hatred and depravity at Charlottesville, VA., I tweeted out:

Classroom and The Pulpit

As I wrangled with the events at and surrounding Charlottesville, I couldn’t help but think about today’s youth entering classrooms to learn about the various battles during civil wars when there is no shortage of history-making battles occurring just outside the schoolhouse steps. Since it was Sunday morning, my mind shifted to adults looking to their spiritual leaders for two-thousand-year old answers to modern-day mysteries.

In my mind, the classroom and the pulpit are the most influential platforms in our lives -save for media. Teachers and spiritual leaders have captive, pliable audiences ready and willing to receive instruction and wisdom. These trusted public servants help us think critically about the world in which we live and equip us with the tools to navigate toward a better tomorrow.

I’ve heard from teachers instructed not to mention the events at Charlottesville to students and witnessed teachers on social media working creatively to integrate current events into lesson plans in a valiant effort to satisfy both state and moral obligations.

Thankfully, in the four weeks since that tweet, I’ve been fortunate to experience answers to my questions.

Teaching and Preaching

Last Friday, I joined the ProjectLIT book club at Maplewood High School, where the LIT teacher Jarred Amato leads discussions on the book of the month, books relevant to current day issues and to the students he teaches. Two days later, I visited a church whose theme for September is “Timeless Principles for Perilous Times” and the sermon for the day was “Silence is Not an Option.” The unvarnished, powerfully delivered sermon offered by Pastor John Faison, Sr. of Watson Grove Missionary Baptist Church is one for the ages and just the tea the nation needs right now. In the words of Pastor Faison, “silence recycles injustice.” Amen.

Amato and Faison are not the lone agents of courage and compassion who have accepted the enormous and unpopular responsibility of influencing social justice change through their respective platforms. And since Charlottesville our country was again shaken, this time by the president’s announcement to dissolve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), removing protections for undocumented youth.

In response to the DACA debacle, I’m reminded of a group of teachers, the DREAM keepers, and the strong message widely distributed defending their current and former DACA students. I also think of Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin courageously tweeting statements of unconditional love for DACA recipients and denouncing actions against them.

 

I am grateful for these acts of love for our sisters and brothers by protesting injustice through teaching and sharing. We need more of it.

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There’s a (Project)LIT Movement Spreading Like Wildfire and I’m Here For It

For several months now I’ve been following Jarred Amato’s crazy book club antics on Twitter. Like, this dude had the wild idea of setting up a book club introducing books relevant to the students he teaches at Maplewood High School. Further, he opened up the club to members of the community who are afforded rare opportunities to interact with students  eager to share their points of view. 

If that’s not wild enough for you, Mr. Amato collects thousands of donated books and sets up little libraries around Nashville’s most distressed communities. Sounds silly, right?

Mr. Amato is white male teacher serving a population of mostly students of color and  has made reading popular through the study of books with modern-day social justice themes. Merging the importance of reading and offering a platform to make sense of the world many students find themselves, Mr. Amato has launched a movement. 

A movement wonderfully named ProjectLIT. Obviously, LIT is a play on words by using today’s “lit” when referring to something incredible or on fire while evoking the word “literature.” (“Lit” chart by generation: 90’s babies think “da bomb”; 80’s peeps think “fye” or “rad”, 70’s cats think “dynomite!”)

Mr. Amato downplays his brilliance in kickstarting this reading revolution by saying “it’s just so easy!” Yet, this easy little project has spread (dare I say ‘like wildfire’) to other Nashville schools and Tennessee school districts. 

I’m wildly impressed with the work of Jarred Amato and ProjectLIT community. I just had to meet him and check out their monthly book club this morning at Maplewood. This month’s book was All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. 

While I did not participate as a book club member but rather as a spectator, I was so inspired by the students that I’m signing on and will be back in October!

Next month’s book is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I’m there for it! The young ladies in my group expressed their excitement about getting started on this book which is not at all surprising because after all the author probably reminds them of someone. That person they see in the mirror. Beautiful. 

I look forward to sharing more information about ProjectLIT and Mr. Amato soon! In the meantime, I’ll be somewhere reading a ProjectLIT book club-approved book. 

NOTE for educators: follow and participate in #ProjectLITChat Sundays at 6pm CST.

The fearless leader of the most LIT book club in the state!

My new LIT TRIBE! We made a pact to read every single page of the next month’s book club pick The Hate U Give.
We’re ready for October!

TN-ESSA: This Ego Trip Doesn’t Help Kids But…Told You So

I will beat a drum to its death. And through this platform, I’ve beat several drums and lucky for you they still have a lot of life left in them. 😉

Let’s see, there’s the drum designated for Nashville’s marginalized families. A drum for children of color consistently on the wrong side of the achievement, opportunity, and belief gaps. Then there’s the drum for Nashville’s increasing homelessness amongst the shadows of dozens of cranes, taunting those without a bed to lay their head.

You get the point.

In this post, I’m pulling out the BHN drum. You know the super subgroup Black-Hispanic-Native American designated by Tennessee’s Department of Education? Well, if you’re not familiar, here’s a brief primer:

As part of Tennessee’s strategic plan, TN Succeeds (which has just been approved by DeVos & Co.), as directed by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Black, Hispanic, and Native American students will be combined into one group for reporting purposes. You don’t need a degree in education to know these groups are different, with unique challenges requiring customized attention and remedy.

I have sat through multiple presentations led by state officials and asked any number of questions about the super subgroup trying to make sense of it. The state insists ALL MEANS ALL as it relates to student success.

As mentioned several times in this blog, Tennessee’s ESSA plan is a good plan according to every external organization that assesses state plans. In this Chalkbeat article, TN Succeeds gets high marks from another independent reviewer in nearly every area. Can you guess the area with the greatest weakness?

“The state’s lowest rating — a 2 out of a possible 5 — was for how Tennessee plans to identify and rate schools in need of targeted support for certain groups of students. Reviewers questioned whether the state’s system might mask the performance of some by proposing to combine the scores of black, Hispanic and Native American students into one subgroup.”

Yeah, I told ya so.

Read the Chalkbeat article on Tennessee’s ESSA plan.

2018 School Board Race: Using Battle Scars to Chart the Path to Victory for Every Public School Student

Remember how vulnerable and scared you felt watching the nuclear war tough talks between the president of the United States and the leader of North Korea? It was reminiscent of playground bullies battling to control all areas in and around the monkey bars and seesaw while the other children stand on the sidelines too fearful to play until one of the bullies backs down or gets the crap beat out of him.  

From the White House to city government, we are vulnerable to the decisions, (good, bad, and evil) made by our elected officials. This is why your vote matters.

2018 School Board Race

In one year, Nashville will be preparing to swear in newly elected members of the school board. If history serves as a guide, the newly elected and re-elected members will be exhausted and bloodied, but full of false pride that their “side” won. (what about the kids, though?)

Look, we have an opportunity to learn from the political slugfest that was the 2016 Nashville school board race. Over the next four weeks, Volume and Light will go on a journey in hopes of offering a path to victory for those standing on the sidelines.

Because we must do it differently this time. Many charter schools parents feel vulnerable to the vicious attacks on their children’s schools. Traditional public school parents believe too much attention is lavished upon such a small percentage of the total school population. They are right. 

We must never forget how it makes us feel to watch our leaders fight for control of our future without our permission or best interest.

The four-part series will begin with a look back at the School Board Battle of 2016 with a blog I wrote just after the election, one that I have not been able to revisit. It was that bad.

Next week we will look at the districts up for grabs.


The Friendliest City in America Got Downright Mean in Its School Board Elections This Summeroriginally posted on Education Post August 23, 2016

Nashville. The city of It. This summer Nashville overflowed with It, as we celebrated the arrival of wine in grocery stores, the largest firework display in America, and a never-ending stream of music, which, like the Cumberland River, courses through our hometown. Oh, yeah, we’re friendly as all get-out, too. Like, the friendliest.

A visitor might hardly believe there are deep civic divides in such a shining city. But this summer we saw painful polarization in our education community. If we don’t find a way to tamp down the vitriol of this summer’s school board elections, it will tarnish It City. Worse, we will slide farther from our goal of better educating our young people.

WHEN THE FRIENDLIEST CITY GETS MEAN

Summer got off to a collaborative start, when the school board, mayor and a posse of politically plugged-in Nashvillians appointed Dr. Shawn Joseph, 41, director of schools, the first African American to hold the position in Nashville.

Leaving Maryland’s affluent Prince George’s County to tackle Metro’s socio-economically diverse system, which is plagued more by a fractious school board than by actual district performance, Joseph wisely negotiated a clause in his contract to set the tone for communication going forward:

…the Board, individually and collectively, shall promptly refer to the Director, orally or in writing, for his study and recommendation any and all criticisms, complaints, suggestions, communications or other comments regarding the Director’s performance of his duties of the operation of the MNPS.

In other words, you got a problem, you bring it to me. The end.

But what looked like the beginning of our happily-ever-after came to a screeching halt as school board races revved up and Nashville, the friendliest town in America, got downright mean.

The issue? Charter schools. I won’t bore you with the sordid details, and, honestly, I’m not confident in my ability to provide an unbiased account due to my participation in some of the campaigns. However, there is no shortage of reporting on this subject in local and national media.

It was this podcast by national education blogger Citizen Stewart and national education writer Peter Cook, whose granular color commentary of our election forced me to look at our dysfunction from an outsider’s perspective. That’s when I realized that Nashville’s It-ness is like a beautifully manicured lawn. It tells only part of the story, while we work like hell to keep our guests from seeing our dirt.

THE DIRTIEST PART OF THE ELECTION

Depending on which side of the charter argument you embrace, the dirt of this election cycle was either loads of “outside” money dumped into school board races or middle-class leaders working to kill educational opportunity known to benefit Black and poor children.

When the votes were cast and the slate of charter-friendly candidates was vanquished, the refrain “dark money loses and public schools win” littered my social media timelines. The language implied that the thousands of students in Nashville’s charter schools were not part of our public school community.

What does that headline say to the parents of students in charter schools? It says their voices and choices don’t matter.

In an election cycle that was infamously dirty, that message may be the dirtiest part of all.

I’M MORE CERTAIN THAN EVER THAT THE VOICES OF CHOICE ARE MISSING FROM THE CONVERSATION.

After a long hot summer knocking on doors, making hundreds of phone calls, and speaking with parents in schools of all stripes, I’m more certain than ever that the voices of choice are missing from the conversation. If we are to make lasting and profound change in our schools—to meet the needs of all families—we must hear all their voices.

So we must ask what accounts for the silence. Is it because we’re not inviting these voices into the conversation? Is it because we are drowning out voices we don’t agree with? Is it because we are not welcoming enough? Is it because we are making half-hearted attempts to engage in meaningful ways? Or is it—gasp—because we really don’t believe these voices are valuable to the discussion?

Until we answer these questions, battle lines will remain in place and our children will lose.

PARENT VOICE MATTERS

To ensure success, we must bring all parents from the margin into the fold. We must believe in our hearts that their voices and experience matter.

A parent armed with information is an empowered parent, a ready-made partner in an educational process that leads to the success of students and schools. Furthermore, parents should absolutely seek out learning centers that best fit their children’s needs, and they should be celebrated for their efforts rather than criticized for their choice.

Metro Schools is rich with options, and parents understand the importance of finding the right fit with a healthy acceptance of charters’ role in this narrative.

At Metro Schools, there is a school for EVERY family in our district, no matter what children want to learn, how they want to learn, where they want to learn or when. There is a choice for everyone, and with one application, the vast array of school choices are at your fingertips.

From this point forward, I pledge to do my part. Gone are the days of sitting on the sideline complaining while participating in meaningless Twitter battles that serve to boost egos rather than student achievement.

So, I’m looking for a few good voices. Voices of choice who will have the courage to promote a parent’s right to choose, encourage others to exercise this right, and serve as a support system.

If we truly believe in public schools, then we believe in the role parents play—no matter their choice.

 

Fifty-Four Years Later, the “Bank of Justice” Is Still in the Redlining Business

Have you taken an opportunity to marinate on the words in the “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr on August 28, 1963?

Dr. King speaks explicitly of injustices of police brutality, voting rights breaches, and severe poverty. This speech is 54 years old and the only thing not relevant today is the reference to “Whites Only” signs. They are no longer seen, just understood (see neighborhoods, schools, corporations).

Indeed, we have seen beautiful efforts toward realizing Dr. King’s dream since 1963, from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to the election of the first black President of the United States.

Still, institutionalized racism makes the journey to the mountaintop a most challenging one.

Please take in Dr. King’s words.

At the end, ask yourself, what is your role in making this a dream a reality?


I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”