November 5, 2009
Twenty years ago today, we dedicated the Civil Rights Memorial — the nation's first memorial to the martyrs of the civil rights movement - just a block from where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ignited the Montgomery bus boycott.
I hope you will take a moment to remember those who died in the battle for equality and to reflect on how far we've come as a nation and how much more we need to do.
In the two decades since the SPLC built the Memorial, it has become more than a tribute to the martyrs of the movement. It has become a tool for education, an instrument of justice, and a solemn reminder that the march for racial and social justice continues throughout the world.
Because of the Memorial, tens of thousands of schoolchildren have learned about the struggle for human rights — lessons of courage, commitment and sacrifice. The Memorial also sparked new interest in unsolved crimes of the era, and family members of slain heroes have seen their loved ones' killers brought to justice.
On the Memorial's timeline, where the names of the 40 martyrs are inscribed on a circular granite table, designer Maya Lin left a blank space between the first and last entries — signifying that the march for justice began well before the events listed there and it continues today.
Supporters of the Southern Poverty Law Center made the Memorial, and everything else we've accomplished in the past 20 years, possible. I want to thank you for your personal dedication to justice and tolerance. Together we'll work toward the day that — as Dr. King quoted — "justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."