It's one week until Aug. 28, the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. He wrote part of it under a huge oak tree in front of the house in Virginia that now houses the Gloucester Institute, headed by Kay Coles James, a conservative African-American leader (see "The cavalry is not coming," from the Feb. 23 issue of WORLD Magazine). Earlier this year, in front of students at Patrick Henry College, James told me about the house, her institute, and its programs for young African-American men and women, one of which has a Sept. 13 deadline.
Who built the house? Dr. Robert Russa Moton, second president of Tuskegee University. Mentored by Booker T. Washington, Moton was probably the most well-respected African-American in the 1920s, and an advisor to five United States presidents. When he retired from Tuskegee, he came to Gloucester, Va., and built a nine-bedroom mansion on the bank of the York River. There he opened his home and started inviting in thoughtful people to debate the important issues of the day.
What happened to the house when Dr. Moton died in 1940? He left it to his daughter and her husband, Frederick Patterson, who became the third president of Tuskegee University. In one meeting at the house, Dr. Patterson founded the United Negro College Fund. The house became known as the cradle of the civil rights movement. Every great civil rights leader in the history of America came there at some point. My aunt and uncle took me there when I was a child, picking me up out of the public housing project in Richmond, Va. I remember sitting on the floor, playing with dolls and reading books.
You remembered it so well that, years later, you wanted to go back? The people were beautiful and they were talking and the food was really good. When I grew up I wondered whatever happened to this magical place that I used to be taken as a child. We found it and the place was torn apart, with a rusted plaque on the building saying it's on the national historic registry for all of the important things that happened here.
Source: World Magazine | Marvin Olasky