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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 18:19 GMT 19:19 UK
Stars back campaign for King memorial
By Verity Murphy
BBC News Online

Halle Berry in Martin Luther King advert campaign
Forced to the back - Halle takes her place in the 'coloured section'

What if Martin Luther King had not "had a dream" and the civil rights movement in the United States had never fought their campaign for equality?

That is the question being put to Americans in a series of thought-provoking adverts that will hit their televisions, radio and newspapers this week.

In one a smartly dressed Halle Berry is seen arriving at a restaurant flanked by two friends - only for the Oscar winning actress to be escorted to the back of the building to sit in the "coloured section".

The ad-campaign featuring African-American stars, such as cinema veteran Morgan Freeman, is the first phase in a new campaign to raise the money needed for a national memorial to Martin Luther King in Washington.

The time has come for Dr King to take his rightful place alongside so many other great Americans
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist

In another of the adverts American weatherman and entertainer Al Roker is shown walking around a gym, unable to find a running treadmill that is not marked "white guests only".

While print advertisements feature images of a bank cash machine bearing a sign that reads "no coloureds, Hispanics or Jews," and a subway train with seats marked "priority seating for white passengers only".

Aim to educate

The shocking images may seem a little far fetched in this day and age, but prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 such segregation was a matter of daily life for some Americans.

The public service adverts have been put together free of charge by Saatchi and Saatchi, an agency with a reputation for shock tactics.

Al Roker in Martin Luther King advert campaign
No room at the gym for TV personality Al Roker

It is hoped that they will help pull in the estimated $100m needed to build a memorial near The Mall in Washington to pay tribute to the civil rights campaigner, who was assassinated in 1968.

According to Harry Johnson, president of the Martin Luther King Jr National Memorial Project Foundation, the memorial will allow people from all backgrounds and ages to understand the sacrifice made by Martin Luther King and other campaigners for civil rights.

The landscaped memorial will cover a four acre triangle on the shores of the Washington Tidal Basin, alongside the memorials built to commemorate other great American leaders such as Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.

Tireless campaign

Mr Johnson says that the foundation has already secured $20m to $25m in donations for the project, but with the help of the advertising campaign they hope to raise the rest of the money needed to break ground at the site late in 2004.

Originally the US Congress set a deadline of 2003 for the project to be completed when it gave approval to the project in 1998, but that deadline has been extended for a further three years.

Martin Luther King
Dr King is one of history's most revered advocates of non-violent social change

"The time has come for Dr King to take his rightful place alongside so many other great Americans," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, one of several members supporting the campaign.

The son of a Baptist minister born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929, Martin Luther King grew up in a strictly segregated town where schools, buses and even sandwich counters were divided.

Spurred on by a desire for equality he organised campaigns for equal rights throughout the 1960s, encouraged black people not to give up their seats to white people on board buses in Alabama, and was jailed 19 times for opposing segregation and white supremacy.

In August 1963, Martin Luther King organised a march on Washington which became the largest protest rally in American history attracting more than 250,000 demonstrators.

It provided the platform for his famous speech, "I have a dream", used to summon the nation's sense of injustice.

For his tireless efforts Martin Luther King became one of the one of history's most revered advocates of non-violent social change and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

He was shot dead at the age of 39 as he stood on the balcony of a hotel in Tennessee.

Colour still marks US job market
15 Jan 03  |  Americas
The end of the civil rights era
02 Apr 03  |  Americas

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