GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The passage of the Civil Rights Act came in 1964, the year after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the March On Washington. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Some folks who lived during the era of Jim Crow laws said the country owes Dr. King a great deal.
Now in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, people at the Frances Fredericks Senior Complex in Gulfport remember a time when being a black person in this country meant being treated like a second class citizen.
"I came along when you had to go to the back to the bus," Ruby Grantham said. "I remember going to the back if we had to go to anybody's house other than blacks. We couldn't drink out of the same water fountain."
"I can remember even when we went to school, we got the hand me down books," said Lattie Grubbs.
When Dr. King gave his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963, the senior citizens said many black people changed their way of thinking. Instead of being willing to accept Jim Crow, the senior citizens said more people began hoping for a better life.
"It was new for a lot of us. I probably would have been still going to the back door and being satisfied. Probably would have been still riding the back of the bus had it not have been someone like him," said Grantham. "When I saw somebody with the nerve to get up and to fight. The people that followed him were even greater. I thought it was a very good thing. "
"He was a great man," Willie Lee Owens said. "I admired him and I thank God for him and for the Civil Rights for the black and the white race. Thank God that he lived and did the things that he did."
Some seniors said while they are grateful for change, they don't like to reflect on memories that are too painful.
"I really don't like to watch it," Grubbs said. "The other night I saw a clip where they sicced the dogs on the people that were trying to make a difference. It hurt my heart because we should have never had to go through that."