[FOUNTAIN]King's automobile legacyThe Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., the famous African-American activist, delivered his memorable "I have a dream" speech on August 28, 1963, in front of 200,000 protesters gathered in Washington D.C. He asked for full human rights for African-Americans and a world where justice flows like a river. His speech moved the hearts of Americans, and he received the Nobel Peace Prize the next year.
Mr. King rose against the injustice and discrimination against African-Americans in Alabama, a state in the southern part of the United States. As its nickname, "the cotton state," implies, Alabama's economy was built on the fiber industry, which had depended on the labor of slaves. Montgomery, the capital of the state, served as the central city for the southern Confederate Army during the American Civil War. After the Union Army's victory, Alabama became infamous for maintaining discriminatory policies against African-Americans. The Ku Klux Klan, a white terrorist organization that commits attacks against African-Americans, Jews, Asians and other minorities, also originated in Alabama.
In Montgomery, where he accepted a pastorate in 1954, Mr. King experienced a pivotal incident. On Dec. 1, 1955, a black woman named Rosa Parks refused to comply with Montgomery's segregation policy on buses, which ignited a bus boycott by that city's black residents.
Mr. King spearheaded the protests, and in just one year, the United States Supreme Court declared Alabama's segregation laws unconstitutional, and Montgomery buses were desegregated. It was a watershed moment in America's Civil Rights Movement, and Mr. King, then 27, gained prominence for his role in the campaign.
Breaking from its history of ethnic discrimination, Alabama today has changed drastically. The state is emerging as a new hub for the global automobile industry, shaking off its image of a declining farming state. A Mercedes Benz factory was established there in 1993, which later was joined by Toyota and Honda. Last week, Hyundai Motor decided to build a factory in Montgomery, investing $1 billion. The transformation did not come easily. The state governor who offered a total of $250 million in incentives to lure Mercedes Benz lost a re-election bid the following year.
But the atmosphere changed as the people saw more than 10,000 jobs created and $350 million in profit due to the Mercedes Benz factory, which started operation in 1997. I hope Hyundai Motor's American dream will come true in Alabama.
The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.
by Sohn Byoung-soo