TodayApril 16, 2022

Martin Luther King memorial; Freedom of mobility, freedom to dream on Driving the Nation

Warren Brown, Washington Post journalist, Jonathan Browning, President and CEO, Volkswagen of America, and Harry E. Johnson, Sr., President, and CEO of the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation.

The Martin Luther King Memorial will open August 28, 2011. Most of the car companies have donated to the memorial, the latest being Volkswagen of America. Jonathan Browning, President, and CEO, Volkswagen of America, presented a one million dollar check to Harry E. Johnson, Sr., President, and CEO of the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation. Warren Brown interviewed both of them afterward.

At first blush, a cynic would say that the car companies were pandering to diversity. But one needs to take a look at the history of the car industry and the history of African Americans in the United States.

My friend, and colleague, Warren Brown, and I talk about this subject occasionally. Warren is from the ninth ward in New Orleans, I’m from South Carolina. We both know the good, the bad and the ugly of the old South.

But the North had the automobile industry and Henry Ford was telling people that if they wanted to work he didn’t care what color they were. The promise of a job was certainly more appealing than standing at a bus stop and watch nine buses in a row pass you by, just because you were black.

So African Americans migrated North to work in the manufacturing plants. They were able to afford a car and a house. The American dream was within reach.

At the end of the video Warren makes a point – because of the automobile manufacturers moving into the South maybe, maybe, some people will come back home to work. Back to the South.

Whether they decide, and it will be their decision, to stay up North, or come home, they will have the freedom of mobility, the freedom to dream.

It was the dream of Martin Luther King.

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.