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Bernice King: ‘African-Americans Are Still Not Free’ 150 Years After Slavery’s End

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Rev. Bernice King says that 50 years after her father, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington, his dream is still a work in progress.

“When he framed the speech he said, ‘100 years later the Negro is still not free,’” King tells ABC's Power Players. “I would argue that 150 years later the Negro is still not free, African-Americans are still not free.”

King, who describes her late father as a prophet, says he foresaw many of the problems that society is confronting today -- as well as the progress that has been made.

“He knew that if we did not deal with the pressing economic issues, if we did not finish rounding out civil rights issues, the black community, a lot of these things that are visiting us now, would be visiting us,” King says. “He also predicted that we would have an African-American president…25 years from I think it was 1966 or ’67, so that would have been in the ‘90s. So 10 years later it actually happens.”

King says what her father would be most “troubled” by in today’s society is the “great disparities” that still exist, pointing to education and the criminal justice system as specific areas in need of improvement.

“We still have this great divide, because, yes, now the signs are gone, and, yes, we have greater relationships across different communities, but we haven't dealt with the institutionalized racism that still exists," she says.

At the time of her father’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Bernice King was only 5 months old, but she came to learn of the importance of that moment in her father’s life through her mother, who told her “it was as if the kingdom of God had come to earth that day.”

“I think what inspired people the most was the fact that they saw that they were not alone in the black community, Negro community we called it back then,” King says. “And to see the sea of white people in the audience gave them a sense of great hope.”

For more of the interview with King, including how she says the recent Trayvon Martin verdict has been a “defining moment” in the realization of her father’s dream, check out this episode of Power Players.

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