Defending national champion Kentucky is coming to Tuscaloosa Tuesday, but Monday—being President Barack Obama's second inauguration and Martin Luther King Day—Alabama head coach Anthony Grant took time to pause and think about the great symbolic resonance of the two events coinciding on the same day.
"I certainly had a chance to watch the inauguration personally myself," Grant said. "I watched President Obama's speech and from a historical standpoint in relation to it being Martin Luther King Day, for me, obviously it's kind of nostalgic because of what he talked about in his speech and the history of our state in the South in terms of it being 50 years since Civil Rights Movement."
When President Obama took the oath of office earlier Monday, he used two Bibles—one that was owned by Abraham Lincoln and another that belonged to Dr. King. He was also facing the Lincoln Memorial, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech 50 years ago.
Alabama, of course, played a crucial role in King's emergence as a prominent leader of the American civil rights movement. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, in which African Americans refused to ride city buses in Montgomery, Ala. to protest segregated seating from Dec. 5, 1955 to Dec. 20, 1956, is regarded as the first large-scale demonstration against segregation.
On Dec. 1, four days before the boycott started, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus. She was then arrested and fined. The boycott began the day of Parks' court hearing and lasted 381 days. King was one of the leaders of the movement.
"Our focus has been on Kentucky [this week] and trying to win the next game, but at the same time I think you've gotta pay attention to the significance of [today]," said senior guard Andrew Steele, a Birmingham native. "And as far as our history as a country, especially being here in the south and in terms of our community, it's really a historical thing to have [the inauguration] on Martin Luther King Day and I think it makes it a little more special."
This is only the second time in history that the inauguration has fallen on Martin Luther King Day.
"I think you look at all that, but I think for our players, we're focused on the opportunity we have tomorrow with Kentucky coming in," Grant said.
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