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Martin Luther King Jr. memorial warrants a look back in time

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The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial is about to be dedicated in Washington, and much will be made not just of the civil rights leader’s accomplishments but also of how far the nation as a whole has come.

President Obama is scheduled to speak at Sunday’s dedication, as are Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton. CBS anchor Dan Rather and members of the King family are scheduled to address the crowd as well.

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All the speakers will understand just how much has changed since the civil rights struggles of King’s day.

PHOTOS: The civil rights struggle

Many people might not understand. To them, the hard reality of those days and the fierceness of the fight will likely seem an abstraction, something from the history books.

But the events of that so-called era didn’t happen all that long ago. And they didn’t happen by accident or luck.

If pictures are worth 1,000 words, take a look back at these photos of America at that time. Amid today’s speeches and reflections, they drive home the reality of where the nation has been -- and just how monumental were the accomplishments of King and others.

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