Interesting Literature

A Summary and Analysis of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

‘I Have a Dream’ is one of the greatest speeches in American history. Delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-68) in Washington D.C. in 1963, the speech is a powerful rallying cry for racial equality and for a fairer and equal world in which African Americans will be as free as white Americans.

If you’ve ever stayed up till the small hours working on a presentation you’re due to give the next day, tearing your hair out as you try to find the right words, you can take solace in the fact that as great an orator as Martin Luther King did the same with one of the most memorable speeches ever delivered.

He reportedly stayed up until 4am the night before he was due to give his ‘I Have a Dream’, writing it out in longhand. You can read the speech in full here .

‘I Have a Dream’: background

The occasion for King’s speech was the march on Washington , which saw some 210,000 African American men, women, and children gather at the Washington Monument in August 1963, before marching to the Lincoln Memorial.

They were marching for several reasons, including jobs (many of them were out of work), but the main reason was freedom: King and many other Civil Rights leaders sought to remove segregation of black and white Americans and to ensure black Americans were treated the same as white Americans.

1963 was the centenary of the Emancipation Proclamation , in which then US President Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) had freed the African slaves in the United States in 1863. But a century on from the abolition of slavery, King points out, black Americans still are not free in many respects.

‘I Have a Dream’: summary

King begins his speech by reminding his audience that it’s a century, or ‘five score years’, since that ‘great American’ Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This ensured the freedom of the African slaves, but Black Americans are still not free, King points out, because of racial segregation and discrimination.

America is a wealthy country, and yet many Black Americans live in poverty. It is as if the Black American is an exile in his own land. King likens the gathering in Washington to cashing a cheque: in other words, claiming money that is due to be paid.

Next, King praises the ‘magnificent words’ of the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence . King compares these documents to a promissory note, because they contain the promise that all men, including Black men, will be guaranteed what the Declaration of Independence calls ‘inalienable rights’: namely, ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.

King asserts that America in the 1960s has ‘defaulted’ on this promissory note: in other words, it has refused to pay up. King calls it a ‘sacred obligation’, but America as a nation is like someone who has written someone else a cheque that has bounced and the money owed remains to be paid. But it is not because the money isn’t there: America, being a land of opportunity, has enough ‘funds’ to ensure everyone is prosperous enough.

King urges America to rise out of the ‘valley’ of segregation to the ‘sunlit path of racial justice’. He uses the word ‘brotherhood’ to refer to all Americans, since all men and women are God’s children. He also repeatedly emphasises the urgency of the moment. This is not some brief moment of anger but a necessary new start for America. However, King cautions his audience not to give way to bitterness and hatred, but to fight for justice in the right manner, with dignity and discipline.

Physical violence and militancy are to be avoided. King recognises that many white Americans who are also poor and marginalised feel a kinship with the Civil Rights movement, so all Americans should join together in the cause. Police brutality against Black Americans must be eradicated, as must racial discrimination in hotels and restaurants. States which forbid Black Americans from voting must change their laws.

Martin Luther King then comes to the most famous part of his speech, in which he uses the phrase ‘I have a dream’ to begin successive sentences (a rhetorical device known as anaphora ). King outlines the form that his dream, or ambition or wish for a better America, takes.

His dream, he tells his audience, is ‘deeply rooted’ in the American Dream: that notion that anybody, regardless of their background, can become prosperous and successful in the United States. King once again reminds his listeners of the opening words of the Declaration of Independence: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

In his dream of a better future, King sees the descendants of former Black slaves and the descendants of former slave owners united, sitting and eating together. He has a dream that one day his children will live in a country where they are judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.

Even in Mississippi and Alabama, states which are riven by racial injustice and hatred, people of all races will live together in harmony. King then broadens his dream out into ‘our hope’: a collective aspiration and endeavour. King then quotes the patriotic American song ‘ My Country, ’Tis of Thee ’, which describes America as a ‘sweet land of liberty’.

King uses anaphora again, repeating the phrase ‘let freedom ring’ several times in succession to suggest how jubilant America will be on the day that such freedoms are ensured. And when this happens, Americans will be able to join together and be closer to the day when they can sing a traditional African-American hymn : ‘Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.’

‘I Have a Dream’: analysis

Although Martin Luther King’s speech has become known by the repeated four-word phrase ‘I Have a Dream’, which emphasises the personal nature of his vision, his speech is actually about a collective dream for a better and more equal America which is not only shared by many Black Americans but by anyone who identifies with their fight against racial injustice, segregation, and discrimination.

Nevertheless, in working from ‘I have a dream’ to a different four-word phrase, ‘this is our hope’. The shift is natural and yet it is a rhetorical masterstroke, since the vision of a better nation which King has set out as a very personal, sincere dream is thus telescoped into a universal and collective struggle for freedom.

What’s more, in moving from ‘dream’ to a different noun, ‘hope’, King suggests that what might be dismissed as an idealistic ambition is actually something that is both possible and achievable. No sooner has the dream gathered momentum than it becomes a more concrete ‘hope’.

In his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, King was doing more than alluding to Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation one hundred years earlier. The opening words to his speech, ‘Five score years ago’, allude to a specific speech Lincoln himself had made a century before: the Gettysburg Address .

In that speech, delivered at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery (now known as Gettysburg National Cemetery) in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in November 1863, Lincoln had urged his listeners to continue in the fight for freedom, envisioning the day when all Americans – including Black slaves – would be free. His speech famously begins with the words: ‘Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’

‘Four score and seven years’ is eighty-seven years, which takes us back from 1863 to 1776, the year of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. So, Martin Luther King’s allusion to the words of Lincoln’s historic speech do two things: they call back to Lincoln’s speech but also, by extension, to the founding of the United States almost two centuries before. Although Lincoln and the American Civil War represented progress in the cause to make all Americans free regardless of their ethnicity, King makes it clear in ‘I Have a Dream’ that there is still some way to go.

In the last analysis, King’s speech is a rhetorically clever and emotionally powerful call to use non-violent protest to oppose racial injustice, segregation, and discrimination, but also to ensure that all Americans are lifted out of poverty and degradation.

But most of all, King emphasises the collective endeavour that is necessary to bring about the world he wants his children to live in: the togetherness, the linking of hands, which is essential to make the dream a reality.

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‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

By: History.com Editors

Updated: December 19, 2023 | Original: November 30, 2017

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

The “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. before a crowd of some 250,000 people at the 1963 March on Washington, remains one of the most famous speeches in history. Weaving in references to the country’s Founding Fathers and the Bible , King used universal themes to depict the struggles of African Americans before closing with an improvised riff on his dreams of equality. The eloquent speech was immediately recognized as a highlight of the successful protest, and has endured as one of the signature moments of the civil rights movement .

Civil Rights Movement Before the Speech

Martin Luther King Jr. , a young Baptist minister, rose to prominence in the 1950s as a spiritual leader of the burgeoning civil rights movement and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SLCC).

By the early 1960s, African Americans had seen gains made through organized campaigns that placed its participants in harm’s way but also garnered attention for their plight. One such campaign, the 1961 Freedom Rides , resulted in vicious beatings for many participants, but resulted in the Interstate Commerce Commission ruling that ended the practice of segregation on buses and in stations.

Similarly, the Birmingham Campaign of 1963, designed to challenge the Alabama city’s segregationist policies, produced the searing images of demonstrators being beaten, attacked by dogs and blasted with high-powered water hoses.

Around the time he wrote his famed “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King decided to move forward with the idea for another event that coordinated with Negro American Labor Council (NACL) founder A. Philip Randolph’s plans for a job rights march.

March on Washington

Thanks to the efforts of veteran organizer Bayard Rustin, the logistics of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom came together by the summer of 1963.

Joining Randolph and King were the fellow heads of the “Big Six” civil rights organizations: Roy Wilkins of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Whitney Young of the National Urban League (NUL), James Farmer of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

Other influential leaders also came aboard, including Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Joachim Prinz of the American Jewish Congress (AJC).

Scheduled for August 28, the event was to consist of a mile-long march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, in honor of the president who had signed the Emancipation Proclamation a century earlier, and would feature a series of prominent speakers.

Its stated goals included demands for desegregated public accommodations and public schools, redress of violations of constitutional rights and an expansive federal works program to train employees.

The March on Washington produced a bigger turnout than expected, as an estimated 250,000 people arrived to participate in what was then the largest gathering for an event in the history of the nation’s capital.

Along with notable speeches by Randolph and Lewis, the audience was treated to performances by folk luminaries Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and gospel favorite Mahalia Jackson .

‘I Have a Dream’ Speech Origins

In preparation for his turn at the event, King solicited contributions from colleagues and incorporated successful elements from previous speeches. Although his “I have a dream” segment did not appear in his written text, it had been used to great effect before, most recently during a June 1963 speech to 150,000 supporters in Detroit.

Unlike his fellow speakers in Washington, King didn’t have the text ready for advance distribution by August 27. He didn’t even sit down to write the speech until after arriving at his hotel room later that evening, finishing up a draft after midnight.

‘Free At Last’

As the March on Washington drew to a close, television cameras beamed Martin Luther King’s image to a national audience. He began his speech slowly but soon showed his gift for weaving recognizable references to the Bible, the U.S. Constitution and other universal themes into his oratory.

Pointing out how the country’s founders had signed a “promissory note” that offered great freedom and opportunity, King noted that “Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.'”

At times warning of the potential for revolt, King nevertheless maintained a positive, uplifting tone, imploring the audience to “go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.”

Mahalia Jackson Prompts MLK: 'Tell 'em About the Dream, Martin'

Around the halfway point of the speech, Mahalia Jackson implored him to “Tell ’em about the ‘Dream,’ Martin.” Whether or not King consciously heard, he soon moved away from his prepared text.

Repeating the mantra, “I have a dream,” he offered up hope that “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” and the desire to “transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

“And when this happens,” he bellowed in his closing remarks, “and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'”

‘I Have a Dream’ Speech Text

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence , they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men, yes, Black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check; a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check—a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?"

We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.

We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.

We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "for whites only."

We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, that one day right down in Alabama little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exhalted [sic], every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning, "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrims' pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that; let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, Black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

MLK Speech Reception

King’s stirring speech was immediately singled out as the highlight of the successful march.

James Reston of The New York Times wrote that the “pilgrimage was merely a great spectacle” until King’s turn, and James Baldwin later described the impact of King’s words as making it seem that “we stood on a height, and could see our inheritance; perhaps we could make the kingdom real.”

Just three weeks after the march, King returned to the difficult realities of the struggle by eulogizing three of the girls killed in the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.

Still, his televised triumph at the feet of Lincoln brought favorable exposure to his movement, and eventually helped secure the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 . The following year, after the violent Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama, African Americans secured another victory with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 .

Over the final years of his life, King continued to spearhead campaigns for change even as he faced challenges by increasingly radical factions of the movement he helped popularize. Shortly after visiting Memphis, Tennessee, in support of striking sanitation workers, and just hours after delivering another celebrated speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” King was assassinated by shooter James Earl Ray on the balcony of his hotel room on April 4, 1968.

'I Have a Dream' Speech Legacy

Remembered for its powerful imagery and its repetition of a simple and memorable phrase, King’s “I Have a Dream” speech has endured as a signature moment of the civil rights struggle, and a crowning achievement of one of the movement’s most famous faces.

The Library of Congress added the speech to the National Recording Registry in 2002, and the following year the National Park Service dedicated an inscribed marble slab to mark the spot where King stood that day.

In 2016, Time included the speech as one of its 10 greatest orations in history.

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

HISTORY Vault: Black History

Watch acclaimed Black History documentaries on HISTORY Vault.

“I Have a Dream,” Address Delivered at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute . March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. National Park Service . JFK, A. Philip Randolph and the March on Washington. The White House Historical Association . The Lasting Power of Dr. King’s Dream Speech. The New York Times .

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The learning network | text to text | ‘i have a dream’ and ‘the lasting power of dr. king’s dream speech’.

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Text to Text | ‘I Have a Dream’ and ‘The Lasting Power of Dr. King’s Dream Speech’

Crowds gathering at the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. <a href="//www.nytimes.com/2013/08/28/us/the-lasting-power-of-dr-kings-dream-speech.html">Related Article</a>

American History

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Last summer was the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. painted his dream of racial equality and justice for the nation that still resonates with us. “I have a dream,” he proclaimed, “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” In this Text to Text , we pair Dr. King’s pivotal “I Have a Dream” speech with a reflection by the Times literary critic Michiko Kakutani, who explores why this singular speech has such lasting power.

Background: The speech that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered on Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was not the speech he had prepared in his notes and stayed up nearly all night writing.

Dr. King was the closing speaker at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and the “Dream” speech that inspired a nation and helped galvanize the civil rights movement almost never happened. The march itself almost never happened, as David Brooks writes , because the Urban League, the N.A.A.C.P. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference either chose to opt out or were focusing their energy elsewhere before the events in Birmingham, Ala., in May 1963, with fire hoses and snapping dogs turned on protesters, helped reignite the call for a national march. The speech almost never happened because Dr. King didn’t think he had time to say all he wanted to say in the five minutes he was allotted — at the end of a long, hot summer day before the crowds were ready to disperse and go home.

Words spoken that day by Dr. King still reverberate.

But Dr. King was “the son, grandson and great-grandson of Baptist ministers,” Michiko Kakutani writes, and he “was comfortable with the black church’s oral tradition, and he knew how to read his audience and react to it.” In the middle of his speech, the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson urged him from behind the podium, “Tell ’em about the ‘Dream,’ Martin, tell ’em about the ‘Dream’!” She was referring to a riff he had delivered many times before, and in that moment, Dr. King broke from his prepared remarks and shared his transcendent vision for the nation’s future.

Below, we excerpted only the first part of Dr. King’s speech, but students should read the entire speech or this abridged version (PDF). For greater effect, they can listen to the audio or watch the video of Dr. King’s delivery while they read along.

Ms. Kakutani, a Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic for The Times, reflects on the speech’s lasting power on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. We offer an excerpt that introduces her analysis, but we recommend that students read the entire article to explore her evidence for what makes the speech so remarkable.

Key Questions: Why is Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech so powerful, even 50 years later?

Activity Sheets: As students read and discuss, they might take notes using one or more of the three graphic organizers (PDFs) we have created for our Text to Text feature:

  • Comparing Two or More Texts
  • Double-Entry Chart for Close Reading
  • Document Analysis Questions

Excerpt 1: From “The Lasting Power of Dr. King’s Dream Speech,” by Michiko Kakutani

Today, Dr. King's famous words are chipped into the spot where he spoke.

It was late in the day and hot, and after a long march and an afternoon of speeches about federal legislation, unemployment and racial and social justice, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. finally stepped to the lectern, in front of the Lincoln Memorial, to address the crowd of 250,000 gathered on the National Mall. He began slowly, with magisterial gravity, talking about what it was to be black in America in 1963 and the “shameful condition” of race relations a hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Unlike many of the day’s previous speakers, he did not talk about particular bills before Congress or the marchers’ demands. Instead, he situated the civil rights movement within the broader landscape of history — time past, present and future — and within the timeless vistas of Scripture. Dr. King was about halfway through his prepared speech when Mahalia Jackson — who earlier that day had delivered a stirring rendition of the spiritual “I Been ’Buked and I Been Scorned” — shouted out to him from the speakers’ stand: “Tell ’em about the ‘Dream,’ Martin, tell ’em about the ‘Dream’!” She was referring to a riff he had delivered on earlier occasions, and Dr. King pushed the text of his remarks to the side and began an extraordinary improvisation on the dream theme that would become one of the most recognizable refrains in the world. With his improvised riff, Dr. King took a leap into history, jumping from prose to poetry, from the podium to the pulpit. His voice arced into an emotional crescendo as he turned from a sobering assessment of current social injustices to a radiant vision of hope — of what America could be. “I have a dream,” he declared, “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!” Many in the crowd that afternoon, 50 years ago on Wednesday, had taken buses and trains from around the country. Many wore hats and their Sunday best — “People then,” the civil rights leader John Lewis would recall, “when they went out for a protest, they dressed up” — and the Red Cross was passing out ice cubes to help alleviate the sweltering August heat. But if people were tired after a long day, they were absolutely electrified by Dr. King. There was reverent silence when he began speaking, and when he started to talk about his dream, they called out, “Amen,” and, “Preach, Dr. King, preach,” offering, in the words of his adviser Clarence B. Jones, “every version of the encouragements you would hear in a Baptist church multiplied by tens of thousands.” You could feel “the passion of the people flowing up to him,” James Baldwin, a skeptic of that day’s March on Washington, later wrote, and in that moment, “it almost seemed that we stood on a height, and could see our inheritance; perhaps we could make the kingdom real.” Dr. King’s speech was not only the heart and emotional cornerstone of the March on Washington, but also a testament to the transformative powers of one man and the magic of his words. Fifty years later, it is a speech that can still move people to tears. Fifty years later, its most famous lines are recited by schoolchildren and sampled by musicians. Fifty years later, the four words “I have a dream” have become shorthand for Dr. King’s commitment to freedom, social justice and nonviolence, inspiring activists from Tiananmen Square to Soweto, Eastern Europe to the West Bank. Why does Dr. King’s “Dream” speech exert such a potent hold on people around the world and across the generations? Part of its resonance resides in Dr. King’s moral imagination. Part of it resides in his masterly oratory and gift for connecting with his audience — be they on the Mall that day in the sun or watching the speech on television or, decades later, viewing it online. And part of it resides in his ability, developed over a lifetime, to convey the urgency of his arguments through language richly layered with biblical and historical meanings….

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

Excerpt 2: From “I Have a Dream,” by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men — yes, black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children….

For Writing or Discussion

  • Michiko Kakutani asks: “Why does Dr. King’s ‘Dream’ speech exert such a potent hold on people around the world and across the generations?” What answer does she provide? What is the most powerful evidence she uses to back up her analysis?
  • Ms. Kakutani explains that “with his improvised riff, Dr. King took a leap into history, jumping from prose to poetry, from the podium to the pulpit.” What does she mean by that description?
  • After reading, listening or watching Dr. King’s “Dream” speech, describe your reaction. What do you find powerful or moving in the speech? Do you have a favorite line or phrase? Explain.
  • How does Dr. King use figurative language and other poetic and oratorical devices, such as repetition and theme, to make his speech more powerful?
  • What historical and biblical allusions do you recognize within the speech? Which allusions do you find most compelling, and why?
  • Have we achieved Dr. King’s dream 50 years later? What progress do you think this country has made since the March on Washington with regard to civil rights? What progress do we still need to make? Cite evidence to support your opinion.

After attending the March on Washington in 1963, Daniel R. Smith wondered if the nation's mind-set would change. <a href="//www.nytimes.com/2013/08/24/us/a-time-to-return-to-and-reflect-on-the-march-on-washington.html">Go to related article »</a>

Going Further

1. Witnesses to History: How did people at the time react — to Dr. King’s “Dream” speech as well as to the march as a whole? The Times gathered reflections from readers who attended the march . Choose one or two memories to read in the Interactive. What was most powerful about the march for them? What was their recollection of Dr. King’s speech?

Alternatively, read James Reston’s 1963 news analysis published the day after the march in The Times to understand one contemporary critic’s perspective. Mr. Reston writes:

It was Dr. King who, near the end of the day, touched the vast audience…. But Dr. King brought them alive in the late afternoon with a peroration that was an anguished echo from all the old American reformers. Roger Williams calling for religious liberty. Sam Adams calling for political liberty, old man Thoreau denouncing coercion, William Lloyd Garrison demanding emancipation, and Eugene V. Debs crying for economic equality — Dr. King echoed them all. “I have a dream,” he cried again and again. And each time the dream was a promise out of our ancient articles of faith: phrases from the Constitution. lines from the great anthem of the nation, guarantees from the Bill of Rights, all ending with a vision that they all one day might come true.

How does Mr. Reston view the “Dream” speech? What additional insights does this news analysis give you about how The Times, or the mainstream news media in general, might have viewed the event at the time?

2. Other Civil Rights Speeches: Dr. King’s “Dream” speech is the best known of a long line of civil rights speeches. The Times collected other speeches that have influenced perceptions of race in America, including Malcolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet” and Fannie Lou Hamer’s testimony at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Choose one speech and compare it to “I Have a Dream” in both tone and message.

3. Nonviolent Resistance: Dr. King’s speech was grounded in a larger movement committed to nonviolent resistance. Read the Times columnist David Brooks’s “The Ideas Behind the March,” and then consider the following questions:

  • Mr. Brooks writes: “Nonviolent coercion was an ironic form of aggression. Nonviolence furnished the movement with a series of tactics that allowed it to remain on permanent offense.” What does he mean by that? How does this analysis help explain why nonviolence is often so effective?
  • What current issue do you think would be well served by a nonviolent reform movement like the civil rights movement? Why is this issue important to you, and what actions would you want such a movement to take to make change?

4. Assessing the Dream: Daniel R. Smith attended both the March on Washington in 1963 and the 50th anniversary commemoration last August. Five decades after Dr. King’s historic speech, Mr. Smith reflected on how much progress the nation has made in terms of civil rights, but he also wondered if “the pace has slowed considerably.” Read “50 Years After March, Views of Fitful Progress” and study the related graphic analyzing change over time in key areas like education and jobs. How much progress do you think the country has made in civil rights since 1963? How much progress do we still need to make? Cite evidence to support your opinion.

More Resources:

Celebrating M.L.K. Day — news articles, Opinion articles, multimedia and lesson plans related to Dr. King and the civil rights movement

Additional Lesson Plans — by the Gilder Lehrman Institute and PBS for middle school and high school students

This resource may be used to address the academic standards listed below.

Common Core E.L.A. Anchor Standards

1   Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

2   Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

4   Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

5   Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

Comments are no longer being accepted.

Another fantastic lesson plan. I teach AP English Language and Composition. King’s writings are an essential part of the curriculum; these ideas will be great springboards for discussion. Thank you!

James Mulhern, //www.synthesizingeducation.net Atlantic Technical Center Magnet High School Coconut Creek, Florida

Remarkable Rev, Dr Martin Luther King, an exemplary and epitome of peace movement, who has shown extreme rationality in pursuit of justice, equality and freedom without any violence, taught us how to live a life with a high plane of dignity and prosperity, a life of liberty and equality, a life of complete unanimity and harmony in regard with racism. He taught us the real meaning of revolution……. revolution forwarded to bring the bright and sparkling light of hope of peace and tranquillity. His philosophies, ideologies and of course his dream for AMERICANS reflect his heart which is replete with abundance of humanity, compassion, fraternity and brotherhood. Yes, I have a dream and the dream is to live your dream.

Martin Luther King Jr. had the most memorable speak ever in the history of time. Something new that I have learned about Dr. King’s speech is that it was not the one he had prepared for the event. It amazes me that he still managed to say such a magnificent speak and it was not the one he was preparing for it just happened. I think Martin Luther King Jr. speech of “I Have a Dream” is still so powerful till this day is because it was something he was fighting for, for everybody and it was something that was so unique to everybody to hear it was wonderful. The main reason for the speech is for everyone to see that we are equal and for the future to be better than how it was, it just needed to be different. Many people loved the speech that he did but then again there were also others who disliked for the meaning it was about. The people who did not like it probably did not like it because they wanted it to stay the same and were probably taught to hate on others for a reason. Martin to me was a very unique man for doing what he did but there were also others who did the same thing and stood up for what they believed in. Everyone including Martin made others realize what was going on and things needed to be different. So it gave others confidence to do something towards a situation that they may not like and to say something about. The speech was a very peaceful way to say what the problem of the situation was it was not a violent thing to do but it was also dangerous. He did not care that if some were hating on him because of the speech or what he was doing, he must have been proud for what he was doing, I now I would be proud. This speech will always be around and very memorable till this day and till the future.

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HISTORIC ARTICLE

Aug 28, 1963 ce: martin luther king jr. gives "i have a dream" speech.

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington, a large gathering of civil rights protesters in Washington, D.C., United States.

Social Studies, Civics, U.S. History

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On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., took the podium at the March on Washington  and addressed the gathered crowd, which numbered 200,000 people or more. His speech became famous for its recurring phrase “I have a dream.” He imagined a future in which “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners" could "sit down together at the table of brotherhood,” a future in which his four children are judged not "by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." King's moving speech became a central part of his legacy. King was born in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, in 1929. Like his father and grandfather, King studied theology and became a Baptist  pastor . In 1957, he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference ( SCLC ), which became a leading civil rights organization. Under King's leadership, the SCLC promoted nonviolent resistance to segregation, often in the form of marches and boycotts. In his campaign for racial equality, King gave hundreds of speeches, and was arrested more than 20 times. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his "nonviolent struggle for civil rights ." On April 4, 1968, King was shot and killed while standing on a balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.

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October 19, 2023

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Dream SpeechBlack American civil rights leader Martin Luther King (1929 - 1968) addresses crowds during the March On Washington at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC, where he gave his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

Martin Luther King: the story behind his 'I have a dream' speech

It’s 50 years since King gave that speech. Gary Younge finds out how it made history (and how it nearly fell flat)

T he night before the March on Washington , on 28 August 1963, Martin Luther King asked his aides for advice about the next day’s speech. “Don’t use the lines about ‘I have a dream’, his adviser Wyatt Walker told him. “It’s trite, it’s cliche. You’ve used it too many times already.”

King had indeed employed the refrain several times before. It had featured in an address just a week earlier at a fundraiser in Chicago, and a few months before that at a huge rally in Detroit. As with most of his speeches, both had been well received, but neither had been regarded as momentous.

This speech had to be different. While King was by now a national political figure, relatively few outside the black church and the civil rights movement had heard him give a full address. With all three television networks offering live coverage of the march for jobs and freedom, this would be his oratorical introduction to the nation.

After a wide range of conflicting suggestions from his staff, King left the lobby at the Willard hotel in DC to put the final touches to a speech he hoped would be received, in his words, “like the Gettysburg address”. “I am now going upstairs to my room to counsel with my Lord,” he told them. “I will see you all tomorrow.”

Martin Luther King Wyatt Walker

A few floors below King’s suite, Walker made himself available. King would call down and tell him what he wanted to say; Walker would write something he hoped worked, then head up the stairs to present it to King.

“When it came to my speech drafts,” wrote Clarence Jones, who had already penned the first draft, “[King] often acted like an interior designer. I would deliver four strong walls and he would use his God-given abilities to furnish the place so it felt like home.” King finished the outline at about midnight and then wrote a draft in longhand. One of his aides who went to King’s suite that night saw words crossed out three or four times. He thought it looked as though King were writing poetry. King went to sleep at about 4am, giving the text to his aides to print and distribute. The “I have a dream” section was not in it.

A few hours after King went to sleep, the march’s organiser, Bayard Rustin, wandered on to the Washington Mall, where the demonstration would take place later that day, with some of his assistants, to find security personnel and journalists outnumbering demonstrators. Political marches in Washington are now commonplace, but in 1963 attempting to stage a march of this size in that place was unprecedented. The movement had high hopes for a large turnout and originally set a goal of 100,000. From the reservations on coaches and trains alone, they guessed they should be at least close to that figure. But when the morning came, that expectation did little to calm their nerves. Reporters badgered Rustin about the ramifications for both the event and the movement if the crowd turned out to be smaller than anticipated. Rustin, forever theatrical, took a round pocket watch from his trousers and some paper from his jacket. Examining first the paper and then the watch, he turned to the reporters and said: “Everything is right on schedule.” The piece of paper was blank.

The first official Freedom Train arrived at Washington’s Union station from Pittsburgh at 8.02am, records Charles Euchner in Nobody Turn Me Around. Within a couple of hours, thousands were pouring through the stations every five minutes, while almost two buses a minute rolled into DC from across the country. About 250,000 people showed up that day. The Washington Mall was awash with Hollywood celebrities, including Charlton Heston, Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr, Burt Lancaster, James Garner and Harry Belafonte. Marlon Brando wandered around brandishing an electric cattle prod, a symbol of police brutality. Josephine Baker made it over from France. Paul Newman mingled with the crowd.

The crowd, marching to the National Mall

It was a hectic morning for King, paying a courtesy visit with other march leaders to politicians at the Capitol, but he still found time to fiddle with the speech. When he eventually walked to the podium, the typed final version was once more full of crossings out and scribbles.

Rustin had limited the speakers to just five minutes each, and threatened to come on with a crook and haul them from the podium when their time was up. But they all overran and, given the heat – 87F at noon – and humidity, the crowd’s mood began to wane. Weary from a night’s travel, many were anxious to make good time on the journey back and had already left. King was 16th on an official programme that included the national anthem, the invocation, a prayer, a tribute to women, two sets of songs and nine other speakers. Only the benediction and the pledge came after. Portions of the crowd had moved off to seek respite from the heat under the trees on the Mall while others dipped their feet in the reflecting pool. Those most eager for a view of the podium braved the sun under the shade of their umbrellas.

“There was… an air of subtle depression, of wistful apathy which existed in many,” wrote Norman Mailer. “One felt a little of the muted disappointment which attacks a crowd in the seventh inning of a very important baseball game when the score has gone 11-3. The home team is ahead, but the tension is broken: one’s concern is no longer noble.”

But if they were exhausted, they were no less excited. Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson had lifted spirits with I’ve Been ‘Buked and I’ve Been Scorned. Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress, followed, recalling his time as a rabbi in Berlin under Hitler: “A great people who had created a great civilisation had become a nation of silent onlookers. They remained silent in the face of hate, in the face of brutality and in the face of mass murder,” he said. “America must not become a nation of onlookers. America must not remain silent.”

King was next. The area around the mic was crowded with speakers, dignitaries and their entourages. Wearing a black suit, black tie and white shirt, King edged through the melee towards the podium.

“I tell students today, ‘There were no jumbotrons [large screen TVs] back then,’ “ says Rachelle Horowitz, the young activist who organised transport to the march. “All people could see was a speck. And they listened to it.”

King started slowly, and stuck close to his prepared text. “I thought it was a good speech,” recalled John Lewis, the leader of the student wing of the movement, who had addressed the march earlier that day. “But it was not nearly as powerful as many I had heard him make. As he moved towards his final words, it seemed that he, too, could sense that he was falling short. He hadn’t locked into that power he so often found.”

King was winding up what would have been a well-received but, by his standards, fairly unremarkable oration. “Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana,” he said. Then, behind him, Mahalia Jackson cried out: “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin.” Jackson had a particularly intimate emotional relationship with King, who when he felt down would call her for some “gospel musical therapy”.

“She was his favourite gospel singer, and he would ask her to sing The Old Rugged Cross or Jesus Met The Woman At The Well down the phone,” Jones explains. Jackson had seen him deliver the dream refrain in Detroit in June and clearly it had moved her.

“Go back to the slums and ghettoes of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed,” King said. Jackson shouted again: “Tell ‘em about the dream.” “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends.” Then King grabbed the podium and set his prepared text to his left. “When he was reading from his text, he stood like a lecturer,” Jones says. “But from the moment he set that text aside, he took on the stance of a Baptist preacher.” Jones turned to the person standing next to him and said: “Those people don’t know it, but they’re about to go to church.”

A smattering of applause filled a pause more pregnant than most.

“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”

“Aw, shit,” Walker said. “He’s using the dream.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., third from left, marches in a line of men with arms linked.

For all King’s careful preparation, the part of the speech that went on to enter the history books was added extemporaneously while he was standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, speaking in full flight to the crowd. “I know that on the eve of his speech it was not in his mind to revisit the dream,” Jones insists.

It is open to debate just how spontaneous the insertion of the “I have a dream” section was (Euchner says a guest in the adjacent hotel room to King heard him rehearsing the segment the night before), but the two things we know for sure are that it was not in the prepared text and it wasn’t invented on the spot. King had been using the refrain for well over a year. Talking some months later of his decision to include the passage, King said: “I started out reading the speech, and I read it down to a point. The audience response was wonderful that day… And all of a sudden this thing came to me that… I’d used many times before… ‘I have a dream.’ And I just felt that I wanted to use it here… I used it, and at that point I just turned aside from the manuscript altogether. I didn’t come back to it.”

“Though [King] was extremely well known before he stepped up to the lectern,” Jones wrote, “he had stepped down on the other side of history.”

Watching the whole thing on TV in the White House, President John F Kennedy, who had never heard an entire King speech before, remarked: “He’s damned good. Damned good.” Almost everyone, including even King’s enemies, recognised the speech’s reach and resonance. William Sullivan, the FBI’s assistant director of domestic intelligence, recommended: “We must mark him now, if we have not done so before, as the most dangerous negro of the future of this nation.”

A few in the crowd were unimpressed. Anne Moody, a black activist who had made the trip from rural Mississippi, recalled: “I sat on the grass and listened to the speakers, to discover we had ‘dreamers’ instead of leaders leading us. Just about every one of them stood up there dreaming. Martin Luther King went on and on talking about his dream. I sat there thinking that in Canton we never had time to sleep, much less dream.”

But most were ebullient. “It would be like if, right now in the Arab spring, somebody made a speech that was 15 minutes long that summarised what this whole period of social change was all about,” one of King’s most trusted aides, Andrew Young, told me. “The country was in more turmoil than it had been in since before the second world war. People didn’t understand it. And he explained it. It wasn’t a black speech. It wasn’t just a Christian speech. It was an all-American speech.”

Fifty years on, the speech enjoys both national and global acclaim . A 1999 survey conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Texas A&M University , of 137 leading scholars of public address, named it the greatest speech of the 20th century.

During the protests in Tiananmen Square, China, some protesters held up posters of King saying “I have a dream”. On the wall that Israel has built around parts of the West Bank, someone has written “I have a dream. This is not part of that dream.” The phrase “I have a dream” has been spotted in such disparate places as a train in Budapest and on a mural in suburban Sydney. Asked in 2008 whether they thought the speech was “relevant to people of your generation”, 68% of Americans said yes, including 76% of blacks and 67% of whites. Only 4% were not familiar with it.

But few of those in the movement thought at the time that it would be the speech by which King would be remembered 50 years later.

“Rustin always said that King’s genius was that he could simultaneously talk to a black audience about why they needed to achieve their freedom and address a white audience about why they should support that freedom,” recalls Horowitz. “Simultaneously. It was a genius that he could do that as one Gestalt… King’s was the poetry that made the march immortal. He capped off the day perfectly. He did what everybody wanted him to do and expected him to do. But I don’t think anybody predicted at the time that the speech would do what it did since.”

Their bemusement was justified. For if, in its immediate aftermath, the speech had any significant political impact, it was not obvious. “At the time of King’s death in April 1968 , his speech at the March on Washington had nearly vanished from public view,” writes Drew Hansen in his book about the speech, The Dream. “There was no reason to believe that King’s speech would one day come to be seen as a defining moment for his career and for the civil rights movement as a whole… King’s speech at the march is almost never mentioned during the monumental debates over the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which occupy around 64,000 pages of the Congressional record.”

History does not objectively sift through speeches, pick out the best on their merits and then dedicate them faithfully to public memory. It commits itself to the task with great prejudice and fickle appreciation, in a manner that tells us as much about the historian and the times as the speech itself. The speech was marginalised because, in the last few years of his life, King himself was marginalised, and few who had the power to elevate his speech to iconic status had any self-interest in doing so. His growing propensity to take on issues of poverty, followed by his opposition to the Vietnam war, lost him the support of the political class and much of his white and more conservative base.

King’s speech at the March on Washington offers a positive prognosis on the apparently chronic American ailment of racism. As such, it is a rare thing to find in almost any culture or nation: an optimistic oration about race that acknowledges the desperate circumstances that made it necessary while still projecting hope, patriotism, humanism and militancy.

In the age of Obama and the Tea Party, there is something in there for everyone. It speaks, in the vernacular of the black church, with clarity and conviction to African Americans’ historical plight and looks forward to a time when that plight will be eliminated (“We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating ‘for whites only’. No, no, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream”).

Its nod to all that is sacred in American political culture, from the founding fathers to the American dream, makes it patriotic (“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”). It sets bigotry against colour-blindness while prescribing no route map for how we get from one to the other. (“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists… little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”)

But the breadth of its appeal is to some extent at the expense of depth. It is in no small part so widely admired because the interpretations of what King was saying vary so widely. Polls show that while African Americans and American whites both agree about the extent to which “the dream has been realised”, they profoundly disagree on the state of contemporary race relations. The recent acquittal of George Zimmerman over the shooting of the black teenager Trayvon Martin illustrates the degree to which blacks and whites are less likely to see the same problems, more likely to disagree on the causes of those problems and, therefore, unlikely to agree on a remedy. Hearing the same speech, they understand different things.

Conservatives, meanwhile, have been keen to co-opt both King and the speech. I n 2010, Tea Party favourite Glenn Beck held the “Restoring Honour” rally at the Lincoln Memorial on the 47th anniversary of the speech, telling a crowd of about 90,000: “The man who stood down on those stairs… gave his life for everyone’s right to have a dream.” Almost a year later, black republican presidential candidate Herman Cain opened his speech to the southern Republican leadership conference with the words, “I have a dream.”

Their embrace of the speech has made some black intellectuals and activists wary. They fear that the speech can too easily be distorted in a manner that undermines the speaker’s legacy. “In the light of the determined misuse of King’s rhetoric, a modest proposal appears in order,” Georgetown university professor Michael Dyson wrote in 2001. “A 10-year moratorium on listening to or reading ‘I Have a Dream’.” At first blush, such a proposal seems absurd and counter- productive. After all, King’s words have convinced many Americans that racial justice should be aggressively pursued. The sad truth is, however, that our political climate has eroded the real point of King’s beautiful words.”

These responses tell us at least as much about now as then, perhaps more. The 50th anniversary of “I have a dream” arrives at a time when the president is black, whites are destined to become a minority in the US in little more than a generation, and civil rights-era protections are being dismantled. Segregationists have all but disappeared, even if segregation as a lived experience has not. Racism, however, remains.

Fifty years on, it is clear that in eliminating legal segregation – not racism, but formal, codified discrimination – the civil rights movement delivered the last moral victory in America for which there is still a consensus. While the struggle to defeat it was bitter and divisive, nobody today is seriously campaigning for the return of segregation or openly mourning its demise. The speech’s appeal lies in the fact that, whatever the interpretation, it remains the most eloquent, poetic, unapologetic and public articulation of that victory.

  • Martin Luther King
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essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" Speech

By tim bailey, unit overview.

This unit is part of the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s Teaching Literacy through History resources, designed to align to the Common Core State Standards. These units were developed to enable students to understand, summarize, and analyze original texts of historical significance. Through a step-by-step process, students will acquire the skills to analyze and assess primary source material.

Over the course of five lessons, students will read, analyze, and gain a clear understanding of "I Have a Dream," a speech delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr., at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. The first four lessons require students to read excerpts from the speech "like a detective." Through summary organizers, practice, and discussion, they will master the technique of identifying key words, creating summaries of document sections and, as an assessment in the final lesson, writing an argumentative essay.

Unit Objectives

Students will be able to

  • Read and demonstrate understanding of a complex document
  • Identify the main ideas and synthesize and draw logical inferences from the document
  • Summarize the author’s words and restate the author’s meaning in their own words
  • Write an argumentative essay using evidence from the document to support their ideas

Number of Class Periods

The unit is structured for 5 class sessions, but Lessons 1 and 2 can be combined and Lessons 3 and 4 can be combined. In addition, the essay could be assigned as a take-home exercise.

Grade Level(s)

Common core state standards.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.1: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social studies.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.5: Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.9-10.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Historical Background

On August 28, 1963, approximately a quarter million people converged on Washington, DC. They came from all over the United States to demand civil and economic rights for African Americans. Many traveled for days—and at great personal risk—to participate. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was one of the largest political rallies in history. There were fears of violence, but the huge crowd remained peaceful as they marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial.

The last speech of the day was given by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. King drew on history—including the Declaration of Independence’s promise of equality and Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation—to highlight how far African Americans were from reaching the American ideal. He urged his audience to demand equal opportunities and access to jobs and facilities and housing and voting. But what transformed the speech into one of the most memorable in American history for the millions of Americans watching and listening in Washington, on radio and on television, was the recurring phrase "I have a dream," repeated eight times with increasing urgency—a dream of what could happen in the nation as well as a more intimate dream of what his own children could achieve when freedom rang everywhere in the United States.

Students will read the first section of the "I Have a Dream" speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1963. In a step-by-step process they will identify key words employed by King and then summarize the text to demonstrate that they understand what King was saying.

  • Understand what was explicitly stated in the speech
  • Draw logical inferences
  • Summarize a portion of the speech using the author’s words and then their own words
  • Teacher Resource:  "I Have a Dream" Speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (excerpts) . Source: Reprinted by arrangement with The Heirs to the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr., c/o Writers House as the proprietor New York, NY. Copyright: © 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. © renewed 1991 Coretta Scott King.
  • Summary Organizer #1
  • Overhead projector, Elmo projector, or similar device

Note: The first lesson is done as a whole-class exercise.

  • Tell the students that they will be exploring what Martin Luther King, Jr., said in the "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Resist the temptation to provide more information as you want the students to develop ideas based solely on King’s words.
  • Read aloud the excerpts from the "I Have a Dream" speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., and ask the students to read it silently to themselves. It is important for the students to experience a text as the writer meant it to be experienced—in this case as a speech before a large crowd.
  • Tell the students that they will be analyzing the first selection from the document today and learning how to do in-depth analysis for themselves. The whole class will be going through this process together for the first section of the document.
  • Pass out Summary Organizer #1, which includes the first section of the speech. Display the organizer in a format large enough for the whole class to see. Make certain students understand that the original text has been edited for this lesson. Explain the purpose and use of ellipses.
  • "Share read" the text with the students. This is done by having the students follow along silently while you begin to read aloud, modeling prosody, inflection, and punctuation. Then ask the class to join in with the reading after a few sentences while you continue to read aloud, still serving as the model for the class. This technique will support struggling readers as well as English language learners (ELL).
  • Explain that the objective is to select "Key Words" from the first section and then use those words to create a brief summary of the text that gets at the gist of what Dr. King was saying.
  • Guidelines for Selecting Key Words: Key Words are very important contributors to understanding the text. They are usually nouns or verbs. Don’t pick "connector" words ( are , is , the , and , so , etc.). The number of Key Words depends on the length of the original selection. This selection is 249 words long so you can pick up to ten Key Words. The students must know what their Key Words mean, so there will be opportunities to teach students how to use context clues, word analysis, and dictionary skills to discover word meanings.
  • Ask the students to select up to ten words from the text that they believe are Key Words and write them down on their organizers.
  • Survey the class to find out what the most popular choices were. After some discussion and with your guidance, the class should decide on ten Key Words. For example, let’s say that the class decides on the following words: freedom , Emancipation Proclamation (two words that together make up a single idea can be selected if it makes sense in context), hope , Negro , segregation , discrimination , shameful , Declaration of Independence , promise , and unalienable rights . Now, no matter which words the students had previously selected, have them write the words agreed upon by the class or chosen by you into the Key Word list.
  • Explain that the class will use these Key Words to write a brief summary (one or two sentences) that demonstrates an understanding of what King was saying. This exercise should be a whole-class discussion-and-negotiation process. For example, "The Emancipation Proclamation brought hope, but segregation and discrimination are still part of Negro life. That is shameful because the Declaration of Independence promised all people unalienable rights." You might find that the class doesn’t need some of the Key Words, which will make the summary even more streamlined. This is part of the negotiation process. The final sentence(s) should be copied into the organizer.
  • Now guide the students in putting the summary sentence(s) into their own words. Again, this is a class negotiation process. For example "African Americans were promised the same rights as everyone else, but that hasn’t happened yet."
  • Wrap up: Discuss vocabulary that the students found confusing or difficult. You could have students use the back of their organizer or a separate vocabulary form to make a note of these words and their meaning.

Students will read the second section of the "I Have a Dream" speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1963. In a step-by-step process they will identify key words employed by King and then summarize the text to demonstrate that they understand what King was saying.

  • Summary Organizer #2

Note: For this lesson, the students will be working with partners and in small groups.

  • Review what the class did in the previous lesson and what they decided was the gist of the first selection from King’s speech.
  • Distribute Summary Organizer #2 and display a copy in a format large enough for the whole class to see. Tell the students that they will work on the second section of the document with partners and in small groups.
  • Share read the second selection with the students as described in Lesson 1.
  • Review the process of selecting Key Words, writing a summary of the text using those words, and then restating the summary in their own words to show their understanding of King’s words.
  • Pair the students up and have them work together to select the best Key Words. This passage is 258 words, so they can choose up to ten words.
  • Now put two pairs of students together. These four students will negotiate with each other to come up with their final ten Key Words. Be strategic in how you make your groups in order to ensure the most participation by all group members.
  • Once the groups have selected their Key Words, each group will use those words to create a brief summary (one or two sentences) of what Martin Luther King was saying. During this process, try to make sure that everyone is contributing. It is very easy for one student to take control and for the other students to let them do so. All of the students should write their group’s negotiated sentence into their organizers.
  • Ask groups to share out the summary sentences that they have created. This should start a teacher-led discussion that points out the qualities of the various responses. How successful were the groups at getting at King’s main idea, and were they careful to use the Key Words in doing so?
  • Now direct the groups to restate their summary sentences in their own words. Again, this is a group negotiation process. After they have decided on a summary, it should be written into their organizers. Again, have the groups share out their responses and discuss the clarity and quality of the responses.
  • Wrap up: Discuss vocabulary that the students found confusing or difficult. If you choose you could have students use the back of their organizer or separate vocabulary form to make a note of these words and their meaning.

Students will read the third section of the "I Have a Dream" speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1963. In a step-by-step process they will identify key words employed by King and then summarize the text to demonstrate that they understand what King was saying.

  • Summary Organizer #3

Note: For this lesson students will work individually unless you decide they still need the support of a group.

  • Review what the class did in the previous two lessons and what they decided was the gist of the first two selections.
  • Distribute Summary Organizer #3 with the third selection from King’s speech. You may decide to share read the third selection with the students as in prior lessons or have them read it silently to themselves.
  • Review the process of selecting Key Words, writing a summary using the key words, and then restating the summary in the students’ own words to demonstrate their understanding of King’s words. This text is 237 words, so the students can pick up to ten words.
  • After the students have worked through the three steps, have them share out their summaries in their own words and guide a class discussion of the meaning of the text.
  • Wrap up: Discuss vocabulary that the students found confusing or difficult. If you choose you could have students use the back of their organizer or a separate vocabulary form to make a note of these words and their meaning.

Students will read the fourth section of the "I Have a Dream" speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1963. In a step-by-step process they will identify key words employed by King and then summarize the text to demonstrate that they understand what King was saying.

  • Summary Organizer #4

Note: Students will continue to work independently in this lesson.

  • Review what the class did in the previous lessons and what they decided was the gist of the first three selections.
  • Distribute Summary Organizer #4 with the fourth selection from King’s speech. You may decide to share read the text with the students as in prior lessons or have them read it silently to themselves.
  • Review the process of selecting Key Words, writing a summary using the key words, and then restating the summary in the students’ own words to demonstrate their understanding of King’s words. There are 224 words in this selection, so the students can select eight or nine key words.
  • After the students have worked through the three steps, have them share out their summaries in their own words and guide a class discussion of the meaning of King’s words.

The class will first review the meaning of each section of Martin Luther King’s "I Have a Dream" speech. Second, the students will look closely at how Dr. King constructed his speech, particularly his choice of words. Finally, they will write about Dr. King’s speech in a short argumentative essay in which they support their statements with evidence taken directly from Martin Luther King’s own words.

  • Synthesize the work of the prior four days
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the meaning of the primary source
  • Analyze the writing craft (speech construction, rhetorical style)
  • Explain and defend whether they believe the craft and style makes the speech more effective
  • Write an argumentative essay based on evidence in the text 
  • Summary Organizers #1–4 from previous lessons
  • The students should have the four Summary Organizers they completed in the previous lessons.
  • Review the work from the previous lessons by asking the students to provide a summary in their own words of each of the four text selections. This is done as a class discussion. Write these short negotiated sentences on the overhead or similar device so the whole class can see them. These summaries should reinforce the students’ understanding of the meaning of King’s speech.
  • Discuss with the students Dr. King’s rhetorical style as well as how the construction of the speech affects its meaning. How does repeating certain phrases strengthen his point or focus his arguments? How does the construction help guide the audience?
  • If the students do not have experience writing an argumentative essay, proceed with a short lesson on essay writing. Otherwise, have them write a short essay in response to one of the prompts in class or as an out-of-class assignment. Remind the students that they must back up any arguments they make with evidence taken directly from the text of King’s "I Have a Dream" speech. The first prompt is designed to be the easiest.
  • What is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream, and according to Dr. King how could it become a reality?
  • In his speech Dr. King says that "we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check." What does he mean by this and what, as he sees it, will be the result of this action?
  • In his speech, how does Dr. King respond to the question, "When will you be satisfied?" Explain both the reason for this question put to civil rights activists and Dr. King’s response.

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essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

I Have a Dream Speech

Martin luther king, jr., everything you need for every book you read..

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America’s Promises and Potential

In his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. describes the founding promises of America (freedom, equality, and justice for all) and the nation’s failure to keep those promises, particularly to Black Americans. Addressing hundreds of thousands of people at the March on Washington in August of 1963, King specifically called attention to the fact that while most white Americans enjoyed freedom and justice, Black Americans did not. Nonetheless…

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The Collective Fight Against Racism

In “I Have a Dream,” Martin Luther King Jr. calls out the “shameful condition” of racism in America and demands an end to the indignity of segregation. But he acknowledges that his dream of a free, fair America—a place where Black Americans are judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character”—is one that can’t be realized without solidarity from white Americans. The only way to fight against the…

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Dreams, Despair, and Faith

Throughout “I Have a Dream”—a rousing civil rights address structured like a sermon—religious faith plays a significant role. After laying bare the brutal facts of racism in America, King offers up a dream of an America in which people of all races and faiths live together in harmony and mutual respect. Even though King has known despair, he’s still able to dream of a future where white and Black children hold hands, where the South…

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The Uses of Nonviolent Resistance

Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist noted for his embrace of nonviolent resistance, or the practice of achieving social change through peaceful demonstrations. During the summer of 1963, a “ sweltering ” season simmering with rage and volatility, King’s assertion that nonviolent resistance was the surest path to change came at a crucial moment in the long fight for civil rights. In his “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered at the March…

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Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” Speech Critique Essay

On 28th August 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. held a speech that was attended by over 250,000 civil rights fans. His speech which lasted for 18 minutes was given at the moment when blacks were cruelly discriminated against. The speech “I Have a Dream” is always regarded as being among the greatest and famous speeches in history. This speech was a defining period of the Civil Rights Movement in America. Martin Luther King’s background as a first rank leader of the Negro and a member of the civil rights greatly helped him in this speech. He was American blacks’ symbolic leader and a world-image American Rhetoric (2005).

The purpose of the king’s speech was to motivate the endorsement of change within the Americans, and the state, in relation to Americans’ inappropriate views towards unlike races or tribal groups in America. King stresses on the American blacks being victimized, Talking about his fellow blacks from both expert and personal levels. King’s objective was to put important pressure on the state and its citizen, by identifying the mistakes of their habits and the promises which have never happened through history. He asks for change and gives out solutions, by so doing he intended to influence the state to unite, thereby ending the historical division among the American citizen. The important information in king’s speech is that everyone is equally created although that was not the case in America at the moment, he had a strong feeling that this will change in the future.

There is no doubt that the king’s speech was perfectly researched. In his homework, he seriously read the Bible, The Gettysburg Address, and the declaration of United States of America independence and he indirectly refers to all these in his talk. The style of the speech has been explained as a political treatise, poetry work and improvised and a masterfully delivered talk, coming up with language and imagery from the bible plus rhythm and recurrences.

The bigger part of the king’s achievement as an orator was because of his utilization of rhetoric in his communication. He was able to determine the mood and tone of the listeners, and intermingle with them properly. The utilization of metaphors gave him a chance to outline his point to convey an excellent speech. In most cases, he was calm and composed, when needed he was capable to be loud and integrate anyone’s movement. He stopped for applauses often, this permitted the listeners to display their enthusiasm and create them feel included instead of them having a feeling that they are just sitting listening to somebody speech American Rhetoric (2005).

King directed his encouragement to white and blank individuals joining hands to attain racial peace and agreement. He specifically wanted to educate the blanks that sameness could be achieved through the application of non-violence. He also encourages blanks to never forget their dreams and urged that in God’s eyes, blacks should be equally treated because they are important as any race in America. The speech was effective in that it inspired the majority of black and white addressees who attended in Washington and those who were viewing on T.V. The best aspect of this speech is that everybody was equally created. King passionately needed it to be the future case. Apart from this main idea, subsequent thoughts are involved to back up and stress it.

American Rhetoric (2005). Top ten Speeches: I have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr . delivered 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

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IvyPanda. (2022, January 1). Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” Speech Critique. https://ivypanda.com/essays/martin-luther-king-jrs-i-have-a-dream-speech-critique/

"Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” Speech Critique." IvyPanda , 1 Jan. 2022, ivypanda.com/essays/martin-luther-king-jrs-i-have-a-dream-speech-critique/.

IvyPanda . (2022) 'Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” Speech Critique'. 1 January.

IvyPanda . 2022. "Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” Speech Critique." January 1, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/martin-luther-king-jrs-i-have-a-dream-speech-critique/.

1. IvyPanda . "Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” Speech Critique." January 1, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/martin-luther-king-jrs-i-have-a-dream-speech-critique/.

Bibliography

IvyPanda . "Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” Speech Critique." January 1, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/martin-luther-king-jrs-i-have-a-dream-speech-critique/.

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Black History Month 2024

5 mlk speeches you should know. spoiler: 'i have a dream' isn't on the list.

Scott Neuman

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

The Rev. Ralph Abernathy (left) shakes hands with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Montgomery, Ala., on March 22, 1956, as a big crowd of supporters cheers for King, who had just been found guilty of leading the Montgomery bus boycott. Gene Herrick/AP hide caption

The Rev. Ralph Abernathy (left) shakes hands with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Montgomery, Ala., on March 22, 1956, as a big crowd of supporters cheers for King, who had just been found guilty of leading the Montgomery bus boycott.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s " I Have a Dream " speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, is so famous that it often eclipses his other speeches.

King's greatest contribution to the Civil Rights Movement was his oratory, says Jason Miller, an English professor at North Carolina State University who has written extensively on King's speeches.

Black History Month 2024 has begun. Here's this year's theme and other things to know

Black History Month 2024 has begun. Here's this year's theme and other things to know

"King's first biographer was a dear friend of Dr. King's, L.D. Reddick ," Miller says. Reddick once suggested to King that maybe more marching and less speaking was needed to push the cause of civil rights forward. According to Miller, King is said to have responded, "My dear man, you never deny an artist his medium."

Miller says that in his research, he found numerous examples of King reworking and recycling old speeches. "He would rewrite them ... just to change phrasings and rhythms. And so he prepared a great deal, often 19 lines per page on a yellow legal sheet."

Often, King would write notes to himself in the margins: "what tenor and tone to deliver," Miller says.

That phrasing and an understanding of cadence were all important to the success of these speeches, according to Carolyn Calloway-Thomas, director of graduate studies at the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University.

King's training in the pulpit gave him a strong insight into what moves an audience, she says. "Preachers are performers. They know when to pause. How long to pause. And with what effect. And he certainly was a great user of dramatic pauses."

Here are four of King's speeches that sometimes get overlooked, plus the one he delivered the day before his 1968 assassination. Collectively, they represent historical signposts on the road to civil rights.

" Give Us the Ballot " (May 17, 1957 — Washington, D.C.)

King spoke at the Lincoln Memorial three years to the day after the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education , which struck down the "separate but equal" doctrine that had allowed segregation in public schools.

But Jim Crow persisted throughout much of the South. The yearlong Montgomery bus boycott , sparked by the arrest of Rosa Parks, had ended only months before King's speech. And the Voting Rights Act of 1965 , which sought to end disenfranchisement of Black voters, was still eight years away.

"It's a very important speech because he's talking about the importance of voting and he's responding to some of the Southern resistance to the Brown decision," says Vicki Crawford, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Collection at Morehouse College, King's alma mater .

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

U.S. deputy marshals escort 6-year-old Ruby Bridges from William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in November 1960. The first-grader was the only Black child enrolled in the school, where parents of white students were boycotting the court-ordered integration law and were taking their children out of school. AP hide caption

U.S. deputy marshals escort 6-year-old Ruby Bridges from William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in November 1960. The first-grader was the only Black child enrolled in the school, where parents of white students were boycotting the court-ordered integration law and were taking their children out of school.

The speech calls out both major political parties for betraying "the cause of justice" and failing to do enough to ensure civil rights for Blacks. He accuses Democrats of "capitulating to the prejudices and undemocratic practices of the Southern Dixiecrats," referring to the party's pro-segregation wing. The Republicans, King said, had instead capitulated "to the blatant hypocrisy of right-wing, reactionary Northerners."

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

King speaks at a mass demonstration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on May 17, 1957, as civil rights leaders called on the U.S. government to put more teeth into the Supreme Court's desegregation decisions. Charles Gorry/AP hide caption

King speaks at a mass demonstration at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on May 17, 1957, as civil rights leaders called on the U.S. government to put more teeth into the Supreme Court's desegregation decisions.

He also indicts Northern liberals who are "so bent on seeing all sides" that they are "neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm" in their commitment to civil rights.

"King [was] calling on both parties to take a look at themselves," Crawford says.

With the movement gaining steam, King used his speech to take stock of where things stood and what must be done next, Calloway-Thomas says. "He is revisiting the status of African American people."

" Our God Is Marching On! " (March 25, 1965 — Montgomery, Ala.)

The speech was delivered after the last of three Selma-Montgomery marches to call for voting rights. Protesters were beaten by Alabama law enforcement officials at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on March 7 in what came to be known as Bloody Sunday . Among the nearly 60 wounded that day by club-wielding police was John Lewis, the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), who suffered a fractured skull. (Lewis later served 17 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.) A second attempt to reach Montgomery a few days later was again turned back at the bridge. In a third try, marchers finally reached the steps of the Alabama State Capitol on March 25.

Rep. John Lewis, A Force In The Civil Rights Movement, Dead At 80

Rep. John Lewis, A Force In The Civil Rights Movement, Dead At 80

"Finally the group of protesters gets all the way to the Capitol, and King delivers a speech to what we think is about 25,000 people," Miller says. The speech is also often referred to as the "How Long? Not Long" speech because of that powerful refrain, Miller says.

Jonathan Eig, author of the biography King: A Life , published last year, says he thinks about three-fourths of the speech was written out. "Then [King] goes off script and gives a sermon."

That's when he answers the question "How long?" for his audience. How long will it be until Black people have the same rights as white people? "Not long, because no lie can live forever," King tells his exuberant listeners.

"That's the part that really echoes. No question," Eig says. "And I think that's when he knew he was at his best. He knew that he could bring the crowd to its feet and inspire them."

Also notable is a famous anecdote that King shared in his speech, one that appeared earlier in his 1963 " Letter from a Birmingham Jail " addressed to his "fellow clergymen." It relates the words of Sister Pollard, a 70-year-old Black woman who had walked everywhere, refusing to ride the Montgomery buses during the 1955-1956 boycott.

"One day, she was asked while walking if she didn't want to ride," King said, speaking to the crowd that had just successfully marched from Selma to Montgomery. "And when she answered, 'No,' the person said, 'Well, aren't you tired?' And with her ungrammatical profundity, she said, 'My feets is tired, but my soul is rested.'"

"And in a real sense this afternoon, we can say that our feet are tired but our souls are rested," he said.

The story of Sister Pollard would be used again in the coming years.

But the speech may be best remembered today for another line, where King said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

In fact, King was using the words of a 19th-century Unitarian minister, Theodore Parker . Parker was an abolitionist who secretly funded John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859, often seen as an opening salvo of the Civil War. In a sermon given seven years before the raid, Parker used the line that King would pick up more than a century later.

"Dr. King absorbed all kinds of material, heard from others, used it on his own. But this is what we call appropriation or transformation when the old seems new," Miller says.

" Beyond Vietnam " (April 4, 1967 — New York City)

King had already begun speaking out about the war in Vietnam, but this speech was his most forceful statement on the conflict to date. Black soldiers were dying in disproportionate numbers . King noted the irony that in Vietnam, "Negro and white boys" were killing and dying alongside each other "for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools."

"So we watch them, in brutal solidarity, burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago," he said. "I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor."

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

An infantry soldier runs across a burned-out clearing in Vietnam on Jan. 4, 1967. Horst Faas/AP hide caption

An infantry soldier runs across a burned-out clearing in Vietnam on Jan. 4, 1967.

SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael , a major civil rights figure, had come out against the war and encouraged King to join him. But some in King's own inner circle had cautioned him against speaking about Vietnam.

Stokely Carmichael, A Philosopher Behind The Black Power Movement

Code Switch

Stokely carmichael, a philosopher behind the black power movement.

Although powerful and timely, the speech drew a harsh and immediate reaction from a nation that had only just begun to reckon with the rising casualties and economic toll of the war. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times published editorials criticizing it. The Post said King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people" and the Times said he had "dampened his prospects for becoming the Negro leader who might be able to get the nation 'moving again' on civil rights."

King knew he would take heat for the speech, especially from the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, with whom he'd worked to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and, a year later, the Voting Rights Act, through Congress. With the presidential election just 19 months away, continued support of Johnson's Vietnam policy was crucial to his reelection. Nearly 10 months after the speech, however, the Tet Offensive launched by the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army would help turn U.S. public opinion against the war and lead Johnson to not seek another term.

But in April 1967, the reaction to the speech was "far worse than King or his advisers imagined," says Miller, of North Carolina State University. Johnson "excommunicated" the civil rights leader, he says, adding that even leaders of the NAACP expressed disappointment that King had focused attention on the war.

"His immediate response was that he was crushed," Miller says. "There are a number of people who have documented that he literally broke down in tears when he realized the kind of backlash towards it."

He was criticized from both sides of the political aisle. Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., a staunch conservative who made a failed run for the presidency in 1964, said King's speech "could border a bit on treason."

"King himself said that he anguished over doing the speech," says Indiana University's Calloway-Thomas.

" The Three Evils of Society " (Aug. 31, 1967 — Chicago)

The three evils King outlines in this speech are poverty, racism and militarism . Referring to Johnson's Great Society program to help lift rural Americans out of poverty, King said that it had been "shipwrecked off the coast of Asia, on the dreadful peninsula of Vietnam" and that meanwhile, "the poor, Black and white are still perishing on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity."

Calloway-Thomas calls it "the most scathing critique of American society by King that I have ever read."

"We need, according to him, a radical redistribution of political and economic power," she says, "Is that implying reparations? Is that implying socialism?"

Calloway-Thomas hears in King's words an antecedent to the Black Lives Matter movement. "One sees in that speech some relationship between the rhetoric of Dr. King at that moment and the rhetoric of Black Lives Matter at this moment," she says.

It was also one of the many instances where King quoted poet Langston Hughes, with whom he had become friends. "What happens to a dream deferred? It leads to bewildering frustration and corroding bitterness," King said in a nod to Hughes' most famous poem, " Harlem ."

King and Hughes traveled together to Nigeria in 1960, Miller notes, calling the poet an often unrecognized but nonetheless "central figure" in the early Civil Rights Movement. "They exchanged letters. Dr. King told [Hughes] how much he used his poetry. Dr. King used seven poems by Langston Hughes in his sermons and speeches from 1956 to 1958."

" I've Been to the Mountaintop! " (April 3, 1968 — Memphis, Tenn.)

This is King's last speech, delivered a day before his assassination at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968. He was in the city to lend his support and his voice to the city's striking sanitation workers .

"He wasn't expecting to give a speech that night," according to Clayborne Carson, Martin Luther King, Jr. centennial professor emeritus at Stanford University. "He was hoping to get out of it. He was not feeling well."

"They call him and say, 'The people here want to hear you. They don't want to hear us.' And plus, the place was packed that night" despite a heavy downpour, Carson says. "I think he recognized that people really wanted to hear him. And despite the state of his health, he decided to go."

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

Martin Luther King Jr. makes his last public appearance, at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tenn., on April 3, 1968. The following day, King was assassinated on his motel balcony. Charles Kelly/AP hide caption

Martin Luther King Jr. makes his last public appearance, at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tenn., on April 3, 1968. The following day, King was assassinated on his motel balcony.

The haunting words, in which King says, "I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you" have led many people to think he was prophesying his own death the following day at the hands of assassin James Earl Ray .

"The speech really does feel a bit like his own eulogy," says Eig. "He's talking about earthly salvation and heavenly salvation. And, in the end, boldly equating himself with Moses, who doesn't live to see the Promised Land."

The speech is largely, if not entirely, extemporaneous. And by the end, King was exhausted, says Carson. "It's pretty clear when you watch the film that he's not in the best shape."

"He barely makes it to the end," he says.

"But he relied on his audience to bring him along," Carson says. "I think it's one of those speeches where the crowd is inspiring him and he's inspiring them. That's what makes it work."

It's a great speech, made greater still because it was his last, says Calloway-Thomas.

"You have this wonderful man who epitomized the social and political situation in the United States in the 20th century," she says. "There he is, dying so tragically and dreadfully. It has a lot of pity and pathos buried inside it."

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Analyzing The King's "I Have a Dream" Speech

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Published: Feb 7, 2024

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Historical context, structure of the speech, analysis of king's message, impact of the speech.

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essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

Dexter Scott King remembered during memorial as keeper of his father Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream

FILE - Dexter King, son of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., listens to arguments in the State Court of Criminal Appeals in Jackson, Tenn., Friday, Aug. 29, 1997, to determine whether two Memphis judges have overstepped their authority surrounding the investigation of the King assassination. A memorial service was held Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, in Atlanta for Dexter Scott King, who died in January at the age of 62 after battling prostate cancer. (Helen Comer/The Jackson Sun via AP, Pool, File)

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Dexter Scott King, the late son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, was remembered Saturday as the protector of his family’s legacy and the keeper of his father’s dream during a memorial service in Atlanta.

“You, my love, were born a King, beautifully sculpted with the physical traits and intellect of the most revered and impactful man of our time, your beloved father. In addition to that, you held the grace, talent and steadfastness of your beautiful mother,” Dexter’s wife, Leah Weber King, said in her speech, speaking directly to him.

“You were, indeed, what most would consider and what I considered a man who had it all,” she said. “But instead of devoting your life to how these riches could advance your personal aspirations and fill your ego, you devoted your life to how all of these riches could advance the cause and legacy of your father, your mother and your family.”

Dexter Scott King died Jan. 22, 2024, at the age of 62 at his home in Malibu, California, after battling prostate cancer.

The memorial service for Dexter King was held at Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his father once was pastor. Among others paying homage were his two living siblings and musician Stevie Wonder, who sang “They Won’t Go When I Go.”

Dexter’s older brother, Martin Luther King III, said Dexter has been welcomed home by their mother, father and sister Yolanda Denice King, who died in 2007, a year after their mother.

“He’s run his race, now it’s up to us,” King III said, promising he and Kings’ last surviving daughter, the Rev. Bernice A. King, would continue the family’s legacy.

“We will one day achieve what Mom and Dad talked about, the beloved community,” he said. “We aren’t even in the vicinity today, but we will get there.”

Dexter King was named for the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, where his father was pastor during the bus boycott that vaulted him to national prominence following the 1955 arrest of Rosa Parks.

King was 7 years old when his father was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.

He bore such a striking resemblance to his father that he was cast to play him in a 2002 television movie about Rosa Parks, starring Angela Bassett.

He spent much of his life protecting the legacy of his parents.

Dexter King served as chairman of The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and was president of the King Estate, working to protect the family’s intellectual property.

“Dexter was ahead of his time,” Bernice King said of her brother’s vision in protecting the family’s intellectual rights. “That’s Dexter Scott King’s legacy.”

In an old speech played at the memorial, around the time when he began a leadership role with the King Center, Dexter Scott King said, “When people ask, ‘What does Dexter want?’ Dexter wants to serve, Dexter has to serve because the triple evils of poverty, racism and violence are still among us.”

He met James Earl Ray, who had pleaded guilty to murdering his father in 1969, during a visit in 1997 at a Nashville prison. King believed Ray was innocent, and the family sought to have Ray stand trial, hoping it would reveal evidence of a broader conspiracy.

Ray told King in the prison meeting that he wasn’t the killer, and King replied, “I believe you and my family believes you.”

Ray never stood trial and died from liver failure in 1998.

Thiessen reported from Anchorage, Alaska.

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Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. With His Most Inspiring Quotes

Posted: January 12, 2024 | Last updated: January 15, 2024

<p>One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right when the head is totally wrong.</p>

1) From his 1963 book, "Strength to Love":

One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right when the head is totally wrong.

- Strength to Love

<p>We will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.</p>

2) From his "I Have a Dream" speech, August 1963:

We will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

- " I Have a Dream "speech, August 1963

<p>Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.</p>

3) From "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," April 1963:

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

- " Letter from a Birmingham Jail ," April 1963

<p>I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.</p>

4) From his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech , 1964

<p>Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself.</p>

5) From "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," April 1963:

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself.

<p>A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.</p>

6) From "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," April 1963:

A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.

<p>The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.</p>

7) From his autobiography, “The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.”:

The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

- The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., 2001

<p>Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.</p>

8) From his essay “The Purpose of Education," 1947

Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

- “ The Purpose of Education ," 1947

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

9) From “The American Dream” speech given at Lincoln University, Oxford, Penn. June 6, 1961:

I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.

- “ The American Dream ,” 1961

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

10) From “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart” sermon, August 30, 1959:

Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge, which is power; religion gives man wisdom, which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.

- “ A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart ,” 1959

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

11) From his "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”:

Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.

- " Where Do We Go From Here? ," 1967

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

12) From his autobiography, “The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.”:

We must condemn those who are perpetuating the violence, and not the individuals who engage in the pursuit of their constitutional rights.

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

13) From his speech before a group of students at Barratt Junior High School, October 26, 1967:

Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

- Speech for students at Barratt Junior High School , 1967

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

14) From his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, April 3, 1968:

For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.

- “ I’ve Been to the Mountaintop ,” 1968

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

15) From his autobiography, “The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.”:

I came to the conclusion that there is an existential moment in your life when you must decide to speak for yourself; nobody else can speak for you.

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

16) From "Stride Toward Freedom," 1958:

You must be willing to suffer the anger of the opponent, and yet not return anger. No matter how emotional your opponents are, you must remain calm.

- Stride Toward Freedom , 1958

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

17) From "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," April 1963:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

18) From his essay “The Purpose of Education," 1947:

The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.

<p>I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.</p><p><strong>RELATED: </strong><a href="https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/a32760299/white-fragility-author-robin-diangelo-how-to-help-racial-injustice/">What Is the Answer to Overcoming Racism in America?</a></p>

19) From his "I Have a Dream" speech, August 1963:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

RELATED: What Is the Answer to Overcoming Racism in America?

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

20) From his 1963 book, "Strength to Love":

We cannot long survive spiritually separated in a world that is geographically together.

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

21) From his autobiography, “The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.”:

Nothing worthwhile is gained without sacrifice.

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

22) From his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him.

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

23) From his “Where Do We Go From Here?” address:

We must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future.

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

24) From his November 1967 "The Domestic Impact of the War in Vietnam" speech:

Ultimately a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

- " The Domestic Impact of the War in Vietnam ," 1967

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

25) From his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

The beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

26) From "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," April 1963:

We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

27) From his 1963 book, "Strength to Love":

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

28) From his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

29) From his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom.

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

30) From his 1964 Nobel Lecture “The Quest for Peace and Justice":

Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love...violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

- “ The Quest for Peace and Justice ", 1964

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

31) From his 1967 Christmas sermon on peace:

If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective.

- Christmas sermon on peace , 1967

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

32) From his 1956 "The Most Durable Power" sermon:

Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.

- " The Most Durable Power ," 1956

essay about martin luther king i have a dream speech

33) From his 1963 book, "Strength to Love":

The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists who are dedicated to justice, peace and brotherhood.

<p>Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.</p>

34) From his 1963 book, "Strength to Love":

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

<p>Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.</p><p><strong>RELATED: </strong><a href="https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/g25383377/quotes-about-change/">30 Quotes About Change, Because We Never Stop Evolving</a></p>

35) From his sermon “The Death of Evil Upon the Seashore,” May 1956:

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.

- " The Death of Evil Upon the Seashore ,” 1956

RELATED: 30 Quotes About Change, Because We Never Stop Evolving

<p>The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.</p>

36) From his 1963 book, "Strength to Love":

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

<p>Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one's whole being into the being of another.</p>

37) From 1957:

Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one's whole being into the being of another.

<p>Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. </p>

38) From "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," April 1963:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

<p>The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education. </p>

39) From his essay “The Purpose of Education," 1947:

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education.

<p>I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.</p>

40) From his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.

<p>Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles.</p>

41) From his 1998 autobiography, "The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr.":

Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles.

<p>Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'</p><p><strong>RELATED: </strong><a href="https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/g33821353/giving-quotes/">The 35 Best Giving Quotes to Inspire Generosity</a></p>

42) From his 1963 book, "Strength to Love":

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'

RELATED: The 35 Best Giving Quotes to Inspire Generosity

<p>I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.</p>

43) From his "Where Do We Go From Here?" address, August 1967:

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

<p>Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.</p>

44) As quoted by Marian Wright Edelman in a 1986 interview:

Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.

<p>We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.</p>

45) From his "I Have a Dream" speech, August 1963:

We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.

<p>Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and enables the man who wields it.</p>

46) From his 1964 Nobel Lecture “The Quest for Peace and Justice":

Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and enables the man who wields it.

<p>The time is always right to do what is right.</p>

47) From his speech at Oberlin College, October 1964:

The time is always right to do what is right.

- Dr. King's commencement address at Oberlin College , 1964

<p>An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.</p>

48) From his sermon “Conquering Self-Centeredness,” August 1957:

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

- “ Conquering Self-Centeredness ,” 1957

<p>We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.</p>

49) From the 2002 book "In My Own Words," edited by Coretta Scott King:

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

- In My Own Words

<p>True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.</p>

50) From his 1958 book, "Stride Toward Freedom":

True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.

<p>Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.</p><p><strong>RELATED:</strong> <a href="https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/relationships/g3721/quotes-about-love/">75 Best Love Quotes That Will Make Anyone Believe in True Love</a></p>

51) From his 1963 book, "Strength to Love":

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.

RELATED: 75 Best Love Quotes That Will Make Anyone Believe in True Love

<p>Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude.</p><p>- “<a href="https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/draft-chapter-iv-love-action">Love in Action</a>,” 1962-1963</p>

52) From his sermon “Love in Action,” 1962-1963:

Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude.

- “ Love in Action ,” 1962-1963

<p>There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.</p><p>- "<a href="https://pnhp.org/news/martin-luther-king-jr-a-proper-sense-of-priorities/">A Proper Sense of Priorities</a>," 1968</p>

53) From his "A Proper Sense of Priorities" speech, February 1968:

There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.

- " A Proper Sense of Priorities ," 1968

<p>If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.</p>

54) From his 1963 book, "Strength to Love":

If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.

<p>No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.</p>

55) From his 1963 book, "Strength to Love":

No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

<p>If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.</p><p>- "<a href="https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/keep-moving-mountain-address-spelman-college-10-april-1960">Keep Moving from This Mountain</a>," 1960</p><p><strong>RELATED: </strong><a href="https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/g5080/life-quotes/">35 Life Quotes That'll Motivate You to Take That Next Step</a></p>

56) From his April 1960 address at Spelman College "Keep Moving from This Mountain":

If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.

- " Keep Moving from This Mountain ," 1960

RELATED: 35 Life Quotes That'll Motivate You to Take That Next Step

<p>I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind's problems.</p>

57) From his "Where Do We Go From Here?" address, 1967:

I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind's problems.

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  1. 🎉 Martin luther king jr i have a dream speech essay. Essay on Martin

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  2. Martin Luther King's Rhetorical Strategies in I Have a Dream Free Essay

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  3. Martin Luther King Jr I Have A Dream Essay

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  5. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" Speech by Denise Hill

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COMMENTS

  1. Essay on Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream Speech

    Dr. King began the speech with a rhetoric phrase, 'Now is the time', a tool that he used throughout speech. In the sixth paragraph of his speech, he used the phrase six times. He was echoing to his audience to get hold of the moment. More so he used the phrase, 'I have a dream eight times.

  2. A Summary and Analysis of Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' Speech

    'I Have a Dream' is one of the greatest speeches in American history. Delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-68) in Washington D.C. in 1963, the speech is a powerful rallying cry for racial equality and for a fairer and equal world in which African Americans will be as free as white Americans.

  3. MLK's I Have A Dream Speech Video & Text

    The "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. before a crowd of some 250,000 people at the 1963 March on Washington, remains one of the most famous speeches in...

  4. "I Have a Dream" Speech Summary

    Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington, a major civil rights demonstration. King references the US Constitution...

  5. I Have a Dream

    I Have a Dream, speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., that was delivered on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington. A call for equality and freedom, it became one of the defining moments of the civil rights movement and one of the most iconic speeches in American history. March on Washington

  6. Transcript of Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech : NPR

    Monday marks Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Below is a transcript of his celebrated "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered on Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. NPR's Talk of...

  7. I Have a Dream Summary & Analysis

    Plot Summary & Analysis Themes Quotes Characters Symbols Theme Viz Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on I Have a Dream Speech makes teaching easy. Everything you need for every book you read. "Sooo much more helpful than SparkNotes. The way the content is organized and presented is seamlessly smooth, innovative, and comprehensive."

  8. Text to Text

    Background: The speech that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered on Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial was not the speech he had prepared in his notes and stayed up nearly all night writing. Dr. King was the closing speaker at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and the "Dream" speech that inspired a nation and helped galvanize the civil rights movement ...

  9. Martin Luther King Jr. Gives "I Have a Dream" Speech

    On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., took the podium at the March on Washington and addressed the gathered crowd, which numbered 200,000 people or more. His speech became famous for its recurring phrase "I have a dream." He imagined a future in which "the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners" could "sit down together at the table of brotherhood," a future ...

  10. Martin Luther King: the story behind his 'I have a dream' speech

    Fri 9 Aug 2013 16.00 EDT. T he night before the March on Washington, on 28 August 1963, Martin Luther King asked his aides for advice about the next day's speech. "Don't use the lines about ...

  11. I Have a Dream Speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. Plot Summary

    In his "I Have a Dream" speech, minister and civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. outlines the long history of racial injustice in America and encourages his audience to hold their country accountable to its own founding promises of freedom, justice, and equality.

  12. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" Speech

    Over the course of five lessons, students will read, analyze, and gain a clear understanding of "I Have a Dream," a speech delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr., at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. The first four lessons require students to read excerpts from the speech "like a detective." Through summary organizers, practice, and ...

  13. "I Have a Dream" Speech Analysis

    Introduction. "I have a dream" speech was given by Martin Luther King on 28 th August 1963. There was an audience of about 250,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington where the speech was given. This speech was mainly based on the freedom for the black's referred to as Negros. He was much concerned about the oppression and ...

  14. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream": Speech Analysis

    The primary objectives of Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech were to call for an end to racial inequality and segregation, to demand equal rights and treatment for African Americans, and to inspire people to take action to achieve these goals. Rhetorical Strategies Used

  15. Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' Speech: Summary Essay

    The 'I Have a Dream' speech is a public speech that was delivered by American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. on 28 August 1963. In this speech Martin Luther King is trying to expose the American public to the injustice of racial inequality and persuade them to stop discriminating on the basis of race by joining him in a ...

  16. Mlk's "I Have a Dream": Analysis and Legacy

    On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This historic address not only captured the spirit of the civil rights movement but also articulated a vision for racial equality, justice, and freedom in the United States. More than half a century later, the ...

  17. "I Have a Dream": an Analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Iconic Speech

    Introduction. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech is one of the most iconic and powerful orations in American history. Delivered on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, King's speech called for racial equality and justice, and has come to symbolize the Civil Rights Movement.

  18. Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Speech

    Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Speech - American Rhetoric M artin L uther K ing, J r. I Have a Dream delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. Video Purchase Off-Site Audio mp3 of Address [AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio. (2)]

  19. PDF Full text to the I Have A Dream speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Junior

    Full text to the "I Have A Dream" speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Junior I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

  20. I Have a Dream Speech Themes

    In his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech, civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. describes the founding promises of America (freedom, equality, and justice for all) and the nation's failure to keep those promises, particularly to Black Americans.

  21. I Have a Dream: Persuasive And Powerful Speech

    Martin Luther King Jr. Speech. The "I Have a Dream" speech is one of the most famous speeches ever given in the history of nation. As quoted by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself, also one of the "greatest demonstrations of freedom in the history of our nation.". It changed the world and impacted it in ways that forever shaped America.

  22. 5 MLK speeches you should know. Spoiler: 'I Have a Dream ...

    For assistance accessing our public files, please call 916-278-8900 or. Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech is well known, but there are several other key speeches that ...

  23. The "I Have a Dream" Speech: The Rhetoric of Martin Luther King

    The speech, "I Have a Dream," delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. on August 28, 1963, is a landmark address in American history. King gave this speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

  24. Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" Speech Critique Essay

    Top ten Speeches: I have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr. delivered 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C. This essay, "Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" Speech Critique" is published exclusively on IvyPanda's free essay examples database. You can use it for research and reference purposes to write your own paper.

  25. 5 MLK speeches you should know besides 'I Have a Dream' : NPR

    5 MLK speeches you should know. Spoiler: 'I Have a Dream' isn't on the list. The Rev. Ralph Abernathy (left) shakes hands with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Montgomery, Ala., on March 22 ...

  26. Analyzing The King's "I Have a Dream" Speech

    On August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic speech, "I Have a Dream." The speech has since become one of the most famous and influential speeches in American history. Analyzing King's speech is important because it provides insight into the political and social climate of the time ...

  27. Dexter Scott King remembered during memorial as keeper of his father

    Dexter Scott King, the late son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, was remembered Saturday as the protector of his family's legacy and the keeper of his father's dream ...

  28. Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. With His Most Inspiring Quotes

    Good Housekeeping. 230.1K Followers. Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. With His Most Inspiring Quotes. Story by Hannah Jeon, Katarina Avendaño • 1mo. 1 / 57. 1) From his 1963 book ...