On today's date, August 28 in 1963 the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King delivered these words as the opening of his celebrated "I Have a Dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. before @ 250,000 supporters as a part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The crowd contained a major cross-section of American society at the time. Ordinary working Americans of all races were present, rubbing elbows with the Civil Rights leadership, as well as Hollywood celebrities such as Tony Franciosa, Charlton Heston, Paul Newman, Harry Belefonte' and Diahann Carroll. The speech, which called for an end to racism in America, the opening of freedom of opportunity for all races, and which invoked Dr. Kings hope that all races would live in peace and harmony has come to be regarded as the most important speech of the Civil Rights movement in America. And it is considered by many to be one of the most important speeches in American history.
The Goals of the March on Washington
The March on Washington had been meant as a show of massive public support for the civil rights legislation which had been formulated and proposed in June of that year by the administration of President John F. Kennedy. With this in mind as the primary goal of the March, Dr. King and other civil rights leaders had agreed to keep the rhetoric of their speeches calm, so as to avoid encouraging the civil disobedience demonstrations which had of necessity become so much a part of the civil rights movement in the past. Dr. King had planned his speech primarily as an homage to the spirit of Abraham Lincoln whose Emancipation Proclamation was having its Centennial that year.
The Speech, its Effect and its Legacy
And with his fiery style of delivery, Dr. King (who in my opinion was the most mesmerizing public speaker of my lifetime) transformed this speech into the definitive moment of the long struggle for civil rights in America. With his vision of racial harmony between former adversaries, equality of opportunity, and his emphasis on the responsibility of the individual ("the content of their character") Dr. King delivered a masterpiece of oratory, not to mention a clear-as-a-bell statement of the hopes and aspirations of the Civil Rights Movement in America. African Americans wanted only
The complete text of Dr. Kings speech can be found at:
A video of the speech in its entirety can be viewed at:
"Time" Magazine, August 26/September 2, 2013