If you’ve attended an American elementary school in the last 30 years, you’re probably fairly familiar with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic speech, “I Have a Dream,” delivered at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
The march, held 100 years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, was capped by King’s powerful speech, setting the tone for a national movement for Civil Rights as the country’s own identity was in flux. The March was a turning point, merging the demonstrations for racial equality concentrated in southern states, with widespread discontent in the north, to a full, national movement.
Interestingly, the most iconic part of the speech, which most people remember, was not exactly prepared. The resounding finale to his speech (a version of which was delivered in Detroit two months prior) was improvised at the end of his prepared remarks about the unfulfilled promise of economic freedom for people of color. The Dream breaks from the central theme of the event — economic opportunity and equality — to sketch a broader vision of a nation where people are not “judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Nevertheless, his words galvanized the 250,000 attendees and the millions of others watching from afar. Right there, King set the agenda for the next several years of activism. The sentiment behind his speech still echoes 53 years later, especially as people continue to fight income inequality, police brutality, and workplace discrimination.
The urgency of now
The march was a peaceful demonstration following months of unrest across the country. Earlier that summer, Alabama governor George Wallace fought against admitting black students to the University of Alabama, civil rights activist Medgar Evers was assassinated, and riots popped up in several cities. But even then, some (including Read More Here