I have a dream
I Have a Dream
28 August 1963
Occasion: The keynote speech at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, King gave the address from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to about 250,000 people assembled before him. The speech was also broadcast on TV and published in newspapers. Since 1963, King's "I Have a Dream" speech has become the most famous public address of 20th century America.
The immediate effect of the speech also shaped American history.
Julian Bond, a fellow participant in the civil rights movement and student of King, would write, "King's dramatic 1963 'I Have a Dream' speech before the Lincoln Memorial cemented his place as first among equals in civil rights leadership; from this first televised mass meeting, an American audience saw and heard the unedited oratory of America's finest preacher, and for the first time, a mass white audience heard the undeniable justice of black demands" (Seattle Times, 4 April 1993).
I Have a DreamI 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 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.