The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.s Dream by Gary YoungeThe speech of Martin Luther King of August 28, 1963 is probably the most significant speech in U.S. history.
It’s recorded so we can still feel the emotion, the building cadences, and the moral righteousness of what Dr. King was exhorting the American people for.
As the author says this was “the” speech for Dr. King – it was in Washington D.C., it was for all audiences –black, white, the media, government legislators and leaders.
We are provided with the historical lead-up. Dr. King had recently been jailed in Birmingham. The Kennedy’s initially tried to dissuade the “March on Washington”. Dr King at the time was still an unknown entity to the majority of the American people. The Civil Rights Movement was not supported by most Americans – it was looked upon as asking for too much.
And during the speech we are told that about two-thirds of the way through Dr. King began to improvise – to move away from the prepared text. By this it does not mean that he made up words on the fly, but he skipped a portion of the prepared text and then spoke extemporaneously using parts of speeches that he had used in the past, but fitting them into the Washington context. Dr. King was a master speechmaker and as the author says he knew how to make the proper “landing space” for the conclusion of his oratory.
There is also a discussion of the legacy of the speech. Dr. King’s fame had diminished by the time of his assassination in 1968. His moral indignation with the Vietnam War and his continuing campaign against the disenfranchised (the poor and downtrodden) had made him a pariah in many circles – particularly the government. After his death it took many years for the Washington speech to achieve the stature that it has today. As the author states, among other subjects, this speech is indignant of segregation, racism, poverty, war and violence. Many of the issues of the speech are still with us today (in the last few years there has been a whittling away of the Voting Rights Act). But nevertheless, the speech is so strongly optimistic with such a tremendously overpowering dreamscape – of what can be and should be.
As an aside, here is an excerpt from a group of SNCC workers who were directly involved in the physical confrontations of the struggle for racial equality in the American South. They were watching the speeches on a TV that day in a tent about a mile from the Lincoln Memorial:
Page 945-56 Reporting Civil Rights, Part Two: American Journalism 1963-1973
“Then something unforgettable happened. Martin Luther King, Jr. began to talk. We greeted him with crude witticisms about “De Lawd”. Then that rich, resonant voice asserted itself and despite ourselves we became quiet. About halfway through as image built upon stirring image, the voice took on a ringing authority and established its lyrical and rhythmic cadence that was strangely compelling and hypnotic. Somewhere in the artful repetitions of the “Let Freedom Ring” series, we began – despite our stubborn, intemperate hearts – to grunt punctuations to each pause...
By the time the oration triumphantly swept into its closing movement – an expression of faith and moral and political possibility, delivered in the exquisite phrasing and timing of the black preacher’s art – we were transformed. We were on our feet, laughing, shouting, slapping palms, hugging and not an eye was dry. What happened that afternoon in that tent was the most extraordinary, sudden, and total transformation of mood I have ever witnessed.”
The entire speech (about 17:00 minutes)
I Have a Dream
Delivered to over , civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. Beginning with a reference to the Emancipation Proclamation , which freed millions of slaves in ,  King said "one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free". The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was partly intended to demonstrate mass support for the civil rights legislation proposed by President Kennedy in June. Martin Luther King and other leaders therefore agreed to keep their speeches calm, also, to avoid provoking the civil disobedience which had become the hallmark of the Civil Rights Movement. King originally designed his speech as a homage to Abraham Lincoln 's Gettysburg Address , timed to correspond with the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. King uses the metaphor of a bad check to describe how America has mistreated African Americans, despite the words in the U. S Constitution and Declaration of Independence that grant all people the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
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Civil Rights Momentum
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. One such campaign, the 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. 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 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. In preparation for his turn at the event, King solicited contributions from colleagues and incorporated successful elements from previous speeches.
The speech took place on Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. Martin Luther King, Jr stated his dreams of what America should be like, equal for all colored people, including blacks. African Americans should have civil rights equal to that of white men. The system is unfair, but African Americans want to believe that it is not. Even though many.