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"I Have a Dream" Speech

Delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C, on August 28, 1963, the "I Have a Dream" speech of Martin Luther King, Jr. demanding an end to racial segregation and discrimination, is widely recognized as one of history's most powerful orations

Broadcast live on television and radio, King called upon America to make good on its promise "that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

The famous words "I have a dream" came near the end of the speech as King poetically describes his vision of a world where "little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers."

Clarence B. Jones was on the speaker's platform with Martin Luther King, Jr. that day. As a speechwriter, counsel and friend to King, he witnessed the improbable event unfold. In his memoir, "Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation," he describes the scene just prior to the keynote address.

"All Labor Has Dignity"

A quarter of a million people, human beings who generally had spent their lives treated as something less, stood shoulder to shoulder across that vast lawn, their hearts beating as one – hope on the line when hope was an increasingly scarce resource.

There is no dearth of prose describing the mass of humanity that made its way to the feet of the Great Emancipator that day; no metaphor that has slipped through the cracks waiting to be discovered, dusted off, and injected into the discourse a half century on. The march on Washington has been compared to a tsunami, a shockwave, a wall, a living monument, a human mosaic, an outright miracle.

It was all of those things, and if you saw it with your own eyes, it wasn't hard to write about. With that many people in one place crying out for something so elemental, you dont have to be Robert Frost to offer some profound eloquence.

Still, I can say to those who know the event only as a steely black-and-white television image, its a shame that the colors of that day – the blue sky, the vibrant green life, the golden sun everywhere – are not part of our national memory.

There is something heart-wrenching about the widely shown images and film clips of the event that belies the joy of the day.

 Behind the Dream
Behind the Dream
The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation
by Clarence B. Jones and Stuart Connelly

Palgrave Macmillan, 2011

The words "I have a dream" were not originally part of the historic speech delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963, according to speechwriter Clarence Jones, who composed this compelling history of an event he helped shape almost half a century ago.

Jones, an attorney and a gifted writer, stood just a few feet away from King as he started delivering a speech that Jones helped write and then, at the urging of gospel singer Mehalia Jackson, suddenly launched into an extemporaneous soliloquoy using a phrase he'd used previously but never so effectively" "I have a dream."

"Then I watched Martin push the text of his prepared remarks to one side of the lecturn," Jones recalls. "He shifted gears in a heartbeat, abandoning whatever final version of the balance of the text he'd prepared late the previous night, turning away from whatever notes he'd scrawled in the margins... Then, honoring Mahalia's request, Martin spoke those words that in retrospect feel destined to ring out that day: I have a dream..."

Book Search

Martin Luther King
"I Have a Dream"

"All Labor Has Dignity"
"All Labor Has Dignity"
by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Beacon Press, 2012

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