Martin Luther King Jr (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American pastor, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs.
King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal posthumously. Martin Luther King Jr Day was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986.
“I Have a Dream” was a public speech delivered by King on August 28, 1963, in which he called for an end to racism in the United States. Delivered to over 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, the speech was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.
Beginning with a reference to the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed millions of slaves in 1863, King observes that: “one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free”.
Toward the end of the speech, King departed from his prepared text for a partly improvised peroration on the theme “I have a dream”, prompted by Mahalia Jackson’s cry: “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” Watch here and marvel at the wonder when inspiration moves for prepared text to an exhortation of the human soul.
In this part of the speech, which most excited the listeners and has now become its most famous, King described his dreams of freedom and equality arising from a land of slavery and hatred. Jon Meacham writes that, “With a single phrase, Martin Luther King, Jr. joined Jefferson and Lincoln in the ranks of men who’ve shaped modern America”. The speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century in a 1999 poll of scholars of public address.
Martin Luther King Jr was 39 years of age when his body was retired. Few doubt that his message lives on.
D0 YOU have a dream?