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Martin Luther King

I was six years old when he was assassinated. I remember my parents bringing my brother and I to watch the television and see the news on the tragic event.

Here is the text of his “I have a dream” speech. As Dr. King was a preacher in the Southern tradition, his oratory was superb. If you can, find an audio recording and be amazed at what a good speaker can do.

Let’s not forget that Martin Luther King was a man.

I 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 one hundred 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.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

    My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

    Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

    From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

    Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

    Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

    Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

    Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

    Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

    Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

    Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

    From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

     Free at last! Free at last!

      Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

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11 thoughts on “Martin Luther King

  1. I’m not an MLK fan(thought he was a puppet and a clown).I mean,honestly,I didn’t hate his message nor his vision.I just didn’t like the Christianity in his mission.Keep the religion out and he would’ve been the man in my book.

  2. Very inspiring speech. Were he alive today, I wonder if he would not be asking some of the questions Bill Cosby asks and gets pilloried for in the black community, or at least by some of its most vociferous members. Whys is black illegitmacy at 75%? Why do fewer than 50% of black males finish high school? Why are black high schools so ineffective that a a black youth who DOES graduate has the functonal equivalent of maybe a 6th grade education? Why is black underachievement so accepted by its educational elite that poor English grammar and usage was seriously proposed as a “language” i e “Ebonics”, whatever that be? Why is trying to learn in school called “acting white”? Why is a black male 4 (or 5 or 6-no one really knows because the statistic doesn’t fit the national media’s model of white racism being the root cause of fall black problems) times more likely to have a prison record, be on probation or parole than he is to have a post graduate degree? Why ar so few black men on a percentage basis able to meet the standards necessary to be in the armed forces? Why are so few % wise represented in the elite units- Rangers, SEALS, etc,? Where is the black entreprenurial class, the small business owners, the start-up people that are the necessary backbone of any community? Why are blacks so abysmally underrepresented in STEM areas of academic study that colleges and universities are actively discriminating AGAINST the minority who actually aspires to and achieves it, the Asian one? Where is the outrage by the media, civil rights and liberal community (including the black one) over the preceding question? Why after 50 years of being the most loyal voters, contributors and workers for the Democratic Party are blacks just as poor, if not poorer, just as islolated, if not more so, just as ill-educated, if not more so, just as imprisoned, if not more so, just as involved in substance abuse (including addiction) , if not more so, AND SHOWING ABSOLUTELY NO SIGN OF IMPROVING ANYWHERE? Why are the cities with the highest black concentration so miserable, so bereft of any hope, so beyond any realistic chance of redemption that the city governments there are LITERALLY making them disappear, blocks at a time razed to the very ground, perfectly ok houses/buildings in some cases with nothing absolutely nothing proposed to replace them, now or in any forseeable future? Why are black areas of cities not described in the preceding question so unsafe that every single non-minority person in them 1) knows where they are 2) onyl goes there in certain prescribed times and 3) avoids it at other times like cancer causing radiation? Why does no one say what I just said? Why isn’t there black leader who can call out the “black community” as I believe Dr. King would have, tell them “Give a man a built in excuse to fail, how often will he succeed”? Tell black men “Do not father if you cannot take the yolk of responsibility”, tell black women “An unprepared mother is not a mother but an incubation oven bringing forth despair”?

    I could go on, but if you have not gotten my point, you won’t. And that is precisely the problem. You won’t; not many. You’ve seen so many movies like “Driving Miss Daisy”, “The Help”, “Mississippi Burning”, et al that you (and the American consciousness) are trapped there, seeing white racism as the only evil and failing to address the real one, or at least the root cause-the break down, no disappearance of the black family. Gone. Generations of fatherless children grown up in this malaise. It is possible in some “families” to go back 3 generations and not find a stable male father figure. But no one wants to talk about that.

    Tell me this: Dr. King died 44 years ago this April. Who has emerged to take his place? Jesse Jackson, who was with him in Memphis and appeared literally with his blood on his shirt on tv in Chicago to begin his rise to natonal prominenece? Ok. Al Sharpton. I guess. Louis Farrakhan? Your call on that one.

    Not exactly Moses any of ’em ( Jesse took “my rod and my staff shalt comfort thee” a little too literally), and not exactly spring chickens either. Now, tell me why no one else has, because I honestly don’t know.But I don’t think anyone of us would like to know the honest answer, including me.

    Oh and while you’re at it tell me where the $4-5 billion Jackson raised with his “Operation Push” went? I’d like to see some actual programs that provided actual services to actual people-real numbers. Oh and the payola to his mistress don’t count (my ebonics, fitting for the subjects)..

    I won’t hold my breath.

  3. PM-Go over to Susan’s and see my new words for oral sex. I guess it’s my last ‘cuz Susan says no more oral. I wanted to tell her I’ve been married for 30 so what else is new.
    I think my comment is on her blog with the 2 guys # 502-I’ll check and if it’s wrong I’ll tell you.
    yours in manly appreciation
    The Legendary T.V.Munson, Esq.

  4. Candide on said:

    Didn’t he plagiarise most of his speech from another black pastor or writer?

  5. This is still the ONLY site where I can write as I see fit and not take any grief. ALL HAIL THE PRIVATE MAN!

  6. Bo Ergu on said:

    @Candide

    Nope, he sort-of “plagiarized” one of his own earlier speeches (specifically the famous “I have a dream” part). IIRC it goes like this:

    MLK was in the middle of his speech and a woman standing behind him shouted, “Tell them about your dreams!”, knowing that it was bound to be great, having heard him deliver it earlier in the South. You could just about hear it in the audio recording. That’s the serendipity of history.

  7. Sincere on said:

    TVMunson – I think the root of the problem goes deeper than the broken family unit. The real issue is that the American black man doesn’t have a history.

    We can’t trace our lineage back to some faraway land. We aren’t told stories about the accomplishments of our great-great grandfathers.

    And in school, we learn about Europe. And Asia. And India. And (of course) the United States. Our origin continent remains dark.

    We don’t even have last names of our own. The natural result: we don’t have an identity.

    So our community is left grasping in any and every direction, looking for a sense of self. This is an almost visceral reaction. At some level, we know that without a sense of self there can never be self-esteem.

    And like you noted, fathers are a rare commodity. So some of us turn to musicians and athletes… the only other folks that look like us. In turn, we learn to stunt and to make it rain. Engineers don’t ball. Scientists don’t get bitches.

    At least that’s the common Kool-Aid. But notice the key phrase above… “some of us”. Others are finding their identity in other ways, which I’ll get to in one moment.

    We had real role models for a while. MLK, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, Huey Newton and the like gave us something to believe in. They gave us an identity to aspire to.

    They told us that there’s no need to be ashamed of being black. That you can be intelligent, well-read and confident. And that you can describe yourself as a man… without using the adjective “black”. But we lost those men. And we were left with lofty dreams splattered all over the balcony, or podium, or apartment wall.

    So naturally a vacuum was left behind. Esteem isn’t built overnight, and we still weren’t confident in our new position within American society. Yet the black rights movement was largely over.

    That’s when the rappers and Jessie Jacksons tried to fill that void. I’ll refrain from commenting. But your point is right – a new, real leader has yet to step up to the plate.

    Nor should one.

    Despite of (or maybe due to) the loss of those leaders, the black community has outgrown the need for a new “black leader”. Integration WORKED. We don’t need to march for equal opportunity any more. We’ve already earned it, and signed for it in blood.

    Poverty, drugs and violence are still problems in our community. But there’s also a counter note – a swelling wave of intelligent, ambitious black men and women that identity as Americans. And the upcoming generations are unique… they have been pulled closer together, thanks to the Internet, than any generation before it.

    Of course, there are still remnants of times passed. I still get the occasional off-color comment (ha), but most are out of ignorance instead of malice. And once every couple of years I get pulled over for DWB (Driving While Black). You still have the older black folks holding onto a dead wrath, and older white folks with the same. But the beliefs MLK railed against are dying… along with the generations that hold them.

    My circle of friends would’ve make MLK smile. The next generation will be even more color-blind, prosperous and “connected”. And if my pronouns weren’t explicit enough, I am a young black male. I’m a business owner, I don’t have a criminal record, I have a passport and I hardly ever say “aint”.

    And I’m not alone.

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