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Martin Luther King's Most Famous Speech


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On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" Speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

In this historic speech, King said he had a dream that white and black children would one day walk hand in hand and that one day sons of former slaves and sons of former slaveowners would be able to agree to live together.

The 1950s, 1960s and 1970s were tremendously difficult times for African-Americans. They were not treated like white Americans simply because of their skin color. And the laws protected the bad treatment they got. Laws requiring "separate" hotels, restaurants, schools, and even drinking fountains were common in many states.

Martin Luther King was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, a drive to get more equal treatment for all Americans, not just white Americans.

This speech was important in several ways:

  • It brought even greater attention to the Civil Rights Movement, which had been going on for many years. King's speech was part of the March on Washington, a gathering of more than 250,000 people in the nation's capital. African-Americans still were not treated as equals. Marches like this one and ones earlier in Detroit and other cities called attention to this fact.
  • The speech was given in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, the monument honoring President Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the Southern states. By giving his speech there, King was wanting to call attention to how things were so terrible a century before (during the Civil War) and how some things hadn't changed so very much in 100 years.
  • It brought Martin Luther King and his message of non-violence to a nationwide (and worldwide) audience. The speech was carried on radio and was reprinted in newspapers and magazines all over the United States and all over the world. After this speech, the name Martin Luther King was known to many more people than before.
  • It made Congress move faster in passing the Civil Rights Act. This set of laws was finally passed the next year, in 1964. Many of these laws gave African-Americans more equal treatment than they ever had before.

Martin Luther King continued to speak out for civil rights and for nonviolence. Sadly, he was killed in 1968. But the memory of his famous "I Have a Dream" speech and the message it contains live on.

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday


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