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MARTIN LUTHER KING'S "I HAVE A DREAM" (1963)
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 Proclaimation. This momentous
decree came as a great beacon of hope to millions of slaves, who had
been seared in the flames of whithering injustice. It came as a
joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one
hundered years later, the colored America is still not free. One
hundred years later, the life of the colored American is still sadly
crippled by the manacle of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
One hundred years later, the colored American lives on a lonely island
of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
One hundred years later, the colored American is still languishing in
the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own
land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to our Nation's Capital to cash a check.
When the architects of our great republic wrote the magnificent words
of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were
signing a promissory note to which every Anerican was to fall heir.
This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white
men, would be guaranteed to the inalienable 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 its colored people a bad
check, a check that 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. So we have come to cash this
check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom
and security of justice.
We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the
fierce urgency of Now. This is not 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 promise of democracy.
Now it the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of
segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
Now it 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 to all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the
moment and to underestimate the determination of it's colored
citizens. This sweltering summer of the colored people'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. Those who hope that the colored Americans needed to
blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if
the nation returns to business as usual.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the
colored citizen 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.
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 colored person'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
selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "for white only."
We cannot be satisfied as long as a colored person in Mississippi
cannot vote and a colored person 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 your trials
and tribulations. Some of you have come from areas where your quest
for freedom left you battered by storms of persecutions 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 modern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can
and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of dispair. I say to you, my friends,
we have the difficulties of today and tommorrow.
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 thise truths to be self-evident
that all men are created equal.
I have a dream that one day out in the red hills of Georgia the sons
of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners 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 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 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
interpostion and nullification; that one day right down 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 engulfed, every
hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough
places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight
and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it
This is our hope. This is the faith that I will 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 symphomy of brotherhood.
With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together,
to struggle together, to go to jail together, to climb up for freedom
together, knowing that we will be free one 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 father's 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.
So let freedom ring from the 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 curvacious
slopes of California. But not only that, let freedom, ring from
Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from every hill and
molehill of Mississippi and every mountainside.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement 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 spiritual, "Free at last, free
at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."
MARTIN LUTHER KING