50 Years After "I Have a Dream"

more+
less-
Explore:  Legal History

Fifty years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. capped the March on Washington with his influential "I Have a Dream" speech given at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

The progress this nation has made in the past 50 years is undeniable. Today, our first African-American president will mark Dr. King's historic speech with a speech of his own. However, the struggle to obtain equal rights is ongoing. Equitable access to education, racial and gender equality, and LGBT rights all remain pressing issues today. Reflecting on Dr. King's words spoken 50 years ago highlight both the progress we have made and the ground we have yet to cover.

Below is an excerpt from Dr. King's speech. The complete speech is available at the National Archives by clicking here.

"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...

"I say to you today, my friends, though, 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. I have a dream that one day 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..."

~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963