The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream (2013)

The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream (2013)

Gary Younge

Language: English

Pages: 180

ISBN: 1608463222

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DELIVERED his powerful “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963. Fifty years later, the speech endures as a defining moment in the civil rights movement. It continues to be heralded as a beacon in the ongoing struggle for racial equality.

This gripping book is rooted in new and important interviews with Clarence Jones, a close friend of and draft speechwriter for Martin Luther King Jr., and Joan Baez, a singer at the march, as well as Angela Davis and other leading civil rights leaders. It brings to life the fascinating chronicle behind “The Speech” and other events surrounding the March on Washington. Younge skillfully captures the spirit of that historic day in Washington and offers a new generation of readers a critical modern analysis of why “I Have a Dream” remains America’s favorite speech.

"It was over eighty degrees when Martin Luther King Jr. took the stage at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. King was the last speaker. By the time he reached the podium, many in the crowd had started to leave. Not all those who remained could hear him properly, but those who could stood rapt. '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,' said King as though he were wrapping up. 'Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.' Then he set his prepared text aside. [Clarence] Jones saw his stance turn from lecturer to preacher. He turned to the person next to him: 'Those people don’t know it but they’re about to go to church.' A smattering of applause filled a pause more pregnant than most. 'So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.'”
—from the introduction
















described the meetings as “quick cordial sessions. Nothing substantial, simply courtesy calls arranged early in the morning so we would have plenty of time to make it over to the Lincoln Memorial for the beginning of the event.” The restless and excited crowd, however, proved irrepressible. While the leaders were chatting with the politicians, the masses started the march without them. The symbolism was not lost on Rustin. “My God, they’re going. We’re supposed to be leading them,” he said.

overall response to the speech was favorable at the time, reviews were mixed. The New York Times ran a front page story with the headline “I Have a Dream”; the Washington Post editorial didn’t refer to the “I have a dream” passage at all. The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, ran a front-page photograph of the litter left behind with the headline: “Washington Is Clean Again with Negro Trash Removed.” Anne Moody, a Black activist who’d made the trip from rural Mississippi, recalled: “I sat

psychic inferiority all of this brought about. The totality of these demands, at once utopian and reasonable, idealistic and just, gave the lie to the notion that King was in any way a moderate. 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. Here King echoes John Lewis’s despair at a political culture in a moment of transition, with Democrats still the party of southern segregation and Republicans now

every consecutive election bar one (1992, when Ross Perot ran). Meanwhile the Black and Latino voting blocs that the Republicans alienate with such rhetoric have been growing in strength, motivation, and organization. This made the 2012 election one of the most racially divisive in living memory. Blacks and Latinos were far more likely to vote for Obama than previous Democratic candidates, and since there were more of them than ever before, that left Republicans dependent on winning an even

election of a Black president was understood around the world as a significant event in its own right. On that election night, people danced in the streets of Harlem, and policemen on the South Side of Chicago shouted his name from their patrol cars. “I celebrated his victory,” explains left-wing Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, who is nevertheless critical of Obama’s foreign policy. “This is a country with a fresh tradition of racism. In 1942 the Pentagon sent an order preventing the

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