His speech wasn't long, but it was powerful, and it was meant for all of us, not just some of us. But fifty years later we have not done the work needed to wholly mend the wounds of segregation nor to overcome racism. Our nation is not yet a place in which all people are treated equally. Racism and bigotry abide, women continue to be subjugated and harassed, the poor remain poor and become poorer, gay men and women and other minorities regularly encounter discrimination and the disabled remain misunderstood and marginalized. We have missed the mark.
I think about what I want for my son Calvin and for his future, think about what any
parent wants for their child. I don''t want him to be feared, misunderstood or labeled. I want him to have access to the same opportunities as other kids. I don't want him to be cast aside, forgotten, discriminated against, bullied, beaten down, resented or blamed. I don't want him to be a scapegoat, a target, a stereotype, an afterthought or a victim.
I, too, dream of a place where proper health care, a solid education, a living wage, fair and easy access to voting and a wide and unencumbered road to prosperity are the birthrights of all Americans, not just for some of us. And though his speech was recited fifty years ago—the year in which I was born—in some ways still, it's as if it had been written yesterday:
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.
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 of hope to millions of 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
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 American 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.
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."
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
We have also come to this 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.
would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and
to underestimate the determination of its 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.
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
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.
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."
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
No, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied
until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty
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.
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
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you, my friends, we have the difficulties of today and tomorrow.
I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
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 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
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.
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.
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 symphony of brotherhood.
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 curvaceous 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.
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."
—Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., August 28, 1963
|Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963|