"I have a dream" by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Introduction

Martin Luther King Jr., a beacon of the American Civil Rights Movement, is renowned for his profound impact on the struggle for racial equality in the United States. His eloquence and passion were encapsulated in his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This speech, with its powerful call for an end to racism and a plea for the realization of the ideals of freedom and equality, continues to resonate and inspire movements for social justice worldwide.
Recordings

The Speeches, Track 1 "Speech at Washington DC 28 Aug 1963 (I have a dream)"

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 Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to 
millions of Negro 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 Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the 
Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One 
hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of 
material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro 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 
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 the unalienable 
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 the Negro 
people a bad check, a check which 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 the security of justice. 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 quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make 
justice a reality for all of God's children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer 
of the Negro'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 Negro 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 
Negro 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.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which 
leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty 
of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of 
bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not 
allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to 
the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy 
which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for 
many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that 
their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is 
inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. 
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We 
can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police 
brutality. 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 Negro'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 Whites Only". 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. 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 great trials and tribulations. Some of 
you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest 
for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution 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 northern cities, knowing that 
somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so 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 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 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.

I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made 
low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the 
glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I 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. With 
this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail 
together, to stand 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 a new meaning, "My 
country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers 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 
prodigious 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 snowcapped 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 Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let 
freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village 
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 Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! 
thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Reflection Questions

  1. How does King use the theme of the American Dream in his speech, and what effect does this have on his audience?
  2. What specific metaphors and similes does King use to illustrate his vision for racial equality and justice? How do these figures of speech contribute to the overall impact of his message?
  3. How does King’s speech reflect the social and political climate of the United States in the 1960s? In what ways is his message still relevant today?
  4. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is often celebrated for its hope and optimism. Can you identify the parts of the speech that convey these feelings? How do they make you feel?