Updated: Feb 26, 2019
At 5’ 7”, Martin Luther King, Jr., was not a big man, but he was an imposing one, and his enormous impact on America’s civil rights movement still resonates. The Baptist minister and activist became the movement’s most visible spokesperson and leader from 1954 until his assassination April 4, 1968.
The leader who advocated nonviolence and civil disobedience, received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality, and in 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed federal legislation enacting the Martin Luther King holiday.
His famous March on Washington in 1963 drew more than a quarter of a million people. King offered a 17-minute speech, today called I Have a Dream. It is considered one of the finest public speeches ever delivered in the United States. The passage where King described his dream rallied people seeking to end racial segregation, to experience meaningful civil rights legislation, and to avoid racial discrimination in employment.
Here is the passage:
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.
This article is part of a "Forgotten by History" collection. You can find a complete list of these people here. To promote this and other educational content about art and humanity, please donate to help support our research and writing.