Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., during the height of the American civil rights movement on Aug. 28, 1963. More than 250,000 people came to hear him speak and even after more than 50 years people are still touched by King's stirring and iconic words.
To celebrate the anniversary of King’s speech, below is the full text, along with famous quotes and lines.
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!"
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.”What are the words to the I Have a Dream Speech? ›
I 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 together. This is our hope.Where is the original copy of I Have a Dream Speech? ›
The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will display the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s original speech from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.What were the words of Martin Luther King, Jr? ›
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." Strength to Love, 1963. "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.What is the message of Martin Luther King's speech? ›
What Was the Message Behind the 'I Have a Dream' Speech? Martin Luther King Jr.'s “Dream” speech was a call for equality. It identified the faults of America and what measures were needed to make it a better place. A central theme throughout the speech was the importance of everyone being treated equally.What are 3 important quotes from I Have a Dream Speech? ›
“The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.” “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead.What does free at last mean? ›
Dr. King concluded his transformative speech with the words, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God almighty we are free at last.” Freedom is sure to be attained by all once we truly get that the freedom that we enjoy must be given to everyone, regardless of race, color, creed, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.How much is the original I Have a Dream Speech worth? ›
Raveling said "You know, I've got the speech." Raveling dug it out of the book, had it frame, and now 59 years later, the Sports Business Daily estimates it's value at about $25,000,000.Did MLK copy the I Have a Dream Speech? ›
[Martin Luther King, Jr.:]
From every mountainside, “LET FREEDOM RING”. The evidence that many parts of the “I have a dream” speech were lifted from Archibald James Carey Jr's speech in 1952 is undeniable: it's verbatim in some cases.
The King family still owns the 'I Have a Dream' speech. Though it is one of the most famous and widely celebrated speeches in U.S. history, the “I Have a Dream” speech is not in the public domain, but is protected by copyright—which is owned and enforced by King's heirs.
Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.What was Martin Luther King's most memorable speech called? ›
Popularly known as the "I have a Dream" speech, the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. influenced the Federal government to take more direct actions to more fully realize racial equality.What were Martin Luther King's last words? ›
King said, "Ben, play "Precious Lord" in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty." Those were the last words he spoke. He was killed by a gunshot wound.Why is I Have a Dream Speech so famous? ›
Historian regards “I Have a Dream” as one of the finest speeches in American oratory history. This speech facilitated the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and helped put civil rights at the top of the reformers' agenda.Why was the I Have a Dream Speech so impactful? ›
King's firm belief in racial equality, civil rights and justice for all was part of what made his speech so powerful.Who wrote Martin Luther King speeches? ›
4. King didn't write the speech entirely by himself. The first draft was written by his advisers Stanley Levison and Clarence Jones, and the final speech included input from many others.When was the original date of the I Have a Dream Speech? ›
Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered this iconic 'I Have a Dream' speech at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.How did George Raveling get the I Have a Dream Speech? ›
A college basketball player at Villanova, organizers saw Raveling in the crowd and asked him to be a bodyguard on stage. He stood next to King on stage, and decided to ask him for the paper copy of the speech. King obliged and Raveling has the speech locked away in a safe place, with no intention of selling it.Why is the I Have a Dream Speech copyrighted? ›
King's delivery of the “I Have a Dream” speech was filmed and recorded, it became fixed in a tangible medium of expression; it was then registered with the copyright office. Whereas a copyright protects such original works of authorship, with limited exceptions Dr.What inspired Martin Luther King Jr to write the I Have a Dream Speech? ›
Without Mahalia Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech might never have happened. Jackson, known as the Queen of Gospel, was a musical legend who helped bring gospel from church to mass audiences.