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Martin Luther King Jr.
I Have a Dream
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"I HAVE A DREAM" (1963)

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 100 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 languished in the corners of American
society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've
come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've 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 that has come back marked "insufficient

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. And so we've come to cash
this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of
freedom and security of justice. We have also come to his 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 quicksands 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
hoped 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. And they have come to
realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.

And 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 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, and 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, 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. And
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 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 Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi - from
every mountainside.

Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow
freedom 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!"

(August 28, 1963)


Distribution statement: Accepted as part of the Douglass Archives
of American Public Address ( on
May 26, 1999. Prepared by D. Oetting (

Permission is hereby granted to download, reprint, and/or otherwise
redistribute this file, provided this distribution statement is included
and appropriate point of origin credit is given to the preparer and Douglass.

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