The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

For MLK Day

...because it bears rereading.


I Have A Dream
by Martin Luther King, Jr.


Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic
shadow we stand 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 captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact
that the Negro is still 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 an appalling 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 would be guaranteed
the inalienable 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
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 rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation
to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to
open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children.
Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice
to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment
and to underestimate the determination of the Negro.
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 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
their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall 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 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 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 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 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,
that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment,
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 slaveowners
will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state,
sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression,
will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four 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 the state of Alabama,
whose governor's lips are presently dripping
with the words of interposition and nullification,
will be transformed into a situation
where little black boys and black girls
will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls
and walk together 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 with which I return to the South.
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 peaks 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 every molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let 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
Subscribe

  • Poem for Thursday and Great Falls Geese

    I Am Waiting By Lawrence Ferlinghetti I am waiting for my case to come up and I am waiting for a rebirth of wonder and I am waiting for someone…

  • Poem for Wednesday and Great Falls Cardinals

    The Bird Her Punctual Music Brings By Emily Dickinson The Bird her punctual music brings And lays it in its place— Its place is in the Human…

  • Poem for Tuesday and Carderock

    A wounded Deer – leaps highest – By Emily Dickinson A wounded Deer – leaps highest – I've heard the Hunter tell – 'Tis but the ecstasy of death…

  • Post a new comment

    Error

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 0 comments