(WASHINGTON) — Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is among the most acclaimed in U.S. history, and the 50th anniversary this week of the March on Washington where he delivered it highlights the speech’s staying power.
His soaring close “to let freedom ring” still resonates today and inspires those who are moved by his dream.
He began with:
“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 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.”
Read the speech in its entirety here at the U.S. National Archives.
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