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(Copyright 1963, MARTIN LtrTHER KING, JR.)

Speooh by the Rev. MARTIN LuTHER KING At the “March on vYashington”

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greates•t demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five ~core years ago a great American in whose sym­ holic shado·w we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momen:tous cleeree is a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slave·s who had been ~e.arrd in the flames o[ withering injushcc. It came as a joyous daybre,ak to end the long night of their captivity. But 100 years late<r the Negro still is no•t fre·e. One hun­ dred years later the 1i.fe of the Negro is still badly erippled by the manacles of s-t•grPg-ation and the chains of discriminatio11. One hnndred years later the Ne,gro live·s on a lone,Jy i:”]and of poverty in the mids1t of a va1S1t ooean of matE>.rial prospc·rity. Out> hundred years later the ~egro is still larugui~hed iu the comer~s o.f Ame·rican ~oci. ety and find;:; himself in exile in his own land. So wo ”'<‘ come hf’rP torlay to r1r.amatize a s,hameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a eheck. Whrn the a. reb it ects of our Re:publie wrote the magnificent. wonls of the Constitution a.nd the Declaration o1 Independence, they we·re signing· a promiss’Cl<ry note to which eve·ry American wa:” to fall heir. ‘I’his no,te was a promise that all nwn-yc::;, bla,ek men as we11 as white rmm-wonld he g1mnmtPt’d the unalienable rights of life, liherty a]l(l the pnrsni1 of ha.ppine’Ss. It is obvious today tha.t Amcri(·a lms <lcfaulted on this promissory note inso­ far as hP>r citi7.ens of co.Jo,r arr concP:rned. Instead of


honoring ih1s sacn’d ohli,gation, America ha.s given the Nngro p0ople a bad check, a check which has come back marked ”insufficient fn nds.”

But we refus.e to helieve that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We rp.fnse to belie\·~~ t.ha.t there are insufficient fuwls in the grea.t vaults of opportunity orf this nation. So we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give ns upon oemand the rirhes of freedom and the s·ecurity of justice.

\Ve haYe come to this hallowed spot to remind Ame.rica of the fipJ·ce urgency of now. ‘l’hi:-; is no time to l’llgagc in the luxury of cooling off or to t.ake the tran­ quilizing dmg of graduali::;m. Now is the time to make real the promi~r·s of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark nnll clrsolate valley of segregation to the ,.unlit path of racial justi<·P. Now is the time to li.ft our uation from the quicksands of raeial injustice to the solid r()ek of brotherhood.

Xow is t.he time to mak0 justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to over­ look the urgency of the moment. This swelt.ering summer of the i\eg:ro’s legitimate disconte.nt. will not pass until there is .an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality -1963 is not an (md but a beginning. Tho>se who hope that tl1e X egro needed to hlow off steam and will now be l’Olltent will ha\·e a ruoP awakening if the na:tion return1’1 to bu,;ine~;.; as usua.I.

‘l’here will be 11eitht’T rest nor tranquility in Ame.rica until the Negro i~ granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the founda­ tions of onr nation until the bright days of justice emerge.

(Copyright 101i3, MARTI:-< Lt:THFR KIKc , JR.)



And that is something that I mus.t say to my pBople who ~tand o.n the worn threshold whieh leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not he guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not “eek to sati:sfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of biMe·n:le·s,s a.nd hatred.

\Ve must forever conduct our s.truggle on the high plane of dignity and diseiplin e. \Ye must not allow our crea­ tive protests to degen e·rate into physical violence. Again and again we must ri se to the maje,stic heights of meding physical fo.rce soul for-ce. rl’he marvelous new mili­ tancy whi-ch has cn.gulfE>d the Negro community must not lead us to distrust all white people, for many o[ our white hrotlwrs, as evidcncc•J by the·ir prese.nce here today, have eome to realize tha.t their destiny is tied up with our de~tiny.

They have come to re.alize that their freedom is in­ extt·ieably hound t.o o~1r \\’e cannot walk alone. And as we walk we must make the pledge t~hat we shall always march ahcarl We cannot turn hack. There are those who are .asking the rlevotee·s of civil rights, “When will you be sa.t.isfied 1” \Ve can never be satisfied as l<mg ns the Negro i~ the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.

\\!e never be satisfied as long as our bodie,s, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

\Ve cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a Larger one. We <·an never be satis:fie<l as long as our children are stripped of their adulthood and robbed of their dignity by s1gns ~tating ”For \’TJ1ites Only.”

( Copyright 1963. :\:fAR TI!\’ LUTHF.R KING, JR.)


We oannot be satisfied 3lS long as the Negro in Mis­ sissippi cannot vote and the Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will nOit be satis­ fied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mig·hty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and t.ribulation. Some of you have eome fresh from narrow jail <!.ells. S ome of you have oome from are-as where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storm.s of persecution and staggered by 1hf’ winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of erea tive suffering.

Continue to work with the faith that un-earned suffering is redemptive. Go hack to Mississippi, go back t.o Ala­ harna., go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go hack to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghet.tos of our .:’\ orthern citie·s, knowing that somehow this situation oan and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley ot’ des.pai·r. ·

I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficult~es of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dl’ I have a dream that one day this 11ation will rise up, live out the h·ue meaning of its creed: “”‘ e hold the~e truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Geo·rgia son~ of former slan’ s and t.lw :-;ons of form l:’r ~lave-owners will be able to sit do\vn together at the table of brother­ hood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Jli~sissippi, a state sweltering with the h eat of inJustice,

(Copyright 19o.l. MARTI;’\1 LuTHER KING, JR.)


l’iweltering with the heat of oppression, will be trans­ !’ormed into an oasis of fre·edom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little chi1dre!Il will one day live in a nation \Vhere they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the conte·nt of the,ir cha.ra{!.te,r.l I have a dream … I have a dream tha,t one day in AJ,abama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right tl~e-re in Alabama little black boys a.nd black g.·ids will he abl e to join hands with lit.tle white boy’s and white girls as sisters anrl brothers.

I have a dre·am today … I have a dream that one day every vaUey shall be exalted, e\·e-~·y hill and mountain ;.ohall be made lov.-. ‘l’he rough places will be made plain, aad the crooked IJlaces will be made straight. ,.And the ~lory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is onr hope . This is the faith that I go back to thC’ South with. With this faith we will be ahh~ to hew out of the mountain of de·spair a stone of hope. With this fait.h we ,,·ill he ahle to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony <;f brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work togother, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail togethN, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will he fn•e one d.ay.

This will IH’ the clay when all of God’s children will be nble to sing with new meaning. “My country, ’tis of thee, ~weot land of libt>l’t.y, of thee I ~ing. Land where my fathers died, land of th<.’ pilgrim ‘s pride, from every mountain side, let. fr eedom ring.” And if America is to he a. great nation , this mn ::..t become true. So let freedom ring from tlH’ prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New

(Copyright 1963, MARTIN LunrER KING , JR.)


York. Let freooom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from t.hB snowcapped Rookies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curva­ eeous s.lopes of California.

But not only that. Let freedom ring from Stone Moun­ tain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Moun­ tain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of M~ssissippi, from every mountain side. Let freedom ring . . .

When we allow freedom to ring-when we let it ring from every city and eYery hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all (If God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and G(>.nt.iles, Prot.B.stants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the word·s of the old Negro spiritual, “FI’ee at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, “\Ve are free at”

(Copyright 1963, MARTIN LuTHER KING, JR.)


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