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King's Dream

King's Dream

Eric J. Sundquist
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    King's Dream
    Book Description:

    Includes the entire text of "I Have A Dream"

    "I have a dream"-no words are more widely recognized, or more often repeated, than those called out from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1963. King's speech, elegantly structured and commanding in tone, has become shorthand not only for his own life but for the entire civil rights movement. In this new exploration of the "I have a dream" speech, Eric J. Sundquist places it in the history of American debates about racial justice-debates as old as the nation itself-and demonstrates how the speech, an exultant blend of grand poetry and powerful elocution, perfectly expressed the story of African American freedom.

    This book is the first to set King's speech within the cultural and rhetorical traditions on which the civil rights leader drew in crafting his oratory, as well as its essential historical contexts, from the early days of the republic through present-day Supreme Court rulings. At a time when the meaning of the speech has been obscured by its appropriation for every conceivable cause, Sundquist clarifies the transformative power of King's "Second Emancipation Proclamation" and its continuing relevance for contemporary arguments about equality.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14244-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    Had he not departed from his prepared text and spoken so eloquently about his “dream” of racial justice in America, the speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr., at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, might still have been a landmark in American history. It might still have played an indirect role in the historic civil rights legislation passed soon thereafter—the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965—and it might still have added to the renown that led to King’s being awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964. Not least...

  4. ONE Dreamer—1963
    (pp. 14-66)

    “I started out reading the speech,” recalled Martin Luther King, Jr., then “all of a sudden this thing came out of me that I have used—I’d used it many times before, that thing about ‘I have a dream’—and I just felt that I wanted to use it here. I don’t know why, I hadn’t thought about it before the speech.” Folk history of the March on Washington would record that Mahalia Jackson, who just minutes earlier had seized the audience’s collective heart with her rendition of “I Been ’Buked and I Been Scorned,” called out in the midst...

  5. TWO Freedom Now!
    (pp. 67-104)

    King’s criticism of the nation grew more radical, even somewhat bitter, over the course of the 1960s. Nevertheless, wrote Julius Lester, King believed in America “as if he were one of the signers of the Constitution. He loved America as if he had sewn the first flag. And he articulated a dream for America more forcefully than any man since Thomas Jefferson.” Or, one might rather say, any man since Abraham Lincoln. King’s 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...

  6. THREE Soul Force
    (pp. 105-141)

    When news came that the Supreme Court had declared the segregation of Montgomery buses unconstitutional, King remembered, one bystander called out, “God Almighty has spoken from Washington, D.C.” No one in King’s circle would have been surprised by such a response, least of all King. In explaining the success of the boycott, against great odds, King attributed it not just to the impetus ofBrown v. Board of Education;not just to the long-building frustration of fifty thousand blacks who, like Rosa Parks, were ready to “substitute tired feet for tired souls”; not just to the fresh leadership of the...

  7. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  8. FOUR Lincoln’s Shadow
    (pp. 142-169)

    When the great contralto Marian Anderson rose to make her contribution to the March on Washington, where she sang “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” not only African Americans but virtually all Americans with any knowledge of the civil rights struggle had in their mind’s eye the image of her performance on Easter 1939 . Although she did not feel that she was made for “hand-tohand combat,” Anderson became a civil rights heroine after she was barred from performing in Constitution Hall by its proprietors, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), who cited a “whites only” clause...

  9. FIVE Whose Country ’Tis of Thee?
    (pp. 170-193)

    On June 11, 1963, against the backdrop of two months of dogged, violent resistance to King’s protests in Birmingham, George Wallace capitulated to federal authority and permitted two black students to enroll at the University of Alabama. In his televised speech that evening, President Kennedy delivered his strongest statement to date on civil rights. He spoke forcefully, if belatedly, of a moral issue “as old as the scriptures and as dear as the American Constitution,” and presented the issue of black rights in a simple question: “If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant...

  10. SIX Not by the Color of Their Skin
    (pp. 194-228)

    Even though it does not provide the Dream speech’s most famous phrase, one sentence stands alone for the philosophy it appeared to announce and the contentious use to which it has since been put: “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.” If King’s dream began to be realized with passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 , his apparently clear elevation of character over color proved central in subsequent arguments about...

    (pp. 229-234)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 235-276)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 277-280)
  14. Index
    (pp. 281-295)