I Have a Dream, by Martin Luther King

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 one hundred 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 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. And so, we’ve 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 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. And 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. And 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 self-hood 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. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — 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 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.

And 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, and 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.

And 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 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.

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, 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!



  1. says

    A truly great man (not a perfect one by any stretch of the imagination).

    Far too many have discarded his dream of color-blindness, in favor of using color and race as a means to getting what they want.

    That is a shame and sosmething that MLK Jr. never dreamed, I’m sure.


  2. says

    The heart of God which demands love has never stopped speaking. It has spoken through those chosen (prophets of old, pastors, evangelists,
    born again children of God who have no title) people whom He has called as His voice. Evil cannot survive when love abounds. No, not temporary human self-centered love, but holy love which slays evil at all levels of prejudice: Civil war, Racism, abuse of women and children, workplace prejudice, violence in homes, division in churches etc. God remains the same and this time of Grace is the time of God’s mercy before judgement. Yes, judgement will happen for unbelievers. And yes, rewards will be given according to holy works for born again believers. The voice of God will be rejected by those who are caught in sin’s web. The voice of God will be persecuted by those who don’t want to humble themselves before a God, the only God, who has the power to save or the power to send people to hell.

  3. says

    I still remember with grief the night I was watching tv, and the program was interrupted with the news of Dr. King’s death. I had had the privilege of studying black history under Dr. Lorenzo J. Greene at Lincoln University in Mo. and had moved to Kentucky where I would write a book review of Coretta Scott King’s Biography of her husband. Then I would attend Morehead State University where I would study American Black and Intellectual History, and Dr. Broadus Jackson, a Black professor would recommend me for the position of Instructor at South Carolina State College (now a University). There I would teach American History for two years and earn 18 hrs. toward a Ph.D. in Black History (6 hrs. at the Univ. of South Carolina and 12 hrs. at Columbia Univ. where I wrote a prospectus for a Doctoral Dissertation on the subject, “The Baptists & Slavery.” I even taught one course in Philosophy in which I had a student who had been wounded during the Orangeburg Massacre some 2.5 years earlier. He had not been a participant in the protests, but was watching from a dormitory porch. Three students had been killed during that sad event. I remember reading a letter or two that one of the students that had been killed had written to his mother, telling her that he was going to church and attending his classes faithful. He was a Baptist like us. I weep at the thought even now. Many years later, Governor John West, who had sent the troopers and the national guard in, would publicly repent of what he had done and would march with Black folks during their later protests. The loss of such students and the loss of Dr. King is with us to this day, a reminder of the price that must at times be paid to demand that America live up to the promises of its founding philosophy of God-given rights.

    • says

      Those who follow Jesus Christ will be persecuted and many martyred. Dr. King was one of them. He was just a man. He was just like us, a human being who was moved in His heart by God Almighty to fight for those held captive by hatred and violence. His stand was not just for the Negro; His stand was for people. He was black yet he knew that it was not about color, but about the heart. He knew that violence comes from satan and a hardened rebellious heart. He knew that love comes from God and a repentant heart. The violence against the love og God continues today in all areas of life, across all cultures and all races. It is through the body of Christ that God moves. The Cross is cross-denominational. It is not about Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal. It is about faith and a return to God through the Cross and blood fo Jesus Christ. There is a new covenant that is based only on the crimson blood of Jesus Christ. This is where the heart is transformed from hardened and rebellious to a new heart of flesh that is sensitive, tender, and responsive to God’s holy touch and His holy instruction. In these last days there will be an outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. There will be a revival alright; a revival of the heart.
      Just as the enemy increase, the love of God through the revival of hearts will increase all the more. Chains will fall; prisoners of rebellion and hardness of heart will be set free. God has declared war on Satan. Satan’s hatred against God is moving powerfully throughout the earth these last days when He will come to declare world peace as the antichrist. But God is preparing His army of saints, His ambassadors of peace to fight with love and with the Word of God which is the weapon that slays lies and deceptions and puts violence to death.

      Thank you for sharing your heart.