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Full Speech of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream"

Full Speech of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream"

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Published by: carry2109 on May 04, 2009
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05/11/2014

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I am happy to join with you today in what will godown in history as the greatest demonstration forfreedom in the history of our nation.Five score years ago, a great American, in whosesymbolic shadow we stand today, signed theEmancipation Proclamation. This momentous decreecame 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 toend the long night of their captivity.But one hundred years later, the Negro still is notfree. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro isstill sadly crippled by the manacles of segregationand the chains of discrimination. One hundred yearslater, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty inthe midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. Onehundred years later, the Negro is still languished inthe corners of American society and finds himself anexile in his own land. And so we've come here todayto dramatize a shameful condition.In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to casha check. When the architects of our republic wrotethe magnificent words of the Constitution and theDeclaration of Independence, they were signing apromissory note to which every American was to fallheir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, blackmen as well as white men, would be guaranteed the"unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuitof Happiness." It is obvious today that America hasdefaulted on this promissory note, insofar as hercitizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoringthis sacred obligation, America has given the Negropeople a bad check, a check which has come backmarked "insufficient funds."But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice isbankrupt. We refuse to believe that there areinsufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, acheck that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.We have also come to this hallowed spot to remindAmerica of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no timeto engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take thetranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time tomake real the promises of democracy. Now is thetime to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now isthe time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Nowis the time to make justice a reality for all of God'schildren.It would be fatal for the nation to overlook theurgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass untilthere is an invigorating autumn of freedom andequality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but abeginning. And those who hope that the Negroneeded to blow off steam and will now be contentwill have a rude awakening if the nation returns tobusiness as usual. And there will be neither rest nortranquility in America until the Negro is granted hiscitizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt willcontinue to shake the foundations of our nation untilthe bright day of justice emerges.But there is something that I must say to my people,who stand on the warm threshold which leads intothe palace of justice: In the process of gaining ourrightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongfuldeeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst forfreedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness andhatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on thehigh plane of dignity and discipline. We must notallow our creative protest to degenerate into physicalviolence. Again and again, we must rise to themajestic heights of meeting physical force with soulforce.The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed theNegro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, asevidenced by their presence here today, have cometo realize that their destiny is tied up with ourdestiny. And they have come to realize that theirfreedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.We cannot walk alone.And as we walk, we must make the pledge that weshall always march ahead.We cannot turn back.There are those who are asking the devotees of civilrights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never besatisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of theunspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can neverbe satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with thefatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannotbe satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility isfrom a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can neverbe satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signsstating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied aslong as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and aNegro in New York believes he has nothing for whichto vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will notbe satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, andrighteousness like a mighty stream."I am not unmindful that some of you have comehere out of great trials and tribulations. Some of youhave come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- questfor freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of policebrutality. You have been the veterans of creativesuffering. Continue to work with the faith thatunearned suffering is redemptive. Go back toMississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to SouthCarolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana,go back to the slums and ghettos of our northerncities, knowing that somehow this situation can andwill be changed.Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say toyou today, my friends.And so even though we face the difficulties of todayand tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dreamdeeply rooted in the American dream.

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