1963 August 28

“I Have a Dream”: King Delivers Historic Speech at March on Washington


The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is one of the iconic moments in the history of the civil rights movement. The high point of the march was Rev. Martin Luther King’s now-famous “I Have a Dream” Speech. The most famous portion of his speech was extemporaneous and not in his prepared speech. While he was speaking, Mahalia Jackson, the famous gospel singer who performed at the march and was on the podium, called out and urged him to “tell about the dream.” Taking the suggestion, King then launched into what is the greatest part of the speech.

King had given the “dream” speech in Detroit in June 1963 and possibly in other speeches. (The Detroit speech is available on record.)

The march fulfilled the dream of civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph who first proposed a march on Washington in 1941, but cancelled it after a dramatic confrontation with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House on June 18, 1941, when FDR promised to issue an executive order prohibiting race discrimination in employment in the defense industries.

Although the March on Washington was immediately recognized as a historic event, President Kennedy, at a meeting with civil rights leaders on June 22, 1963, had tried to discourage civil rights leaders from holding it. And march organizers forced John Lewis, then a leader of SNCC, to remove passages from his planned speech that they thought were inflammatory (see the John Lewis entry on this same day, August 28, 1963).

Read the March Organizing Manual #2: http://www.crmvet.org/docs/moworg2.pdf

Learn more: William Powell Jones, The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights (2013)

See the Official Program for the March:

Hear King’s “I Have a Dream” speechhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smEqnnklfYs

Visit the Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, DC: http://www.nps.gov/mlkm/index.htm

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