Among great American heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stands out. As a powerful orator, King’s words defined a generation. His legacy includes some of the most significant speeches in American history.
Famous Speech with North Carolina Roots
“I Have a Dream,” delivered on August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during his ground-breaking March in Washington, D.C., is his most iconic speech. For years, it was rumored that the original version of this speech was first delivered in North Carolina. In 2015, a recovered recording revealed that King gave the first version of this famous speech in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, at a High School gymnasium on November 27, 1962.
Learn more about the historic unveiling here. https://abc11.com/mlk-i-have-a-dream-speech-high-school-gymnasium-rocky-mount/960465/#:~:text=Martin%20Luther%20King%20Jr.,school%20gym%20in%20North%20Carolina.
The March on Washington
Over 250,000 people took part in the historic March on Washington on August 28, 1963, and over 3,000 members of the press covered the event. The March showed public support for the Civil Rights Act, proposed by the Kennedy Administration in June 1963, and was called the March for Jobs and Freedom. When Martin Luther King, Jr. ascended the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial to give the historic “I Have a Dream” speech, he was 34 years old.
Standing just a few feet behind King was his friend and attorney, Clarence B. Jones, who often helped King draft speeches. As King searched for inspiration for the speech, which would become one of the most famous ever delivered, Clarence Jones helped his friend get started by drafting the first seven paragraphs, which King used as the opening of the famous speech.
Jones was interviewed by Scott Detrow for NPR in August of 2023 and was asked if he had any idea of what was about to happen as King gave the speech. Jones recalled saying to someone next to him in the crowd that day, “”These people out there don’t know it, but they’re about ready to go to church.” Because I knew, like the great musician, that Dr. King was going to knock it out of the ballpark.”
The Civil Rights Act of 1964
This famous speech would influence the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 by the Congress of the United States. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his “non-violent struggle for Civil Rights.”
Although the Civil Rights Act strengthened voting rights for all people, there continued to be resistance to allowing black voter registration in some areas, including Alabama. King and other civil rights leaders chose Selma, Alabama, as the area to focus on for black voter registration. They met with fierce opposition and organized a series of marches from Selma to Montgomery. On March 9, 1965, King led 1,500 people in a peaceful march that began on Sylvan Street in Selma and continued onto the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The marchers stopped 100 feet from the State Police and began to pray. After the police stepped aside, the group turned around. The Selma to Montgomery Marches in Alabama led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
A Pilgrimage to India and the Final Chapter
Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in non-violence and was influenced by the teachings of Mohandas K. Gandhi. He journeyed to India on a month-long journey in 1959. While in India, he met with Prime Minister Nehru, spoke to many groups, and spent time with followers of Gandhi. This journey helped to strengthen his belief in non-violent direct action.
On April 4, 1968, at the age of 39, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. His great work was cut short, but the results of his legacy of civil rights triumphs live on.
National Public Radio – https://www.npr.org/2023/08/28/1196327597/martin-luther-king-jr-i-have-a-dream-speech-march-on-washington#:~:text=delivered%20his%20famous%20%22I%20Have,personal%20attorney%2C%20adviser%20and%20speechwriter.
New York Times
7 Things You May Not Know About MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech, by Sarah Pruitt
Website Name – HISTORY
Publisher A&E Television Networks
Last Updated August 3, 2023
Original Published Date January 13, 2021
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