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I Have a Dream Speech (Full Text) | Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have a dream today.

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 languishing in the corners of

American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to

dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we have 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. So we have 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. 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. 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. They have come to realize that their freedom is

inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

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 selfhood 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. Some of you have come from areas where your 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, 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, 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. 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.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a 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.

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 snowcapped 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 to 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!"

Christina V. Mills is the creator of Liveology® Yoga Studios & Magazine and our products. She is a lifelong spiritual seeker, writer, and yoga teacher. Follow her on Instagram @morelifemoreyoga.


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Peace & Pineapples!


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