The phrase “I have a dream” is just a small expression spoken by one man on Aug. 26, 1963. These four simple words woke a nation, and the echo of them can still be heard today.
In remembrance of the civil rights advocate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Fresno State campus was closed Monday.
The celebration of King’s birthday, which has historically been observed the third Monday in January, is more than just a day off from work or school.
Monday served as a day to remember the individual who increased racial equality by leaps and bounds in the United States.
It was a day to promote equal rights for all Americans, regardless of their individual backgrounds.
Legislation to create the federal holiday was signed in 1983 after a drawn-out struggle. The year 2012 marks the 26th anniversary of the federal holiday. The holiday was first observed in 1986, and celebrates the birth of King.
King was born on Jan. 15, 1929. He was the first son and second child of the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King.
King was originally named Michael, but was renamed Martin, after his father, when he was about six years old.
King enrolled in Morehouse College in 1944. He graduated and received his B.A. degree in sociology in 1948. He thenstudied theology for three years at Cozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. He was awarded a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Cozer in 1951. King’s “I have a dream” speech is something he is commonly remembered for
“I have a dream,” arguably King’s most famous speech, was delivered in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 28, 1963.
The 17-minute speech called for racial equality and the end of discrimination and segregation. It saw more than 200,000 civil rights activists in attendance, according to Martin Luther King Jr. Online. King’s speech was ranked as the top American speech of the 20th century by a poll of scholars of public address in 1999.
Oddly, the speech was originally entitled, “Normalcy, Never Again.” This original version did not contain the words “I have a dream” and according to Martin Luther King Jr. Online, the end of the speech was improvised.
This deviation was most likely prompted by Mahalia Jackson shouting, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.”
King reportedly stopped the delivery of his pre-written speech at this point and began “preaching” to the crowd. He highlighted each one of his points with the phrase with “I have a dream.”
The speech was a huge success, with publishers such as the Los Angeles Times commenting that King displayed a “matchless eloquence,” and put segregation advocates to shame by “inspiring the conscience of America with the justice of the civil rights cause.”
The New York Times wrote that King’s speech “was better covered by television and the press than any event here [the steps of the Lincoln Memorial] since President Kennedy’s inauguration.”
Copyright laws pertaining to the video are convoluted. A lawsuit determined the video will remain under copyright until 70 years after King’s death, the year 2038.
As such, it has been taken down from some websites in an apparent attempt to generate profit. However, with a few keystrokes one can now find it on YouTube.
King was an advocate for non-violent social change. His deep respect for fellow mankind was shown in much of his public speaking, according to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center established in 1968 by his wife, Coretta Scott King.
“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity,” said King.
“It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”
“Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love,” said King at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. in 1957.
James Earl Ray, a fugitive from the Missouri State Penitentiary, assassinated King in the early evening of April 4, 1968. Ray was apprehended in Heathrow airport after police had matched his fingerprints to those on the rifle used to shoot King.
Despite King’s death, his legacy lives on. “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last,” were the closing words of his famous speech. He is remembered to this day for his tremendous contribution to the civil rights movement.