Martin Luther King, Jr.
Have A Dream|
download the audio file of the speech
version below transcribed directly from audio. (2)
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.
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.
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 languished in the corners of American society
and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize
a shameful condition.
In a sense
we've 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."
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.
And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the
riches of freedom and the security of justice.
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.
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.
And 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. And 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.
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
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. And 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.
cannot turn back.
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 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."¹
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. And some of you have come
from areas where your quest -- 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.
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
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.
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.
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
I have a dream
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
I have a dream
I have a dream that one
day every valley shall be exalted, and 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."²
is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South 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 -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be
able to sing with new meaning:
country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,
every mountainside, let freedom ring!
if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And 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 snow-capped 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.
every mountainside, let freedom ring.
when this happens, when we allow freedom 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!³
28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.
click forpdf version of speech
Amos 5:24 (rendered precisely in The American Standard
Version of the Holy Bible)
Isaiah 40:4-5 (King James Version of the Holy Bible).
Quotation marks are excluded from part of this moment in the text because King's
rendering of Isaiah 40:4 does not precisely follow the KJV version from which
he quotes (e.g., "hill" and "mountain" are reversed in the KJV). King's rendering
of Isaiah 40:5, however, is precisely quoted from the KJV.
Also in this database: Martin
Luther King, Jr: A Time to Break Silence
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