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Monday, January 15, 2007

Let Freedom Ring - Martin Luther King, Jr. 1-15-29 - 4-4-68

Here's a little history and a short biography for those of you too young to remember the occasion.

"On August 28, 1963, under a nearly cloudless sky, more than 250,000 people, a fifth of them white, gathered near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to rally for "jobs and freedom." The roster of speakers included speakers from nearly every segment of society -- labor leaders like Walter Reuther, clergy, film stars such as Sidney Poitier and Marlon Brando and folksingers such as Joan Baez. Each of the speakers was allotted fifteen minutes, but the day belonged to the young and charismatic leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had originally prepared a short and somewhat formal recitation of the sufferings of African Americans attempting to realize their freedom in a society chained by discrimination. He was about to sit down when gospel singer Mahalia Jackson called out, "Tell them about your dream, Martin! Tell them about the dream!" Encouraged by shouts from the audience, King drew upon some of his past talks, and the result became the landmark statement of civil rights in America -- a dream of all people, of all races and colors and backgrounds, sharing in an America marked by freedom and democracy."

I'm sure most of you know from looking at the photos on my banner that I'm raising three beautiful mixed-race great-granddaughters and some may know that the mother of three of my grandchildren (Jim's kids) was born in Manila.

This is for them. No matter how many times I hear it repeated, it never becomes stale.

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 quick sands 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 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 their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall 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 can never 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!"

28 comments:

Ginny said...

I am embarrassed to say that I am nearly 41 yrs old and had not read that before today. Mr. King had a lot of great things to say. Thanks for posting it Ann.

Ginny

Yondalla said...

Thank you for posting this.

A lot of the time it is re-printed but in a sanitized version. All the pain and description of the problem dissappears. So thanks again.

Susie said...

Most of us in my age group have, of course, heard and read this words many times.
I was glad to just take the time today and read them once more..
hugs!

Rosa said...

Beautiful tribute. Amen.

PEA said...

Hi Ann...I was 5 years old when he was killed so don't remember that day at all but of course I learned all about this great man in school and through television. Thank you so much for posting his whole speech...I had never read it all before. Hugs xox

david burke said...

I'm a bit discouraged, today, after hearing a few disparaging remarks that make it clear that some Americans remain prejudiced, even bigoted.

Statements implying that MLK Day is a "token" holiday -- second class, if you will just drive home the fact that many among us still don't get the messages that seem so clear to me as stated in the Declaration of Independence and the New Testament.

And I must share my conclusion that the situation seems worse in "the heartland" -- where defacto segregation remains possible (though not nearly as possible as just a short time ago) and where a lot of otherwise nice and good people can't yet judge others by the content of their character.

I celebrate the victories and accomplishments of King and Chavez and the others who fought -- and sometimes died -- for civil rights. And I'm so happy to note that Roc Reb and El really DO have access to opportunities that were denied to others for so long -- they are in control of their own destiny, to a very great extent.

But I am saddened by the fact that discrimination continues and that wonderful young people are still not made to feel welcome in our "great society."

Work remains to be done. And some of that work may have to be regaining some ground that's been lost over the past few decades. We would have benefited greatly from the counsel and guidance the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr would have provided had he not been cut down while we still needed him.

Until the dreams expressed in that 1963 speech become reality, we have to admit that we have not yet overcome the evils of racism. Until we are certain that Reverend King would finally say, "I am satisfied," we must not be satisfied.

Deep in my heart, I do believe that we SHALL overcome...one day.

Kendra Lynn said...

What a beautiful and inspiring post. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Kendra

Merle said...

Hi Ann ~~ Great post. I have heard the dream part before, but not the whole speech, so thanks. Hope all is well
at your house, with Carol and Ray.
Thinking of you. Love, Merle.

Peter said...

An excellent post Ann, we are a little removed from your situation here in Australia but we do have our own racial problems so can empathize with your concerns.

Puss-in-Boots said...

That speech is as pertinent today as it was in 1963. What a wonderful piece of history that is - I can remember seeing Dr King at that rally on TV and also remember very clearly hearing about the atrocities towards the Negro people. I felt my blood run cold.

A very moving post, Ann. Thank you.

Bebe said...

Happy New Year, Ann. I was glad to see your tribute to Dr. King even tho those words invariably bring tears.
The progress of equality has been very slow. We can only truly be free when we are ALL free.

Missy said...

Whenever I hear that last paragraph, I ALWAYS get chills. Goosebumps everywhere.

He was so way before his time and understood what so few, even today, understand.

Thanks, Ann.

Andrea said...

and one worth reading every single time!!! thank you!!

The Mama said...

Amen Dr. King!!

(Thanks Ann)

stefanierj said...

Dr. King might be the only human alive who can bring me to tears with his voice alone every. single. time. I hear it. Every time.

Thanks, Ann.

lushgurl said...

I had never seen (or heard) the entire speech before, so thank you from the deepest part of my soul for this post...I have always told my child that when any of us die, if you were to cut us open, we are all EXACTLY ALIKE. The differences that we SEE are what makes each person beautiful and unique. I can dislike someone because they are mean but not because they black or hispanic or have red hair or are short or... Thank you again.

Caloden said...

Thank you, Anne. I am going to have my son sit down ane read this with me. It never fails to bring me to tears.

Atasha said...

Thank You Ann. I had to read it 2x

Lee-ann said...

Ann, it never fails to give me goosebumps and a feeling of warmth and I thank you for posting it to read again.

thank you also for your visit to my blog the other day I love seeing you visit.

best wishes Lee-ann

Jo said...

I love his "I have a dream" speech, it makes me cry, every, single time. He was killed on my birthday while we were living in Georgia. Weird huh?

Marty said...

I'm lurking!

PI said...

A very important speech from a very special human being and as relevant today as it was then. Thank you for sharing it Granny.

lindsaylobe said...

A memorable posting on the birth date of this great man.

Sadly many parts of his dream still remain unrealised to day.
I think he correctly embodied the idea past injustices and inequalities,the resultant prolonged economic disadvantages suffered by Negroes and other disadvantaged groups cannot be overcome unless there is a sustained effort to allocate a disproportionate amount in social service spending support and infrastructure for the chasms are to be breached.

That is if you start from a disadvantaged base you need more resources allocated, something poorly understood even to day by many policy makers.

Best wishes

J said...

One of my husband's coworkers actually said, "Why don't we get a white holiday?" Blech.

My father was there at that rally in 1963. He said it was maybe 1/2 way through the speech before people realized something special was going on. Maybe that's when Dr. King went from the prewritten speech into his I have a Dream part. It so galvanized my dad that he joined a group that was marching from New England down into Florida (I think) talking about freedom, the draft, and the further south they got, voter rights. He was arrested in a small town and almost lynched. Afterwards, he got to shake hands with Dr. King, who gave him a copy of a signed book, which, sadly, was stolen from my dad years later. Pretty cool story, though. Except for the lynching part.

zzop357 said...

It wasn't just MLK speaking that day!!
That was God telling us to get a grip...We are ALL His Childen in the eyes of God!!!

Dee said...

Love this speech. My favorite. Thanks.

Alice said...

You know, until today I had never actually heard or read the entire thing.

It's as beautiful and powerful now as it was then. It brings tears to the eyes and joy to the heart and hope and strength to the mind as much now as it must have done then.

And all I can add is this:

A-bloody-men!

:-)

xxx

JBlue said...

I used to use that in class when discussing figurative language. It was a good way to work it in, then go into the history of it. The students always enjoyed it, too. I really need to do that again.