“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ I have dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia 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 heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”
Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech rolled forward, weaving together biblical allusions with words from American canon – the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Emancipation Proclamation – and painting the reverend’s vision of an America where the principles of equality reigned supreme.
Wednesday’s Google Doodle commemorates Dr. King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech that took place 50 years ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
Yet while King’s famous words “I have a dream” seem so articulate and well-planned, they were not part of the leader’s original speech.
King and Clarence Jones, his speechwriter and friend, had prepared a different speech for the March on Washington – the first part of which King delivered.
Then Mahalia Jackson, a gospel singer near the podium, shouted at King: “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin. Tell ‘em about the dream.”
Earlier that summer, King had delivered a speech in Detroit that outlined his dream for equality in America, and brought the crowd to a feverish pitch, according to a report by NPR.
“Now, most people probably didn’t have the slightest idea what Mahalia was yelling to Dr. King,” Mr. Jones told NPR. “What he did upon hearing [her words], he took the text of the speech – the written text that he was reading – and he moved it to the left side of the lectern [and] grabbed the lectern with both hands.”
Forty years after King gave his now famous speech, the words “I have a dream” were etched onto the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and eight years after that, a memorial was dedicated to the civil rights leader.
This Wednesday, 50 years after King rang out words of freedom and equality, the first black president of the United States will stand at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and deliver a speech he says "won't be as good" as King's.