King's Dream (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Perhaps no speech since Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address has summarized the past, present, and future of the United States as well as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. It had been one hundred years since the Emancipation Proclamation, and many African Americans were demanding that the U.S. government do more to secure their rights. King addressed a gathering of over 250,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963. Their march to that memorial was a symbol of their desire for a new civil rights bill to be quickly passed by Congress and signed by President John F. Kennedy.
King carefully prepared a written speech for the occasion. Subtly alluding to Lincoln, King wrote “fivescore years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.” As Eric J. Sundquist illustrates in King’s Dream, King attempted to show that the promises made one hundred years earlier were as yet unfulfilled. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were seen as “promissory notes” yet to be satisfied.
The timing of the speech was significant for other reasons. Many African Americans were beginning to believe that King’s philosophy of nonviolent, peaceful protest was taking too long to accomplish results. He was under challenge by younger members of the movement such as John Lewis, whose more radical speech immediately before...
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
American Literature 81, no. 4 (December, 2009): 869-871.
The Boston Globe, January 17, 2009, p. G9.
Choice, April, 2009, p. 1492.
Library Journal 133, no. 20 (December 1, 2008): 142-143.
The New York Times Book Review, January 18, 2009, p. 9.
Publishers Weekly 255, no. 45 (November 10, 2008): 43-44.
The Times Literary Supplement, January 16, 2009, p. 13.
The Washington Post, February 15, 2009, p. T8.
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