What was the context that inspired the "I Have a Dream" speech?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The “I Have a Dream” speech was the most famous speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King was in need of a significant speech. He needed a speech that would give momentum to the civil rights movement. While Dr. King had national recognition, he needed to give a powerful speech to a national audience. While he was well known in the southern churches for his speaking, most people throughout the United States hadn’t heard him give a full speech. This speech, to be given at the March on Washington in late August 1963, would be covered by the major national television stations. There was a lot of debate within Dr. King’s inner circle about what to say and what not to say. Some people didn’t want him to use the “I Have a Dream” concept. They felt it had been overused and wouldn’t be effective. Dr. King wanted the speech to be received in a similar manner as the Gettysburg Address was received. Dr. King often took drafts of speeches prepared by his aides, and then molded them to fit his needs. When Dr. King put the finishing touches on the draft of the speech, the “I Have a Dream” part was not in the speech. As Dr. King was finishing his speech, one of his favorite gospel singers, Mahalia Jackson, twice yelled out to “tell ‘em about the dream, Martin.” Dr. King put down his prepared text, and then delivered the powerful “I Have a Dream” speech with which he is forever remembered.

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