In his famous and frequently quoted "I Have a Dream" speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. makes his view of the "American Dream" clear. To him, the American dream is one of equality for all people. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word equality as "the state of being equal,...
In his famous and frequently quoted "I Have a Dream" speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. makes his view of the "American Dream" clear. To him, the American dream is one of equality for all people. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word equality as "the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities."
By equality, Dr. King means that all citizens—including both black citizens and white citizens—are treated justly. For Dr. King, the American dream is a dream of justice. It is a dream of equal, fair, and equitable treatment for all peoples living in the US. It is also a dream of peaceful coexistence, and it is important to remember that, despite the number of people gathered in protest and the simmering racial tensions in the country (particularly in the south), the marchers demonstrated peacefully. In his speech, he refers to "the state of Mississippi" as "a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression." His dream is that it "will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice."
This speech was given at the historic March on Washington. An estimated 250,000 protesters had assembled in front of the iconic Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Their choice of location was intentional, as the march came some one hundred years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation granting freedom to American slaves. Their goal was to protest the unfair treatment and continuing challenges and inequalities that African Americans faced on a daily basis, even a century after Lincoln’s action. Their objective was to make the nation take notice.
In his moving “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr. begins by referencing Lincoln's Gettsyburg Address. He says,
Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous cleared is a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice… But 100 years later the Negro still is not free.
The beginning of Dr. King’s speech parallels Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which started with “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” In this use of parallel text, Dr. King drives home his hope for equality and emphasizes the fact that “all men” are created equal.
The “I Have a Dream" speech was to be the declaration of Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and African Americans across the US that injustice will not stand. He says, “There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.” He outlines his dream, or his view of the American dream:
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, live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."