"I have a Dream"
by Martin Luther King Jr
Delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on
August 28, 1963
Source: Martin Luther King, Jr: The Peaceful Warrior, Pocket Books, NY
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we
stand 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 captivity.
But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that
the Negro is still 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 an appalling
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a
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 would be guarranteed the
inalienable 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 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 rise from the dark and desolate
valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is
the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children.
Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial
injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of
the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. 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.
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.
And 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?; .