"I Have a Dream
" is a public speech that was delivered by American civil rights
activist Martin Luther King Jr.
during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
on August 28, 1963, in which he called for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States
. Delivered to more than 250,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial
in Washington, D.C., the speech was a defining moment of the civil rights movement
and among the most iconic speeches in U.S. history. Beginning with a reference to the Emancipation Proclamation
, which declared millions of slaves free in 1863, King said "one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free". Toward the end of the speech, King departed from his prepared text for a partly improvised peroration
on the theme "I have a dream", prompted by Mahalia Jackson
's cry: "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" In this part of the speech, which most excited the listeners and has now become its most famous, King described his dreams of freedom and equality arising from a land of slavery and hatred. The speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century in a 1999 poll of scholars of public address.
This photograph, taken by Rowland Scherman, features King and fellow civil rights activist Mathew Ahmann (with glasses) among a crowd of other protestors during the March on Washington.Photograph credit: Rowland Scherman; restored by Adam Cuerden