On August 28, 1963, more than 200,000 people, black and white, gathered in the nation’s capital to urge Congress to pass President John F. Kennedy’s civil rights bill, which prohibited racial discrimination in public places, employment, and education.
The daylong celebration of speeches, songs, and prayers climaxed with an address by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial:
||I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. . . . I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today! . . . And so let freedom ring . . . from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi – from every mountainside. Let freedom ring. And when this happens – when we allow freedom to ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children – black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics – will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Rarely can it be said that speeches change things. But King’s “I have a dream” speech, one of the greatest in the nation’s history, helped secure passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The speech helped change millions of hearts and minds. It changes things still.