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I Have a Dream Speech by Martin Luther King Jr.

I Have a Dream MP3

Martin Luther King's Address at March on Washington
August 28, 1963. Washington, D.C.

"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."
– Martin Luther King, I Have a Dream Quote

I Have a Dream Speech Background

Summary: "I Have a Dream" is a 17-minute public speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered on August 28, 1963, in which he called for racial equalityand an end to discrimination. The speech, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement. Delivered to over 200,000 civil rights supporters, the speech was ranked the topAmerican speech of the 20th century by a 1999 poll of scholars of public address. According to U.S. Representative John Lewis, who also spoke that day as the President of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, "Dr. King had the power, the ability, and the capacity to transform those steps on the Lincoln Memorial into a monumental area that will forever be recognized. By speaking the way he did, he educated, he inspired, he informed not just the people there, but people throughout America and unborn generations."

Speech Title and Performance: Believe it or not, the "I Have a Dream" speech was originally titled "Normalcy, Never Again." and the first drafts never included the phrase "I have a dream". He had first delivered a speech incorporating some of the same sections in Detroit in June 1963, when he marched on Woodward Avenue with Walter Reuther and the Reverend C. L. Franklin, and had rehearsed other parts.

The popular title "I have a dream," came from the speech's greatly improvised content and delivery. Near the end of the speech, famous African American gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted to Dr. King from the crowd, "Tell them about the dream, Martin." Dr. King stopped delivering his prepared speech and started "preaching", punctuating his points with "I have a dream."

I Have a Dream
Public Domain
: Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. at 1963 March on Washington by USIA (NARA)

Educational Activities

Teachers Resource: I Have a Dream Speech Discussion Questions for Students
  • What was the official name for the event on August 28th, 1963? What does this title tell us about its focus?
  • What organizations were involved in the the March on Washington? What does this tell us about the event?
  • How does Martin Luther King, Jr. describe his writing process?
  • What are the major issues of this case? In other words, what is Martin Luther King, Jr. disputing?
  • How does Martin Luther King, Jr. describe his earlier speech on June 23rd in Detroit?
  • How does Martin Luther King, Jr. compare and contrast the two "I have a dream..." speeches? What are the major similarities and differences?
I Have a Dream
Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering
"I Have a Dream" at the 1963
Washington D.C. Civil Rights March.
Photo in the Public Domain.

Contemporary Reaction: The speech was lauded in the days after the event, and was widely considered the high point of the March by contemporary observers. James Reston, writing for the New York Times, noted that the event "was better covered by television and the press than any event here since President Kennedy's inauguration," and opined that "it will be a long time before [Washington] forgets the melodious and melancholy voice of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. crying out his dreams to the multitude."[ An article in the Boston Globe by Mary McGrory reported that King's speech "caught the mood" and "moved the crowd" of the day "as no other" speaker in the event. Marquis Childs of The Washington Post wrote that King's speech "rose above mere oratory". An article in the Los Angeles Times commented that the "matchless eloquence" displayed by King, "a supreme orator" of "a type so rare as almost to be forgotten in our age," put to shame the advocates of segregation by inspiring the "conscience of America" with the justice of the civil-rights cause.

I Have a Dream Copyright Information


Deposition regarding I Have a Dream SpeechCopyright Dispute: Because King's speech was broadcast to a large radio and television audience, there was controversy about the copyright status of the speech. If the performance of the speech constituted "general publication", it would have entered the public domain due to King's failure to register the speech with the Registrar of Copyrights. If the performance only constituted "limited publication", however, King retained common law copyright. This led to a lawsuit, Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc. v. CBS, Inc., which established that the King estate does hold copyright over the speech and had standing to sue; the parties then settled. Unlicensed use of the speech or a part of it can still be lawful in some circumstances, especially in jurisdictions under doctrines such as fair use or fair dealing. Under the applicable copyright laws, the speech will remain under copyright in the United States until 70 years after King's death, thus until 2038.

Deposition of Martin Luther King regarding copyright infringement.
Case File Number 63 Civ 2889, Civil Case Files; United States District Court for the Southern District of New York 
Download the full deposition (PDF)

I Have a Dream Video

I Have a Dream Speech Video Copyright

The I Have a Dream Speech Video is no longer available online, as EMI on behalf of The King Center has ordered it's removal. They will sell you or your school a copy for $10 at at, or you can buy the I Have a Dream DVD on Amazon ($8.97)

“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 together at the table of brotherhood.”
– Martin Luther King, I Have a Dream Quote

Read in Full: Text and audio of this speech available at:

Copyright Info: This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "I Have a Dream", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Buy a Copy of the I Have a Dream Speech

I Have a Dream Speech DVD

Martin Luther King Jr. - I Have a Dream DVD
Martin Luther King Jr. - I Have a Dream DVD on Amazon

"Perfect video for teaching"
Includes the full speech as well as an introduction to the civil right's movement and circumstances leading up to the famous march on Washington.

Illustrated Hardcover for Kids and Adults

I Have A Dream
I Have A Dream Illustrated Hardcover

Full I Have a Dream Speech with 14 original illustrations.
While Amazon says the reading level is ages 4 and up, this is not an abbreviated version and probably better for older children, adults and teachers reading to students who want illustrations.

I Have a Dream & Other Speeches

I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World
I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World, Special 75th Anniversary Edition

Best Collection of King's Most Popular Writings
Also includes his Nobel Prize acceptance speech; "My Trip to the Land of Gandhi"; "A Time to Break Silence," and more.

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