Fifty-four years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. gave one of the most motivational speeches in history: the I Have a Dream speech. This speech was a crucial moment during the civil rights movement and is still commemorated today.
While almost everyone learns about this MLK speech in school, here are a few things you might not know about this iconic speech. Let’s take a look at just a few interesting facts!
- The “I have a dream” section of the speech was delivered spontaneously due to one of King’s friends, Mahalia Jackson, shouted “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin.” This came to be the most well-known part of the speech. It was also used in some of MLK’s previous lesser-known speeches.
- Martin Luther King Jr. gave many speeches, his first national address being six years before the I Have a Dream speech. It was given to a crowd of 15,000 to 30,000 people.
- President Kennedy commented “That guy is really good” while watching the speech. The head of the FBI’s domestic intelligence division, William Sullivan, was less impressed than the President. In a memo, he stated that King was “the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of communism … and national security.”
- The sound system that was installed for the King’s speech was sabotaged right before it began.
- There were a total of 10 speakers at the event at the Lincoln Memorial. MLK was the last speaker, so multiple people had already left before he spoke.
- Almost one-fourth of the March attendees were white.
- King stayed up until 4 a.m. working on his speech the night before. His advisors, Stanley Levison and Clarence Jones, wrote the first draft of the speech which was originally called “Normalcy – Never Again.”
- The speech references Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence, The Emancipation Proclamation, and the U.S. Constitution: “This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning. ‘My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers dies, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountain side, let freedom ring.” — MLK used these “My Country Tis of Thee” lyrics to further show how the Nation would soon be united.
The I Have a Dream speech was given to more than 250,000 people during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. While people may not have recognized the importance of this speech at that time, it remains an important part of history that we still learn about today. And now you know a little bit more about it.