Martin Luther King Jr.
Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929. He was a Baptist minister and a prominent civil rights advocate. King was the youngest person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize when it awarded to him in 1964. He was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.
One of his most famous speeches was delivered at the Lincoln Memorial August 28, 1963. Often referred to as the “I have a dream” speech, it is one of the most significant and powerful speeches of the 20th century. A portion of the speech follows. Links to the full speech and an audio file are at the end of this post.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.” **
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day — 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 died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that:
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 ring, when we let it 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!
Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
**Isaiah 40:4-5 (King James Version of the Holy Bible). Quotation marks are excluded from part of this moment in the text because King’s rendering of Isaiah 40:4 does not precisely follow the KJV version from which he quotes (e.g., “hill” and “mountain” are reversed in the KJV). King’s rendering of Isaiah 40:5, however, is precisely quoted from the KJV.
The complete text and a downloadable audio file of the whole speech can be found at American Rhetoric.