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9 Quotes From Martin Luther King Jr.’s 'I Have a Dream' Speech

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech that reverberated through U.S. history. Known as the “I Have a Dream” speech, the address eloquently captured the cause of the civil rights movement, and its struggle to align the reality of American life with the ideals of its founding — that “all men are created equal.”

King’s address is only rivaled in its fame by President Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” a century earlier, so it’s fitting that King’s iconic words were delivered in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. King even evoked Lincoln in the speech’s opening line: “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation.” But the civil rights leader quickly went on to illustrate that emancipation from slavery was only the first step on the long path to racial equality and justice.

These 9 quotes from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech continue to inspire today, reminding us that his cause is still our own, nearly 60 years later.

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Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.

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There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

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I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

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We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.

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We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: for whites only.

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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.

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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.

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From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

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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.

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Photo credit: Bettmann via Getty Images

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About the Author
Darren Orf
Darren lives in Portland, Oregon, has two cats, and writes about science, technology, nature, and history.
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What poet wrote, "Merge mercy with might, and might with right"?

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