Citizens For A Better Norwood

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Text of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech

We decided during this month’s celebration of Black History Month to revisit Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. At least one of us remembers watching him deliver the momentous address on television. One of us also recalls growing up in a town with “Whites Only” bathrooms and drinking fountains on the court house square and restaurants where black people could come in only long enough to pick up food to go. Then there was 1958 when school desegregation happened and the fifth grade teacher who explained to her class she seating all the male black children in their own row next to wall so she wouldn’t get calls from white parents complaining about their children sitting too close to them. Later in the early 1960’s, two male African students were recruited by missionaries to attend the local Baptist college. The local church wouldn’t allow them to attend services unless they wore their native costumes. Twenty members immediately left in protest and started their own Baptist church, which today is the largest in the town. There were a few heroes here and there…but only a few.

“I Have a Dream”
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

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