When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. took the lectern at the March on Washington 50 years ago to deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech, the text in his hand didn’t contain the words “I have a dream.”
That refrain, and the part of the address it punctuated and propelled, was improvised on the spot. Having written a good speech — a working title was “Normalcy — Never Again” — King instead gave one of the greatest of the 20th century.
There are other things that most of us don’t know about this storied speech. The march wasn’t King’s first use of the “dream” refrain. He came to rue the phrase, and by the time he died, the speech had faded from public memory.
King spoke on Aug. 28, 1963, at the biggest, most important civil rights demonstration in American history. It was the heart of the civil rights movement — eight years after the anti-segregation Montgomery bus boycott; three years after the lunch-counter sit-ins in Nashville and Greensboro, N.C.; two years after the first Freedom Rides on interstate buses through the South; and three months after police in Birmingham, Ala., horrified the nation by using attack dogs and fire hoses against women and children protesting segregated public facilities.
Courtesy of USA Today