Dr. King is perhaps most famous for his "I have a dream..." speech in Washington, but he actually first used the phrase in a speech two months earlier in Detroit.
Ask any grade schooler what they know about Martin Luther King Jr. and their response will almost certainly include his four most famous words: “I have a dream.”
The “I have a dream” speech that King gave on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 became the most celebrated moment of his civil rights work, but it was not the first time he uttered the phrase.
Two months earlier, King marched in Detroit in a rally known as ”The Walk to Freedom,” where he led 125,000 people in the largest civil rights demonstration the nation had seen at the time, protesting segregation in the South as well as inequality in wages, housing, and education in the North. During his remarks at the end of the march, he spoke about his dream.
“I have a dream this afternoon that my four little children, that my four little children will not come up in the same young days that I came up within,” he said “but they will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not the color of their skin.”
Pipe-smoking man bottom center being restrained as he heads for Rev. Martin Luther King on Sunday, June 23, 1963 in Detroit’s Freedom March. To the right of the pipe-smoking man is Mayor Jerome Cavanagh of Detroit. (AP Photo)
The speech came not two weeks after President John F. Kennedy had given his famous televised civil rights speech, in which called upon the nation to embrace the cause. King acknowledge that indirectly in his Detroit speech. “There are some white people in this country who are as determined to see the Negro free as we are to be free,” he said.
On Saturday, Rev. Al Sharpton will join Martin Luther King III, NAACP President Ben Jealous, and Reverend Jesse Jackson to commemorate that march, following a route similar to that King and his legions of supporters took on June 23, 1963.
Read a portion of King’s 1963 speech below.
And so this afternoon, I have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.I have a dream that one day, right down in Georgia and Mississippi and Alabama, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to live together as brothers.I have a dream this afternoon that one day, one day little white children and little Negro children will be able to join hands as brothers and sisters.I have a dream this afternoon that one day, that one day men will no longer burn down houses and the church of God simply because people want to be free.I have a dream this afternoon that there will be a day that we will no longer face the atrocities that Emmett Till had to face or Medgar Evers had to face, that all men can live with dignity.I have a dream this afternoon that my four little children, that my four little children will not come up in the same young days that I came up within, but they will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not the color of their skin.I have a dream this afternoon that one day right here in Detroit, Negroes will be able to buy a house or rent a house anywhere that their money will carry them and they will be able to get a job.Yes, I have a dream this afternoon that one day in this land the words of Amos will become real and “justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”I have a dream this evening that one day we will recognize the words of Jefferson that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I have a dream this afternoon.I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and “every valley shall be exalted, and every hill shall be made low; the crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” I have a dream this afternoon that the brotherhood of man will become a reality in this day.