Although, slavery was abolished in America in 1865, the plight of the African Americans were far from over. Martin Luther King’s exhilarating speech, titled, “I Have A Dream” addressed the issues of racial discrimination a 100 years after the abolition of slavery and the seed of a racism free world, at least as a dream, was sown on August 28th, 1983. Today, on his birthday, let’s find out how King changed the world as opened his speech with the words, “50 score years ago..”
1. The African Americans were showed the true side of civil rights
It took Martin Luther King just 17 minutes to let the African Americans understand how they deserved better. Generations of oppressed African Americans gathered to hear him speak of racial inequality, the true face of civil rights in America at that time and the ray of hope that remained.
2. The common white folks realized how they had been oppressors
As King described the plight of the African Americans as living “on a lonely island of poverty” in the middle of a “vast ocean of material prosperity”, people realized that the distribution of opportunity has been unfavorably distributed as far as the African Americans are concerned. Issues which seem obvious now would not easily occur, at that time, to the common white population before the legendary speech of King.
3. The first vision of a society devoid of racial discrimination
It was early 60s and people from non-white ethnicity, especially Africans, could still not imagine their children holding hands and growing up with the whites without ever being judged. It was the essence of King’s quotes from the legendary speech that inspired people to believe that the ideas was not that far fetched after all.
“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.” – MLK
4. The momentum of Civil Rights was thus created
King’s speech was too powerful for the authorities to deny the basic demand which was “comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation”. It meant the access to all public accommodations, habitable housing, adequate and consolidated education and the right to for every citizen irrespective of color.
5. Africans earned respect through non violence
Inspired by principles of Thoreau and Gandhi, Martin Luther King led his protests against racial discrimination without ever resorting to violence. Although, the police forces used violence to curb the protests, they eventually had to give up against the quiet resistance of the protesters at the Great March on Washington, the event where the speech was delivered by King.
6. Racism was not cool anymore
Racial bigotry, although not dead, was was no more proclaimed openly by the authorities. America realized how shameful it was to let racism be a part of the nation’s consciousness. The speech marked a new era equality in America.
7. The career of the first black NFL quarterback was sparked
NFL superstar, James Harris never believed that he would make it to the quarterback from defense as an African because such was the norm in America at that time. It was MLK’s speech that inspired Harris to gamble his way to the quarterback position and the rest is history.
8. Martin Luther King becomes a Noble Laureate
King’s inspiring speech along with this enormous contribution to eradicate racism in America earned him the Noble prize in 1964. The previous year, Time Magazine dubbed him as the Person of the Year.
9. The speech led FBI to get King marked
COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program), an organisation run by the FBI, marked King after his speech as they felt communist threats. Although, they wiretapped King, they did not find any communist links. All they found were some personal scandals of King’s romantic life which they tried to use as a negative propaganda against him but failed.
10. The death threats and assassination
In spite of receiving numerous death threats after being in the public eye for his “I have a dream” speech, King’s spirits were never broken as he believed that murder was not enough to put down the struggle for freedom. After the assassination of John. F. Kennedy, King had told his wife, “This is what is going to happen to me also. I keep telling you, this is a sick society.” He was finally murdered in 1968. His assassin, James Earl Ray was sentenced to to 99 years and died in prison at Tennessee State Penitentiary.
Here’s the full speech that marked the dawn of new beginning
Almost 60 years since the world was thrilled by the “I have a dream” speech, we doubt if we would have ever been able to discover the rich culture of the African Americans had it not been for Martin Luther King, Jr.