The night before the March on Washington in 1963 Martin Luther King asked his aides for advice about the next day's speech. "Don't use the lines about "I have a dream," Wyatt Walker told him "It's trite, it's cliché. You've used it too many times already."
Martin Luther King delivered many speeches (at least 350 in 1963 alone). Many speeches have been delivered on civil rights and, indeed, were delivered at the March on Washington. So what was it that made that particular speech historical? And what makes it great? Why do we remember it? How do we remember it? What is it about it that we like to remember? And what about it have we chosen to forget?
Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's famous address, Gary Young examines what made the speech so timely ... and so timeless. Few at that time could imagine the world he was evoking but to continue being involved all had to believe it was possible.Fifty years on it is clear that in eliminating segregation - not racism but formal, codified, explicit discrimination - the civil rights movement delivered the last significant moral victory in America for which there is still a consensus. The speech's appeal endures because it remains the most eloquent, poetic, unapologetic and public articulation of that victory.
The Speech is the only book to combine line-by-line analysis, background detail and interviews with those who wrote, heard and acted upon King's words.
About this author
Gary Younge is a Guardian columnist and feature writer based in the US. His books include Who Are We - And Should it Matter in the 21st Century? and No Place Like Home, shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. He lives with his family in New York City.