In 1963, 250,000 individuals attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. There, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, which became one of the most famous moments of the African American civil rights movement.
The date of King's speech was Aug. 28, 1963. The message was that African Americans needed equal employment opportunities, voting rights and an end to discrimination and segregation. With Lincoln behind him, he said that blacks still had not obtained their freedom and a long struggle laid before them. Nevertheless, he reaffirmed the importance of non-violence. King had only prepared a seven minute speech, but his inspired words continued to flow and the speech lasted 16 minutes.
The Crowd Listened with Baited Breath
The crowd was silent, listening and hanging on his every word as King told them "not to wallow in the valley of despair." He imbued them with hope and told them to go back to their homes with the knowledge that their problems will ultimately be resolved. Then, he launched into the famous theme, "I have a dream," which caught the attention of the world and -- in terms of civil rights -- is compared to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Perhaps this moment in history was even greater, though, because it was recorded on film for future generations to hear in times of personal weakness, when in need of inspiration.
King ended his speech with these beautiful words: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Two Hallmark Pieces of Legislation Came the Next Year
Two hallmark pieces of legislation were passed the following year. The 24th Amendment was added to the Constitution. This outlawed poll taxes, which were inhibiting the voices of impoverished African American voters. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was also passed into law. This outlawed education employment discrimination and it outlawed racial segregation at businesses and other locations frequented by the public as well. In the same year, Martin Luther King, Jr., received the Nobel Peace Prize.
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