Have A Dream
Luther King, Jr.
August 28, 1963)
score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic
shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
This momentous decree came as a great beacon light
of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been
seared in the flames of withering injustice. It
came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night
But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic
fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred
years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly
crippled by the manacles of segregation and the
chains of discrimination. One hundred years later,
the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in
the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.
One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing
in the corners of American society and finds himself
an exile in his own land. So we have come here today
to dramatize an appalling condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation's capital
to cash a check. When the architects of our republic
wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution
and the declaration of Independence, they were signing
a promissory note to which every American was to
fall heir. This note was a promise that all men
would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on
this promissory note insofar as her citizens of
color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred
obligation, America has given the Negro people a
bad check which has come back marked "insufficient
funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank
of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that
there are insufficient funds in the great vaults
of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to
cash this check -- a check that will give us upon
demand the riches of freedom and the security of
justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot
to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.
This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling
off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.
Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate
valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial
justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity
to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift
our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice
to the solid rock of brotherhood.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the
urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination
of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's
legitimate discontent will not pass until there
is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.
Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning.
Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off
steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening
if the nation returns to business as usual. There
will be neither rest nor tranquility in America
until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.
The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake
the foundations of our nation until the bright day
of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people
who stand on the warm threshold which leads into
the palace of justice. In the process of gaining
our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful
deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for
freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high
plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow
our creative protest to degenerate into physical
violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic
heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the
Negro community must not lead us to distrust of
all white people, for many of our white brothers,
as evidenced by their presence here today, have
come to realize that their destiny is tied up with
our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound
to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we
shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are
those who are asking the devotees of civil rights,
"When will you be satisfied?" We can never
be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the
fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels
of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We
cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic
mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.
We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in
Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York
believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no,
we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied
until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness
like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here
out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you
have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have
come from areas where your quest for freedom left
you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered
by the winds of police brutality. You have been
the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to
work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back
to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the
slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing
that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of
the difficulties and frustrations of the moment,
I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted
in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise
up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We
hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men
are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of
Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of
former slave owners will be able to sit down together
at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi,
a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice
and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis
of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four 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
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama,
whose governor's lips are presently dripping with
the words of interposition and nullification, will
be transformed into a situation where little black
boys and black girls will be able to join hands
with little white boys and white girls and walk
together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be
exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low,
the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked
places will be made straight, and the glory of the
Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see
This is our hope. This is the faith with which I
return to the South. With this faith we will be
able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone
of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform
the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful
symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will
be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle
together, to go to jail together, to stand up for
freedom together, knowing that we will be free one
This will be the day when all of God's children
will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My
country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of
thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of
the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let
And if America is to be a great nation this must
become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious
hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from
the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring
from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill
of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from
every village and every hamlet, from every state
and every city, we will be able to speed up that
day when all of God's children, black men and white
men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics,
will be able to join hands and sing in the words
of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last!
free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at