Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation

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Overview

“I have a dream.” When those words were spoken on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, the crowd stood, electrified, as Martin Luther King, Jr. brought the plight of African Americans to the public consciousness and firmly established himself as one of the greatest orators of all time. Behind the Dream is a thrilling, behind-the-scenes account of the weeks leading up to the great event, as told by Clarence Jones, co-writer of the speech and close confidant to King. Jones was there, on the road, ...

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Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation

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Overview

“I have a dream.” When those words were spoken on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, the crowd stood, electrified, as Martin Luther King, Jr. brought the plight of African Americans to the public consciousness and firmly established himself as one of the greatest orators of all time. Behind the Dream is a thrilling, behind-the-scenes account of the weeks leading up to the great event, as told by Clarence Jones, co-writer of the speech and close confidant to King. Jones was there, on the road, collaborating with the great minds of the time, and hammering out the ideas and the speech that would shape the civil rights movement and inspire Americans for years to come.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Clarence Jones (scholar-in-residence, Martin Luther King Jr. Inst., Stanford Univ.) was counsel and speechwriter to Martin Luther King Jr. and here relates the organizing efforts and events that led to the 1963 March on Washington and King's historic "I have a dream" speech. Jones describes the internal debates among the march organizers and captures both the excitement and the perils of such organizing in 1960s America. He describes the illegal wiretapping efforts of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI generally in surveillance of King and the Civil Rights Movement and recounts John F. Kennedy's role in the movement. Jones provides firsthand accounts of such historic moments as receiving from King the "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" scrawled on toilet paper. He also explains how the dream speech was ultimately improvised by King, who was inspired by Mahalia Jackson to eschew his prepared speech in favor of "the dream." Jones ends his work by linking the past with the present, including the significance of Barack Obama's presidency. Verdict This book will appeal to a wide audience interested in the legacy of American civil rights and 20th-century history.—Karen Okamoto, John Jay Coll. of Criminal Justice Lib., New York
Kirkus Reviews

With the assistance of filmmaker and Huffington Post contributor Connelly, Jones, who was present at the creation of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, revisits the forces that generated the 1963 March on Washington and that animated the speech that now represents an entire era.

The author, a former attorney for King, does not offer a detailed account of how King and his advisors crafted the speech; for that, see Drew Hansen'sThe Dream (2003) or Eric J. Sundquist'sKing's Dream (2009).In fact, writes Jones, he did not even see a final copy before he heard it, but he was pleased that King kept his suggestion for the initial image of the promissory note. However, the author provides numerous intriguing insider insights about life on the road with King—notably, the amusing moment when Jones, frustrated with the egos of some of the other speakers elbowing for position in the event's final, prime slot, asked if any of them really wanted to follow King to the podium; none did. Jones also confirms a couple of stories: that the Justice Department did indeed have a "kill switch" on the sound system, and that gospel singer Mahalia Jackson urged Kingduring the speech to talk about his dream, at which point King turned his prepared remarks face down and continued somewhat extemporaneously. Jones explains how and why he, at the last minute, copyrighted the speech, and he pays homage to Nelson Rockefeller and Sen. Ted Kennedy—though he is less generous to JFK and RFK. He describes severe worries and frustration, given that the daunting logistics of the March, and ends with some reflections on America's enduring racism, the contentious issue of reparations and the uneven presidency of Barack Obama.

Essential reading about a moment of surpassing political and moral importance.

From the Publisher
"A revealing insider's account of how King improvised parts of his 'I Have a Dream' speech at 1963's March on Washington."  — USA TODAY

“Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the course of American history by challenging – and inspiring – the country to confront injustice and live up to our founding ideals.  The words he spoke at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 will forever be immortalized for their beauty and power, and they will forever echo in the soul of American life.  Jones and Connelly capture the fascinating story behind this historic moment, shedding new light on a speech that ushered in a new dawn for the nation.”—Mayor Michael Bloomberg

 “The author provides numerous intriguing insider insights about life on the road with King. . . . Essential reading about a moment of surpassing political and moral importance.”—Kirkus [starred review]

“The words of Dr. King live on as a gift to our country. As someone who stood beside him during those years, Clarence B Jones puts them in context and brings the stories around them to life. He and Stuart Connelly take us inside the greatest moments of the American civil rights movement and behind the scenes of a speech that awakened our collective conscience”—Soledad O'Brien

“America would be a very different place if it weren't for the hard work of men like Clarence Jones. Different — and vastly less just.  Behind the Dream takes us behind the scenes of Dr. King's historic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, which Jones helped write.  It's a story that is as remarkable as it is inspiring.”—Arianna Huffington 

“The words 'I Have a Dream' are as applicable today as they were all those years ago. Behind The Dream provides a beautiful glimpse at the origins of an enduring work. Clarence B. Jones illuminates the history in a way no one else could. To learn the story of the speech's creation from the man who was there is to appreciate Martin’s genius all the more.”—Betty Williams,Nobel Peace Laureate, President and Founder, World Centers of Compassion for Children International.

"What elevates this book above most scholarly tomes is its rare and invaluable insider’s insight into not only the happenings of the day but also the people involved." —Irish Examiner 

"The book is wonderful, and rewarding for students of public speaking as well as of the civil rights era. Jones is particularly skilled at giving us the contingent nature of events as the happen, and that is a great gift to anyone who wants to understand where we’ve really come from. Highly recommended." — Nick Morgan, Forbes.com 

 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230103689
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/4/2011
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,435,830
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Clarence B. Jones served as speechwriter and counsel to Martin Luther King, Jr. and is currently a scholar-in-residence and visiting professor at Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Institute. Selected by Time magazine in 1972 as one of “The 100 Future Leaders of America,” and twice recognized in Fortune magazine as “A Businessman of the Month,” Jones has received numerous state and national awards recognizing his significant contributions to American society. He lives in Palo Alto, CA.

Stuart Connelly is an author and filmmaker. He is a recent National Educational Press Association Award winner and blogs for The Huffington Post. He divides his time between rural Pennsylvania and New York.

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Table of Contents

Prologue Souls Beyond Measure xi

Chapter 1 History in the Making 1

Randolph's Legacy 3

Home Away from Home 9

Spin Before There Was Spin 15

Divided We Stood 21

Plagued by Doubt 27

The Celebrity Delegation 32

No Turning Back 42

Chapter 2 Tuesday 49

Early Signs, Early Warnings 51

A Group of Lobbyists 54

Memory and Metaphor 66

"To Counsel with My Lord" 77

Chapter 3 Wednesday 81

Dawn Reconnaissance 83

So Tired of All the Exploitation 89

How Do You Know You're Making History? 92

'Buked and Scorned 95

Preparation: The Speech, Part One 104

The Mechanics of Trust 113

Instinct: The Speech, Part Two 115

Electricity in the Air 118

Saving the Best for Last 125

Chapter 4 A Strike of Lightning, then Fifty Years of Rolling Thunder 127

Putting a Name to It 129

Why Did "I Have a Dream" Capture the World? 134

Breaking the Records 138

Out from the Gloomy Past 144

Chapter 5 In the Present, Tense 151

Welcome to Funtown 153

Money Makes the World Go 'Round 160

The Shepherdless Flock 171

Epilogue Dream On, March On… 185

Acknowledgments 192

Notes 194

Index 201

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 9, 2011

    The story behind the speech!

    Clarence B Jones was the man behind one of the greatest speeches ever given in this country. This book gives a behind the scenes account of the moment when Martin Luther King gave his "I have a dream" speech. Very interesting.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2013

    Must read

    Interesting behind the scene look at the March on Washington and King's famous speech

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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