King's Dream: The Legacy of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream Speech

Overview

In this assessment of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech of 1963, Eric J. Sundquist explores its origins, its place in the long history of American debates about equality and race, and why it is now hailed as the most powerful American address of the twentieth century. The book features the entire transcript of the speech.

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Overview

In this assessment of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech of 1963, Eric J. Sundquist explores its origins, its place in the long history of American debates about equality and race, and why it is now hailed as the most powerful American address of the twentieth century. The book features the entire transcript of the speech.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post Book World

"Each chapter of Sundquist''s intelligent and important book focuses on one of several themes in the speech, unpacking the sources of the words and placing them within a broader civil rights context. His last chapter, ''Not by the Color of Their Skin,'' is one of the most incisive analyses of the affirmative action debate I have ever read."—Clay Risen, Washington Post Book World

— Clay Risen

Choice

"Sundquist weaves together history and rhetorical criticism to offer a compelling account of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I have a dream' speech. . . . Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers."—Choice
New York Times Book Review - Anthony Lewis

"The ['I Have a Dream'] speech and all that surrounds it—background and consequences—are brought magnificently to life in Eric Sundquist's new book, King's Dream. . . . Sundquist has written about race and ethnicity in American culture. In this book he gives us drama and emotion, a powerful sense of history combined with illuminating scholarship."—Anthony Lewis, New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)
Keith Miller

“Writing in an unusually clear and cogent style, Sundquist analyzes the rhetorical precedents and the starburst of rhetorical, political, musical, and cultural associations related to ‘I Have a Dream.’”—Keith Miller, author of Voice of Deliverance

Drew D. Hansen

"Sundquist's careful, thoughtful study unearths new and fascinating evidence of the rhetorical traditions in King's speech."—Drew D. Hansen, author of The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech that Inspired a Nation
Charles Johnson

"In King’s Dream, an engrossing meditation on the civil rights movement, Eric Sundquist re-ignites our sense of the American passion for justice and freedom, and brings vividly to life a watershed moment in world history as he examines with care and close reading one of the most important political speeches of all time."—Charles Johnson, author of Middle Passage
Times Literary Supplement - George Bornstein

"In highlighting the roots and ongoing struggle over the content and use of the ['I Have a Dream'] speech, Eric J. Sundquist has produced one of the best short books we have on the ideas of racial equality from the early days of the American republic up to current Supreme Court decisions."—George Bornstein, Times Literary Supplement
Austin American-Statesman - Roger Gathman

"King's Dream . . . is irresistibly topical. . . . Sundquist is very good at showing how King's metaphors and allusions finesse a perennial tension—between the pragmatic and the apocalyptic—within African American political culture."—Roger Gathman, Austin American-Statesman
San Diego Union-Tribune - Edward J. Blum

"A fascinating new book. . . . [Sundquist] brings his historical and literary brilliance to the study of King, revealing the multiple meanings of the dream and the uses of King's words."—Edward J. Blum, San Diego Union-Tribune

Toronto Globe and Mail - George Elliott Clarke

"Eloquently, encyclopedically and exhaustively, Sundquist catalogues networks of juxtaposition and conjunction in relation to King's address. Classical allusions rub up against quotations from movies, videos, comic books, TV shows and the Internet."—George Elliott Clarke, Toronto Globe & Mail
Journal of American History - Robert Cook

“An insightful and incisive reading of what is probably the most familiar speech ever made by an American. . . illuminating and well-written.”—Robert Cook, Journal of American History
Magill's Literary Annual 2010 - Raymond Frey

"Sundquist's close reading of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech reveals the essence of the Civil Rights movement in America. . . . . Sundquist's book represents perhaps the most detailed analysis of King's speech to date. It does an excellent job of comparing and contrasting King's words with the thoughts of other African American leaders such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Malcolm X. . . . Sundquist powerfully reminds his readers that one cannot begin to comprehend the history of race relations in America without fully understanding the 'I Have a Dream' speech."—Raymond Frey, Magill's Literary Annual 2010
Washington Post Book World - Clay Risen

"Each chapter of Sundquist's intelligent and important book focuses on one of several themes in the speech, unpacking the sources of the words and placing them within a broader civil rights context. His last chapter, 'Not by the Color of Their Skin,' is one of the most incisive analyses of the affirmative action debate I have ever read."—Clay Risen, Washington Post Book World
New York Times Book Review - Elsa Dixler

"Sundquist . . . brings King's famous speech—along with its background and consequences—to life in this scholarly yet powerful book."—Elsa Dixler, New York Times Book Review
Toronto Globe and Mail - Best 100 Books of the Year

Chosen as one of the Best 100 Books of 2009 by the Toronto Globe & Mail
Anthony Lewis
The speech and all that surrounds it—background and consequences—are brought magnificently to life in Eric Sundquist's new book, King's Dream. A professor of literature at the University of California, Los Angeles, Sundquist has written about race and ethnicity in American culture. In this book he gives us drama and emotion, a powerful sense of history combined with illuminating scholarship.
—The New York Times
Clay Risen
Each chapter of Sundquist's intelligent and important book focuses on one of several themes in the speech, unpacking the sources of the words and placing them within a broader civil rights context. His last chapter, "Not by the Color of Their Skin," is one of the most incisive analyses of the affirmative action debate I have ever read.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

To this day, nobody knows what prompted Martin Luther King Jr. to depart from his prepared remarks during the August 28, 1963, March on Washington and deliver what is probably the most famous impromptu speech in American history. Was it the realization that the 40-year-old preacher from Atlanta hadn't yet connected with his audience? Was it the manifest destiny he felt as a child, that one day he would "have me some big words" like the preacher of his own church? Or was it the provocation of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who called to King to "Tell 'em about the dream, Martin!" According to Sundquist (ToWake the Nation), not even the master orator could put a finger on his extemporization. "I started out reading the speech," King recalled, then "all of a sudden this thing came out of me." The author investigates the origin of King's powerful words and places them in the context of JFK's political maneuverings, the powerful new medium of television news and the complicated strategy behind the simple march. Exhaustively researched, this book delivers an exegesis of the speech and a captivating account of King's motivations and turbulent times. (Jan.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

How can both those currently in favor of and those against affirmative action claim that Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous words about black and white children being judged "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character" support their causes? Sundquist (UCLA Foundation Professor of Literature, UCLA; To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature) argues that our over-familiarity with the words of King's "I Have a Dream" speech actually prevents us from understanding it. Phrases from the speech are now so ubiquitous that they have appeared in Apple computer advertisements and on women's thongs. Sundquist reestablishes King's speech within the larger cultural dialog that it originally belonged to by examining sources such as King's other speeches, the language of cultural debates about race in America at the time that King spoke, and the original audience's probable understanding of King's biblical, political, and constitutional references. An academically strong, readable, and fascinating book; highly recommended.
—April Younglove

New York Times Book Review

"Sundquist . . . brings King''s famous speech—along with its background and consequences—to life in this scholarly yet powerful book."—Elsa Dixler, New York Times Book Review

— Elsa Dixler

Times Literary Supplement

"In highlighting the roots and ongoing struggle over the content and use of the [''I Have a Dream''] speech, Eric J. Sundquist has produced one of the best short books we have on the ideas of racial equality from the early days of the American republic up to current Supreme Court decisions."—George Bornstein, Times Literary Supplement

— George Bornstein

Austin American-Statesman

"King''s Dream . . . is irresistibly topical. . . . Sundquist is very good at showing how King''s metaphors and allusions finesse a perennial tension—between the pragmatic and the apocalyptic—within African American political culture."—Roger Gathman, Austin American-Statesman

— Roger Gathman

San Diego Union-Tribune

"A fascinating new book. . . . [Sundquist] brings his historical and literary brilliance to the study of King, revealing the multiple meanings of the dream and the uses of King''s words."—Edward J. Blum, San Diego Union-Tribune

— Edward J. Blum

Toronto Globe & Mail

Chosen as one of the Best 100 Books of 2009 by the Toronto Globe & Mail

— Best 100 Books of the Year

Journal of American History

“An insightful and incisive reading of what is probably the most familiar speech ever made by an American. . . illuminating and well-written.”—Robert Cook, Journal of American History

— Robert Cook

Magill's Literary Annual 2010

"Sundquist powerfully reminds his readers that one cannot begin to comprehend the history of race relations in America without fully understanding the ''I Have a Dream'' speech."--Raymond Frey, Magill''s Literary Annual 2010

— Raymond Frey

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300158595
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 8/25/2009
  • Series: Icons of America Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric J. Sundquist is UCLA Foundation Professor of Literature, UCLA. He is author or editor of twelve books on American literature and culture, including the award-winning volumes To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature and Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Dreamer-1963 14

2 Freedom Now! 67

3 Soul Force 105

4 Lincoln's Shadow 142

5 Whose Country 'Tis of Thee? 170

6 Not by the Color of Their Skin 194

Appendix Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream" 229

Notes 235

Acknowledgments 277

Index 281

Illustrations follow page 122

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