The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream

Overview


MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DELIVERED his powerful “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963. Fifty years later, the speech endures as a defining moment in the civil rights movement. It continues to be heralded as a beacon in the ongoing struggle for racial equality.

This gripping book is rooted in new and important interviews with Clarence Jones, a close friend of and draft speechwriter for Martin Luther King Jr., and Joan Baez, a singer at the march, as well as Angela Davis and ...

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The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream

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Overview


MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. DELIVERED his powerful “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963. Fifty years later, the speech endures as a defining moment in the civil rights movement. It continues to be heralded as a beacon in the ongoing struggle for racial equality.

This gripping book is rooted in new and important interviews with Clarence Jones, a close friend of and draft speechwriter for Martin Luther King Jr., and Joan Baez, a singer at the march, as well as Angela Davis and other leading civil rights leaders. It brings to life the fascinating chronicle behind “The Speech” and other events surrounding the March on Washington. Younge skillfully captures the spirit of that historic day in Washington and offers a new generation of readers a critical modern analysis of why “I Have a Dream” remains America’s favorite speech.
_________

"It was over eighty degrees when Martin Luther King Jr. took the stage at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. King was the last speaker. By the time he reached the podium, many in the crowd had started to leave. Not all those who remained could hear him properly, but those who could stood rapt. 'Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, 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,' said King as though he were wrapping up. 'Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.' Then he set his prepared text aside. [Clarence] Jones saw his stance turn from lecturer to preacher. He turned to the person next to him: 'Those people don’t know it but they’re about to go to church.' A smattering of applause filled a pause more pregnant than most. 'So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.'”
—from the introduction

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/26/2013
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, author and Nation columnist Younge (Who Are We—And Should It Matter in the 21st Century?) carefully examines the political and emotional climate of August, 1963. In the weeks preceding, there were 758 related demonstrations in 186 cities all of which added to the "condition that made the March on Washington possible and King's speech so resonant." As Clarence Jones, who helped draft the speech, later reflected, "Text without context, in this case especially, would be quite a loss." Younge takes on this mission in his terse book, which is divided into three parts: "The Moment," "The March," and "The Legacy." He provides just enough context to convey the anticipation and chaos leading up to the speech and adds meaningful layers to the rhetoric. Vivid details instill the emotional importance of the event. Younge balances his account using outside and original commentary from rhetoricians, activists, and scholars, including different interpretations of the speech itself and its relevance in the civil rights movement. A grand blend of history, horrors, and honor. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

"[In] this slim but powerful book... Younge is adept at both distilling the facts and asking blunt questions."
—Boston Globe

"Unequivocal . . ."
—Financial Times

"[An] often highly entertaining saga of the clashing egos engaged in the drafting... [with] a compelling, beat-by-beat analysis of a myth's creation: King's delivery of 'the Speech' on the day."
—The Independent

"Younge provides new insight into the roles of key civil rights leaders in a captivating story that is eloquently written and punctuated with surprising detail. More importantly, the book sheds new light on Dr. King and paints him in a way that portrays the true grit and determination that stuck with him like the many followers he inspired and led."
—The Grio

"It is refreshing to find an opus like this being published on the 50th anniversary to remind us of the true meaning of Dr. King’s moving remarks. Younge... does a masterful job of not only dissecting Dr. King’s words, but of filling in much of the back story to the events leading up to his taking the podium."
—Kam Williams, Baltimore Afro-American

"Martin Luther King's 1963 'I have a dream' speech was a thrilling milestone in the civil rights movement, so enduring that we tend to attribute its searing power to a kind of magic. But Gary Younge's meditative retrospection on its significance reminds us of all the micro-moments of transformation behind the scenes--the thought and preparation, vision and revision--whose currency fed that magnificent lightning bolt in history."
—Patricia J. Williams

"Younge needs only a few words to get to the root of the matter, doing so with a gut punch as the topic requires... [he] offers an insightful and unvarnished interpretation of the speech [and its] aftermath."
—ForeWord Reviews

Library Journal
Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech rivals only Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as the most famous speech in American history. To mark the 50th anniversary of the speech, given on August 28, 1963, Younge (columnist, Guardian; No Place Like Home: A Black Briton’s Journey Through the Deep South) has written a book about it and the March on Washington at which King spoke. The first third of the book gives a very brief overview of the civil rights movement, followed by a lengthy section on the difficulties of organizing the march. Fewer than 40 pages of this slim volume are actually spent discussing King’s speech. Younge breaks down its rhetorical brilliance and considers what parts of the speech were prepared, left out, or spoken extemporaneously. This part of the book is by far the most compelling, although Younge quotes heavily from other sources, leaving the reader to wonder what exactly the author has contributed to the analysis. The book’s final chapter assesses current race relations in America.

Verdict This is best as an introductory volume for lay readers and students new to the subjects of civil rights and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—Jason Martin, Stetson Univ. Lib., DeLand, FL
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608463220
  • Publisher: Haymarket Books
  • Publication date: 9/10/2013
  • Pages: 180
  • Sales rank: 154,701
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author


GARY YOUNGE is an author, broadcaster, and award-winning columnist for the Guardian, based
in Chicago. He also writes a monthly column for The Nation magazine and is the Alfred Knobler
Fellow for The Nation Institute.

Born in Britain to Barbadian parents, Younge reported all over Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean before being appointed the Guardian’s US correspondent in 2003. In 2009 he won Britain’s prestigious
James Cameron Award for “combined moral vision and professional integrity.”

His first book, No Place Like Home: A Black Briton’s Journey through the Deep South, was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His third book, Who Are We—and Should It Matter in
the 21st Century?
, was shortlisted for the Bristol Festival of Ideas Book Prize. The Speech is his fourth book.

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