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

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

by Gary Younge

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Gary Younge explains why "The Speech" maintains its powerful social relevance by sharing the dramatic story behind it.
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Gary Younge explains why "The Speech" maintains its powerful social relevance by sharing the dramatic story behind it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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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Haymarket Books
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