The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech that Inspired a Nation

The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech that Inspired a Nation

by Drew Hansen


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A riveting account of the origins and legacy of "I Have a Dream"

Forty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. electrified the nation when he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. King's prophetic utterances started the long overdue process of changing America's idea of itself. His words would enter the American lexicon, galvanizing the civil rights movement, becoming a touchstone for all that the country might someday achieve.

The Dream is the first book about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legendary "I Have a Dream" speech. Opening with an enthralling account of the August day in 1963 that saw 250,000 Americans converge at the March on Washington, The Dream delves into the fascinating and little-known history of King's speech. Hansen explores King's compositional strategies and techniques, and proceeds to a brilliant analysis of the "I Have a Dream" speech itself, examining it on various levels: as a political treatise, a work of poetry, and as a masterfully delivered and improvised sermon bursting with biblical language and imagery.

In tracing the legacy of "I Have a Dream" since 1963, The Dream insightfully considers how King's incomparable speech "has slowly remade the American imagination," and led us closer to King's visionary goal of a redeemed America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060084769
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/01/2003
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.08(d)

About the Author

Drew D. Hansen, a Harvard graduate and a Rhodes Scholar, studied theology at Oxford University, and went on to earn his J.D. at Yale Law School. He practices law in Seattle.

Read an Excerpt

The Dream

Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech that Inspired a Nation
By Drew Hansen


ISBN: 0060084766

Chapter One

The March on Washington for
Jobs and Freedom

Some of the marchers left a few days early so that they would be sure to reach Washington by August 28, 1963. A Los Angeles pants presser named David Parker loaded five friends into his Ford and set off across the country because, as he later told a reporter, his people had troubles. In Brooklyn, twelve young members of CORE started walking the 237 miles to the capital. The Local 593 Mine, Mill, and Smelter workers took up a collection at the Anaconda American Brass Company plant in Buffalo and gave it to the NAACP to pay the fares of unemployed workers who wanted to go to Washington. Forty unemployed men from Cleveland, Mississippi, took the bus up North after raising the thirty-three-dollar fare by selling shares in their tickets at a dollar apiece.

In Chicago, the passengers of two chartered trains crowded together at the station to listen to final instructions from their captains. Then the trains took off for the overnight trip to Washington. A three-piece jazz combo set up at the end of one car and played tunes for the riders. Some passengers sang along:

This train don't carry no liars, this train ...

This train is bound for glory, this train ...

Six buses left Alabama on Tuesday morning, August 27, with garment bags holding fresh clothes hanging from the overhead handrails. Some passengers started the trip singing, but as the twenty-two-hour journey went on, they began to talk about what it meant for them to go to Washington. Many of the marchers had been beaten by Bull Connor's troops or had spent time in the Birmingham jail. "They ought to know who we are," said one. "After all, we're the ones who started the whole freedom movement."

In the days before August 28, buses, cars, and trains from all over the country set out for Washington. Three buses with more than one hundred demonstrators left from the General Baptist Convention headquarters in Milwaukee. A chartered train left Pittsburgh, and another one left Detroit. A caravan of two hundred cars set out from North Carolina. Buses left Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

In Boston, a teacher at the Freedom School in Roxbury abandoned her plans to fly to the march and climbed aboard a bus. A sixty-seven-year-old dressmaker from Memphis said to herself, "I'm going to lay aside my patterns and be a part of it." A cabdriver from New York drove his cab for awhile on Tuesday evening and then said, "That's it. I'm going to Washington because it's a duty that has to be done."

On Tuesday night, a band of SNCC staff members joined teenagers from Albany, Georgia, in a vigil at the Department of Justice. Earlier in August, the Department had indicted several members of the Albany movement for obstruction of justice, in an action arising out of their boycott of a white man's store. Justice attorneys believed the boycott had been called because the store owner had served on a jury that had dismissed a civil suit brought by a black man who had been shot in the neck by a white sheriff. The Albany activists insisted that they were protesting the store's racist hiring practices. They wondered why their relatively insignificant boycott was attracting so much federal attention when the government had not prevented the Albany police from assaulting the city's black citizens. One SNCC member carried a sign that read "when there is no justice, what is the state, but a robber band enlarged?" Another sign proclaimed "even the federal government is a white man."

At one-thirty in the morning on Wednesday, August 28, whole blocks of Harlem had all their lights on as residents gathered at bus depots, community houses, and churches to cheer the departing marchers. "You tell them, tell them for me," yelled people in the crowd as the marchers filed onto the buses that lined 125th street for a block on each side. "They look just like soldiers going off," said an elderly woman. One man shouted, "Tell them I want a job!" A decorated veteran told a reporter, "If I was proud of these medals I wouldn't be on this bus. It makes my blood boil to see Negroes dying for our country and then kids not able to go to school in Little Rock or Virginia." By dawn on Wednesday, according to FBI surveillance figures, 972 chartered buses and 13 special trains, carrying a total of 55,000 people, had left New York for Washington.

The FBI field offices - mindful of the director's insistence that surveillance of the marchers was the "personal and continuing responsibility" of the special agents in charge - deployed agents across the nation to track the demonstrators' progress. The Knoxville office notified headquarters when an NAACP-chartered bus carrying thirty-five passengers had left Chattanooga. The Phoenix field office provided the names of the four Phoenix residents who were driving to Washington. An agent watched as the Houston delegation boarded a Greyhound bus (license number T-345) and counted the people on it ("fifteen Negro males, and nine Negro females"). One hundred forty field agents were dispatched to Union Station and the D.C. area airports to observe the marchers' arrivals and departures, with instructions to keep a particular watch for "subversives."

As the buses from all over the country rolled through the August night, people who couldn't make the trip gathered on the shoulders of highways to cheer the marchers along the way. At toll booths, passengers noticed that local farmers had brought their children out to watch the caravans. A few buses made an early morning stop at a church, where volunteers had been up all night preparing breakfast for bus after bus that came through. Early on Wednesday morning, the first demonstrators reached Washington ...


Excerpted from The Dream by Drew Hansen
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

1The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom25
5Reception, 1963-1968167

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Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech That Inspired a Nation 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Drew Hansen describes the time leading up to MLK's famous speech that inspired the nation. He discusses the cadence and rhythm of the speech that stays with the listener and reader. He follows that with MLK's frustration as he tries to bring the civil rights movement to the north. Hansen transports the reader to the emotion and history of the civil rights era. The Dream is a fast and rewarding read for one interested in a deeper insight into the thoughts and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
-JA More than 1 year ago
The novel that I had the privilege of reading really opened my eyes further to a different world nearly 50 years ago. The Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation, describes the days when African Americans were limited and penalized by the vain beliefs of the southern society. Integration was unthinkable until Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous speech and inspired others to stand up for their rights. The major themes were integrity, bravery, and true honesty. Those themes were conveyed within the speech and even in the personality of the preacher, Martin Luther King Jr. himself. I think integrity was expressed in this novel the most because there were strong morals and principles that defined the true meaning behind Martin Luther King Jr.¿s Speech. My favorite part of this novel was on page 80 and it was a part of his speech that expressed all of his dreams for his people and himself. What I disliked greatly was the formality of this novel. It wasn¿t necessarily written as a story but rather a collection of facts and evidence. It was somewhat dry and cold because of that. It is my personal belief that this book would be excellent for a project or historical enhancement, but not for pleasure. There was nothing that captured my interest completely. There were some parts here and there that were all right but not good enough. I would recommend this novel for those who enjoy history and citizens right topics. I would not recommend it to those who enjoy more fantasy based novels and imagination. Other books on this subject include books about Martin Luther King Jr. and the African American rights movement. I would personally give this book a 3 since I like citizen right movements but I also enjoy some imagination and creativity, which it lacked. This novel was a good choice though despite the lack of creativity because it shows that we are sheltered from the world of difficulty and cruelty. I learned that we are extremely lucky to live in such good times where the amount of prejudice is limited and people look out for one another. Back in the south of 1963, conditions for those who had a different colored skin tone were harsh. Their lives were filled with violence and hatred of all sorts because they dared to be different. It wasn¿t like they had much of a choice either, but that is how people saw the world, in black and white. The Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation shows what really happened between those crooked white southerners and the African Americans, all sides of the tale.
Kayleigh Harnden More than 1 year ago
im in fith gradw i know this speach by heart this man rules
Guest More than 1 year ago
The year is 1963 the month is august it is 41 years ago but, the beliefs stay strong today. Yes, 41 ago a man name Martin Luther King JR. one of the leaders of SNCC and NAACP made the great speech the ¿I have a dream¿ speech where he preach on about equity and human rights. The speech was in Washington D.C. at the Lincoln memorial. You see the speech started with the march for jobs and freedom to Washington for the civil rights movement. Over 210,000 People showed up to the memorial and tons watch on T.V. at home for one of the greatest speeches in history. I thought this book was exquisite. The author Drew D. Hansen did a good job explaining the facts. Threw out the story you get a good understanding of the book and the history of the cause for civil rights. All this information and understanding of African Americans history is astonishing coming for a white author. That¿s the amazing thing though in today world even though that much hasn¿t changed at least all races are starting to understand each other so; we don¿t make the same mistakes. I think that¿s all Martin Luther King J.R. was ever trying to say. I recommend this book to anyone that wants to have a better understanding of his speech so; go get the book the ¿The Dream¿ by Drew D. Hansen.