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The Speech
The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream
Gary Younge explains why "The Speech" maintains its powerful social relevance by sharing the dramatic story behind it.
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
Reviews
  • "[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
  • "[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

Other books by Gary Younge

  • The Speech

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