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The Speech
The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream (Updated Paperback Edition)
Younge explains why "The Speech" maintains its powerful social relevance by sharing the dramatic story surrounding it.

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

"Unequivocal."—Financial Times

"Gary Younge's meditative retrospection on [the speech's] 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

Gary Younge explains why Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech maintains its powerful social relevance by sharing the dramatic story surrounding it. Fifty years later, "The Speech" endures as a defining moment in the Civil Rights movement and a guiding light in the ongoing struggle for racial equality.

Younge roots his work in new and important interviews with Clarence Jones, a close friend of Martin Luther King Jr. and his draft speechwriter; with Joan Baez, a singer at the march; and with Angela Davis and other leading civil rights leaders. 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.

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

Reviews
  • 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.
  • 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.

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