Martin Luther King, Jr. "I have a dream" speech

On August 28, 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I have a dream" speech. Speaking from the steps of the LIncoln Memorial in Washington D.C., King stood before an estimated quarter of a million people who had gathered to demonstrate for passage of the Civil Rights Act.
definitions & notes only words
  1. demonstration
    a public display of group feelings
    I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
  2. symbolic
    serving as a visible sign for something abstract
    Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
  3. emancipation
    freeing someone from the control of another
    Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
    The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order issued by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. It granted freedom to any slave held in the Confederacy as of January 1, 1863.
  4. proclamation
    a formal public statement
    Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
    The Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order issued by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. It granted freedom to any slave held in the Confederacy as of January 1, 1863.
  5. momentous
    of very great significance
    This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.
  6. decree
    a legally binding command or decision
    This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.
  7. sear
    become superficially burned
    This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.
  8. wither
    lose freshness, vigor, or vitality
    This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.
  9. injustice
    the practice of being unjust or unfair
    This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.
  10. manacle
    shackle that can be locked around the wrist
    One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
    Dr. King used to term "manacle" to symbolically compare segregation laws to the shackles or handcuffs used a hundred years earlier to restrain slaves.
  11. segregation
    a social system with separate facilities for minority groups
    One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
    A main goal of Dr. King was to do away with so called "Jim Crow Laws" that forced minorities to use segregated or inferior separate public facilities including parks, schools and even water fountains or seats on trains and buses.
  12. discrimination
    unfair treatment of a person or group based on prejudice
    One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.
  13. languish
    have a desire for something or someone who is not present
    One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.
  14. exile
    a person who is expelled from home or country by authority
    One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land.
  15. dramatize
    represent something in a theatrical manner
    So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.
  16. appalling
    causing consternation
    So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.
  17. architect
    someone who creates plans to be used in making something
    When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
    The "Founding Fathers" is a name often given to the architects or authors of our Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
  18. republic
    a political system in which power lies in a body of citizens
    When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
  19. constitution
    law determining the fundamental principles of a government
    When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
    "The United States Constitution" is the official name of the document describing our nation's government.
  20. declaration
    a formal public statement
    When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
    "The Declaration of Independence" is the title of the document sent to the King and Parliament demanding independence from Britain in 1776.
  21. heir
    a person entitled by law to inherit the estate of another
    When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.
    Dr. King is pointing out that racial discrimination has a long history in the United States. Just as citizens today have inherited freedom they also have inherited problems. The Founding Fathers permitted slavery and racial inequality, thus leaving these problems for future generations (their heirs) to solve.
  22. inalienable
    not subject to forfeiture
    This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  23. pursuit
    the act of following in an effort to overtake or capture
    This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  24. default
    fail to pay up
    It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.
  25. sacred
    made or declared or believed to be holy
    Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
  26. obligation
    a written promise to repay a debt
    Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."
  27. insufficient
    of a quantity not able to fulfill a need or requirement
    Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked " insufficient funds."
  28. refuse
    be unwilling to accept
    But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.
  29. bankrupt
    financially ruined
    But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.
  30. hallowed
    worthy of religious veneration
    We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.
  31. urgency
    pressing importance requiring speedy action
    We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.
  32. desolate
    providing no shelter or sustenance
    Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.
  33. underestimate
    assign too low a value to
    It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro.
  34. determination
    firmness of purpose
    It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro.
  35. swelter
    be uncomfortably hot
    This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.
  36. discontent
    showing or experiencing dissatisfaction or restless longing
    This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.
  37. invigorating
    imparting strength and vitality
    This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.
  38. rude
    socially incorrect in behavior
    Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.
    Dr. King is using "rude" as a synonym for "abrupt" or "sudden."
  39. tranquility
    a state of peace and quiet
    There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.
  40. grant
    let have
    There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.
  41. foundation
    the basis on which something is grounded
    The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
  42. threshold
    the entrance for passing through a room or building
    But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice.
  43. deed
    something that people do or cause to happen
    In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.
  44. conduct
    direct the course of; manage or control
    We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.
  45. dignity
    the quality of being worthy of esteem or respect
    We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.
  46. degenerate
    grow worse
    We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.
  47. majestic
    having or displaying great dignity or nobility
    Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
  48. engulf
    flow over or cover completely
    The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
  49. destiny
    a course of events that will inevitably happen in the future
    The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
  50. inextricably
    in a manner incapable of being disentangled or untied
    The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
  51. bound
    secured with a cover or binding
    The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
    Dr. King is symbolically saying that the future of all Americans are "bound" or "tied up" together.
  52. pledge
    promise solemnly and formally
    And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead.
  53. devotee
    an ardent follower and admirer
    There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?"
  54. civil
    of or occurring between or among citizens of the state
    There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?"
    Our "civil rights" are generally understood as the rights and privileges promised to all citizens by the Constitution.
  55. fatigue
    temporary loss of strength and energy from hard work
    We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.
  56. mobility
    the quality of moving freely
    We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.
  57. ghetto
    a poor densely populated city district
    We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.
  58. righteousness
    adhering to moral principles
    No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
  59. stream
    something continuously flowing
    No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
  60. tribulation
    an annoying or frustrating or catastrophic event
    I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations.
  61. cell
    a room where a prisoner is kept
    Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells.
  62. persecution
    causing someone to suffer
    Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.
  63. veteran
    an experienced person who has been through many battles
    You have been the veterans of creative suffering.
  64. creed
    any system of principles or beliefs
    I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
    The quote: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal" is from the Declaration of Independence where the American colonists stated their basic principles and beliefs.
  65. desert
    arid land with little or no vegetation
    I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
    Dr. King does not mean that Mississippi is literally a dry, rainless land. He is symbolically using the image of water to represent freedom. Both flow and both sustain life. Four years prior to the "I have a dream" speech four civil rights workers had been murdered in Mississippi.
  66. oppression
    the state of being kept down by unjust use of authority
    I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
  67. transformed
    given a completely different form or appearance
    I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
  68. oasis
    a shelter serving as a place of safety or sanctuary
    I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
  69. character
    attributes that determines one's moral and ethical actions
    I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
  70. exalted
    of high moral or intellectual value
    I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
  71. crooked
    having or marked by bends or angles; not straight or aligned
    I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
  72. hew
    make or shape as with an axe
    With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.
  73. transform
    change from one form or medium into another
    With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
  74. discord
    strife resulting from a lack of agreement
    With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
  75. symphony
    a long and complex sonata for an orchestra
    With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
    Dr. King is using the image of a symphony orchestra that plays together in harmony to symbolize how he hopes Americans can all work together in harmony.
  76. pilgrim
    someone who journeys in foreign lands
    Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
    "Land of the Pilgrim's pride" is a line in the patriotic song "America" also known as "My Country T'is of Thee" written in 1831 by Samuel Francis Smith. It refers to the Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower and means the United States.
  77. prodigious
    so great in size or force or extent as to elicit awe
    So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
  78. hamlet
    a community of people smaller than a village
    When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
  79. gentile
    a Christian as contrasted with a Jew
    When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
  80. spiritual
    religious song originated by Blacks in the southern U.S.
    When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"