by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
Dignity and opportunity for every human being, no matter one’s background, zip code, race, creed, economic circumstance, or ideology. It’s what we seek through our work at the John Locke Foundation. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and voice remind us that injustice is real and that we each play a part in eradicating it.
No matter how many years go by, Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech remains as stirring as the first time I read it and heard it. Let’s take a moment to revisit one of the most inspirational and consequential speeches in U.S. history.
I say to you today, my friends [applause], so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow (Uh-huh), I still have a dream. (Yes) It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. (Yes)
I have a dream (Mhm) that one day (Yes) this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed (Hah): “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” (Yeah, Uh-huh, Hear hear) [applause]
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia (Yes, Talk), the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream (Yes) [applause] that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice (Yeah), sweltering with the heat of oppression (Mhm), will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream (Yeah) [applause] that my four little children (Well) 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. (My Lord) I have a dream today. [enthusiastic applause]
It wasn’t until two years ago that I learned Dr. King gave a version of the speech in Rocky Mount about eight months prior to the historic speech in Washington D.C. We know this, thanks to NC State Professor Jason Miller, as detailed by WUNC in 2015.
W. Jason Miller, Professor of English at North Carolina State University, found the recording, restored it and has now released it in a digital form. Miller said it is the first documented moment King speaks the refrain from his “I Have a Dream” speech.
“I couldn’t believe Rocky Mount played this critical moment in this speech’s history, a speech that is the most recognizable speech in American history,” Miller said. “I was stunned after all the archives, letters and papers I’d gone through that this had happened.”
Listen to the recording of the Rocky Mount speech here.