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9 Fascinating Facts about Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

August 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington D.C. While those famous words have echoed through the years since they were passionately spoken on August 8, 1963, there are many things you probably didn’t know about the speech:

  • Originally, the speech was titled “Normalcy, Never Again” and was based on several drafts.
  • Because of his hectic schedule that included organising the March on Washington, Dr. King didn’t begin drafting his speech until 12 hours before he was scheduled to speak. Three people contributed to the content of the speech: Dr. King; Stanley Levinson, a New York businessman and political activist; and Clarence Jones, a close friend and adviser of Dr. King.
  • According to co-author Jones, Dr. King dramatically departed from the original draft, essentially ad-libbing one of the world’s greatest speeches.
  • As he was speaking, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson yelled to Dr. King: “Tell them about the dream, Martin.” From that point, Dr. King began punctuating his speech with the phrase, “I have a dream.”
  • Many sections of the speech were originally delivered as part of a speech Dr. King gave in June 1963 after the Great Walk to Freedom in Detroit.
  • Because of the impact of the speech, Dr. King was named Time’s Man of the Year for 1963 and received the Nobel Peace Prize a year later, becoming the youngest recipient.
  • The rhetorical technique of repeating a phrase at the beginning of a sentence (like “I have a dream”) is called anaphora. The famous phrase is repeated eight times.
  • As Dr. King left the podium after the speech, he gave the copy of his speech to George Raveling, a Villanova basketball player and acting volunteer guard, who still has the typewritten text and has turned down a $3 million offer for the speech.
  • The speech is 1,666 words long and took 16 minutes and 2 seconds to deliver.


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