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1963: King's dream for racial harmony

The fight for racial equality in the United States moved a step closer to victory today as Martin Luther King spoke of his dream for freedom in an address to thousands of Americans.

Reverend King was greeted with rapturous applause as he delivered his heart-felt words to a 250,000-strong crowd of civil rights protesters at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.

He spoke of the need "to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice".


"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character"

Martin Luther King

He promised that the struggle for equality would continue until "justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream".

Rev King, who has worked tirelessly for an end to racial discrimination through non-violent means, spoke repeatedly of his dream for equality.

"I have a dream," he said. "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.

"I have a dream today.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be engulfed, every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

Dr King, who is president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) first came to prominence in 1955 when he led a 382-day bus boycott in an attempt to end segregation on city buses.

Since then he has endured numerous arrests, violent harrassment and a bomb attack on his home.

But his struggle continues and it is believed today's speech will have a lasting impact on all who heard it.

In Context
The Rev Martin Luther King spearheaded the campaign against segregation and racial discrimination in the United States.

But his crusade was cut dramatically short, when he was assassinated on 4 April 1968 in the southern US city of Memphis, Tennessee, aged 39.

He was shot in the neck by a rifle bullet as he stood on a balcony from where he was to lead a march of sanitation workers protesting against low wages and poor working conditions

James Earl Ray was convicted of his murder and sentenced to 99 years in prison.

But he later retracted his confession and said he had been only a minor player in a conspiracy.

However, his appeals for a new trial were rejected and he died in prison in 1998.


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