Too often, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech is distilled to hopeful platitudes which erase his legacy as a radical disrupter of the status quo.
One such optimistic sentence: “I have a dream that my four little 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.”
But King had a lot more to say at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Aug. 28, 1963.
Here’s five quotes that you should remember from the speech delivered from steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Read the full text of his speech here.
The shame of America
“One hundred years later (after the Emancipation Proclamation), the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”
What America owes
“America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’”
To those who prefer the status quo
“…[T]hose 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. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.”
On police brutality
“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, ‘When will you be satisfied?’ We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.”
On the racists in Alabama
“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of ‘interposition’ and ‘nullification’ — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”