Martin Luther King’s ‘I Had Dream’ Speech Remembered

On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood in front of an estimated 250,000 people and told the nation he had a dream of racial equality. Fifty years later that same nation celebrated those words and the man who said them.

This past week the nation honored the 50th anniversary of King’s speech. Among the events held were a march and rally in Washington, D.C. attended by former Presidents Jimmy Cater and Bill Clinton.

President Barack Obama spoke on the same spot as King and said, “Because they marched, America became more free and more fair, not just for African-Americans but for women and Latinos, Asians and Native Americans, for Catholics, Jews and Muslims, for gays, for Americans with disabilities. America changed for you and for me.”

King’s speech took place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and was part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. At the time the United States overflowed with laws geared toward racial discrimination.

Termination laws targeted Native Americans from the 1940s to the mid-1960s. These laws sought to assimilate them into American citizens and allowed the government to no longer recognize the sovereignty of Native American tribes.

It was common in the United States to find unfair voting requirements aimed at limiting minority votes. Many parts of the country outlawed interracial marriage, forced different seating on public transportation or required those of color to drink from different water fountains.

King's speech sought to bring racial biases to the forefront. While there was no immediate change, both the civil rights movement and King's historic speech helped to push the country forward.
On July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act passed into law. The monumental piece of legislation outlawed discrimination based on race, nationality, ethnicity or sex.

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