The March on Washington is probably best remembered for its closing speech, delivered by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—"I Have a Dream."

Photograph by Rowland Scherman, courtesy U.S. Information Agency

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  • On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave the closing address at the March on Washington, a civil rights event in Washington, D.C. His speech, delivered in front of a crowd of 250,000 people, became famous for its recurring phrase “I have a dream.” Calling Americans to a future in which “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood,” King’s rhetoric defined the civil rights movement and was quickly acknowledged as the greatest speech of the century.

    Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929. Like his father and grandfather, King studied theology and became a pastor in the Southern Baptist church. In 1957, he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), one of the leading organizations of the civil rights movement. In this role, King promoted civil disobedience and non-violent resistance: sit-ins, marches, boycotts. He also delivered more than 2,500 speeches, and was arrested at least 20 times. For his work and promotion of peaceful methods of protest, King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. On April 4, 1968, King was shot and killed while standing on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    acknowledge Verb

    to recognize the truth or existence of something.

    address Noun

    a formal or official speech.

    civil rights Plural Noun

    set of fundamental freedoms guaranteed to all individuals, such as participation in the political system, ability to own property, and due process and equal protection under the law.

    civil rights movement Noun

    (~1954-1968) process to establish equal rights for all people in the United States, focusing on the rights of African Americans.

    March on Washington Noun

    (March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom) demonstration supporting economic and civil rights for all Americans, held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963, and concluding with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

    Nobel Peace Prize Noun

    award recognizing the contributions of a person or organization to "work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace."

    pastor Noun

    spiritual leader of a church.

    SCLC Noun

    (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) civil rights group often associated with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    slave Noun

    person who is owned by another person or group of people.

    theology Noun

    study of religion, faith, and spirituality.