Dr King’s dream still not a reality in America

“I have a dream”: King makes his most famous speech to 250,000 people in Washington DC, 1963.

Monday is Martin Luther King Day when the world honours the great human rights campaigner. His “I Have a Dream” speech changed America. Yet today the race debate is still as bitter as ever.

What’s happening

Martin Luther King Jr was a father, a reverend, a civil rights leader, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and one of the greatest orators in history. His speeches and protests changed America forever. This Tuesday would have been his 90th birthday. On Monday, Americans will have the day off in his honour.

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King made his most famous speech in August 1963, after hundreds of thousands of people marched through Washington DC in protest.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” he said.

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

He continued: “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.”

Only then would America be “free at last”.

Did King’s dream come true?

Some say…

Yes. At the time he was speaking, segregation was still legal, meaning white business owners could refuse to serve or hire black people because of the colour of their skin. That is no longer true. The US has seen its first black president in Barack Obama. Racial discrimination is illegal. Despite America’s problems, things have gotten much better.

Others think…

Discrimination may be illegal, but racism still happens every day in America. Obama was replaced by Donald Trump, a man endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. On average, black Americans earn less, own less and die younger than the average citizen. The US may be celebrating King on Monday, but it has forgotten his true message.

You Decide

  1. Is racism still a problem in America? What about in Britain?

Activities

  1. Watch Martin Luther King Jr deliver his speech in full here. Inspired by King, write your own speech about an issue you care about. If you are feeling brave, deliver it to the rest of the class!

Some People Say...

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Martin Luther King Jr

What do you think?

Word Watch

Civil rights
The right to freedom and equality.
Orators
Speech-makers.
Creed
A belief. King is quoting Thomas Jefferson.
Self-evident
Obvious.
Georgia
A US state.
Table of brotherhood
Not a real table; King means they will see each other as brothers.
Segregation
Separating some people from others, especially based on race.
Discrimination
Unfair treatment based on something they cannot control, like race.
Endorsed
Supported.
Ku Klux Klan
A racist organisation in America.

Subjects

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