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King's writings and speeches, in particular, have endured for generations because they eloquently express the injustices that inspired the masses to take action. But the others on this list also illuminated the struggle for justice and equality by Black Americans. King wrote this moving letter on April 16, , while in prison for defying a state court order against demonstrating. He was responding to White clergy who had published a statement in the Birmingham News , criticizing King and other civil rights activists for their impatience. Pursue desegregation in the courts, the White clergymen urged, but do not hold these "demonstrations [that] are unwise and untimely. King wrote that Black people in Birmingham were left with no choice but to demonstrate against the injustices they were suffering.
He deplored the inaction of moderate White people, saying, "I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice. King gave his most famous speech as the keynote address at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, But it only lasted for a moment.
King had written a speech beforehand but deviated from his prepared remarks. He had used similar words at previous civil rights gatherings, but his words resounded deeply with the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial and viewers watching live coverage of the march from home. President John F. In late August , Frannie Lou Hamer and several other Black Mississippi residents tried to register to vote at the county courthouse in Indianola, Mississippi. For her effort to exercise her constitutional rights, Hamer was fired from her job, shot at, and arrested. Highway patrol officers told her, "We are going to make you wish you was dead," and beat her repeatedly.
She related her ordeal and stated:. Among his many accomplishments, Bayard Rustin helped organized the " Freedom Rides ," where Black and White activists traveled together throughout the Deep South to fight racial injustice; the Southern Christian Leadership Conference ; and the March on Washington. Rustin was the executive director of the march and spoke at the event. He later reflected on the importance of the march as well as the purpose of the civil rights movement in general:. After Kennedy was assassinated in November , Rustin and other civil rights leaders helped to ensure the passage of that bill—the Civil Rights Act of —less than a year after the march.
He eventually became involved in the civil rights movement and worked for a time for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Ture eventually left the SNCC because he was displeased with its emphasis on nonviolent protest. He joined the Black Panther Party in , serving as the group's prime minister but left that group and the United States that same year. He changed his name from Carmichael to Ture and fought for equality across the world, helping to create the All African Peoples Revolutionary Party.
Baker believed strongly in nonviolent protests such as the sit-ins organized by civil rights activists in the late s and early s. In , Baker explained her philosophy and the mission of the civil rights movement:. Today, the Ella Baker Center for Civil Rights in Oakland continues to carry out her mission, working to change the system and fight for civil rights and justice. So we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and security of justice.
We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is not time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now it the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now it the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end but a beginning. Those who hope that the colored Americans needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the colored citizen is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as a colored person in Mississippi cannot vote and a colored person in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.
No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of your trials and tribulations. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecutions and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our modern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you, my friends, we have the difficulties of today and tomorrow. 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. I have a dream that one day out in the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and 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 color of their skin but by their character. 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; that one day right down 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.
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. This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to climb up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.