On August 28, 1963, nearly 250,000 people gathered in Washington, DC, as part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The demonstrators marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial where individuals from all segments of society called for civil rights and equal protection for all citizens, regardless of color or background. The last speaker of the day was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose “I Have a Dream” speech encompassed the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence “that all men are created equal.” King’s message of freedom and democracy for all people, of all races and backgrounds, is remembered as the landmark statement of the civil rights movement in the United States.
The following year, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited segregation in public places, provided for the integration of public schools and facilities, and made employment on the basis of race or ethnicity illegal. This act was the most comprehensive civil rights legislation since the reconstruction era following the American Civil War.
…I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
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 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….
This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: “My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, From every mountainside, let freedom ring!”…
And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”