On August 28, 1963, at the end of a protest march held in the US capital Washington DC, Martin Luther King, the most famous leader of the movement for the rights of African Americans and for the fight against segregation, universal symbol of the fight against racism and to injustice, he proclaimed this speech destined to make history.
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‘I am happy to join you in this which will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our country. One hundred years ago a great American, in whose shadow we stand today, signed the Proclamation on Emancipation. This fundamental decree came as a great beacon of hope for millions of Negro slaves who had been burned in the fire of greedy injustice. It came like a radiant dawn to end the long night of captivity.
But a hundred years later, the Negro is still not free ; a hundred years later, the life of the Negro is sadly still paralyzed by the shackles of segregation and the chains of discrimination; a hundred years later, the Negro still lives on an island of lonely poverty in a vast ocean of material prosperity; a hundred years later; the Negro still languishes on the fringes of American society and finds himself exiled to his own land.
CHARLIE CHAPLIN’S SPEECH
Chaplin’s Speech to Humanity today to found a new renaissance
This is why we have come here today to represent our shameful condition. In a way, we came to the country’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of the republic wrote the sublime words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they signed a promissory note to which every American would become heir. This promissory note allowed all men, yes, blacks as well as whites, to enjoy the inalienable principles of life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note as far as its citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation of hers, America handed the Negroes a bogus check; a check that is completed with the phrase: ‘insufficient funds’. We refuse to believe that funds are insufficient in the great vaults of opportunity offered by this country. And so we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us, on presentation, the riches of freedom and the guarantee of justice.
We have also come to this shrine to remind America of the passionate urgency of the now . This is not the time to allow things to cool down or gobble up the tranquilizer of gradualism. This is the time to fulfill the promises of democracy; this is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the radiant path of justice; this is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood; this is the time to make justice true for all of God’s children. It would be the end for this nation if it did not fully appreciate the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of legitimate Negro impatience will not end until an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality is achieved.
1963 is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the niggers need to vent their tensions a little and then be sated will have a rude awakening if the country starts functioning again as if nothing had happened.
There will be no rest and no tranquility in America until the Negroes are granted their rights as citizens . The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice has risen.
But there is something I must say to my people who are standing here on the warm threshold that leads to the courthouse. In our progress towards the right goal, we must not stain ourselves with unjust actions.
We try not to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of hatred and resentment. We will have to lead our struggle forever on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. We will have to continually rise to the majestic heights of those who respond to physical strength with the strength of the soul.
This wonderful new militancy that has affected the black community must not lead us to a lack of trust in the whole white community, because many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to understand that their destiny is linked with our destiny, and they have come to understand that their freedom is inextricably linked to our freedom. This offense which unites us, and which has made a storm for the fortified walls of injustice, will have to be fought by an army of two races. We cannot walk alone.
And as we move forward, we will have to commit ourselves to march forward forever. We can’t go back. There are those who ask those who ask for civil rights: ‘When will you be satisfied?’ We will never be satisfied as long as the Negro is a victim of the unspeakable horrors to which he is subjected by the police.
We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, tired from the fatigue of the journey, cannot find lodging in the motels on the streets and in the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the social displacements really allowed for blacks are from a small ghetto to a larger ghetto.
We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their dignity by signs that say: ‘For whites only’. We can never be satisfied as long as the Mississippi niggers can’t vote and the New York niggers believe they have nothing to vote for. No, we are not yet satisfied, and we will not be until justice flows like water and law like a mighty river .
He hasn’t forgotten that some of you have come here after enormous trials and tribulations. Some of you have just come out of the cramped cells of a prison. Some of you have come from areas where the demand for freedom has left us battered by the storms of persecution and stunned by the gusts of police brutality. You are the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the certainty that undeserved suffering is redeeming.
Return to Mississippi; return to Alabama; return to South Carolina; return to Georgia; return to Louisiana; return to your neighborhoods and to the ghettos of the northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can, and will change. Let us not let ourselves sink into the valley of despair.
And therefore, my friends, I tell you that, even if you will have to face the roughness of today and tomorrow, I always have a dream ahead of me. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream, that one day this nation will stand up and live the meaning of its convictions to the fullest: we hold this truth obvious, that all men are created equal .
I have a dream before me , that one day in the red hills of Georgia the children of those who were once slaves and the children of those who once owned slaves will be able to sit together at the brotherhood table.
I have a dream before me that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state filled with the arrogance of injustice, filled with the arrogance of oppression, will turn into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream before me that my four young children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the qualities of their character. I have a dream before me today !.
I have a dream before me , that one day every valley will be exalted, every hill and every mountain will be humiliated, rough places will be made flat and tortuous places straightened and the glory of the Lord will show itself and all living beings together they will see. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I set out towards the South.
With this faith we will be able to snatch a stone of hope from the mountain of despair. With this faith we will be able to turn our nation’s jarring discords into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to fight together, to go to jail together, to defend freedom together, knowing that one day we will be free. That will be the day when all the children of God will be able to sing with new meanings: my country, of you, sweet land of freedom, of you I sing; land where my fathers died, land pride of the pilgrim, from every mountain slope let freedom ring; and if America wants to be a great nation this can happen.
Then let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York state.
Let freedom ring in the high Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the gentle slopes of California.
But that’s not all.
Let freedom ring from Georgia’s Stone Mountain.
Let freedom ring from Tennessee’s Lookout Mountain.
Let freedom ring from every mountain and mound of the Mississippi. From every slope let freedom ring.
And when we let freedom ring out, when we allow it to ring out from every village and every village, from every state and every city, we also accelerate that day when all the children of God, black and white, Jewish and Gentile, Catholics and Protestants, they will know how to join hands and sing with the words of the old spiritual: ‘Free finally, free finally; thank you Almighty God, we are free at last ‘