What Was the Occasion for the "I Have a Dream" Speech?

The "I have a dream" speech took place as part of the "March for jobs and freedom," and fell around 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation that promised freedom to slaves. The speech was issued as part of a calm civil rights march dedicated to highlighting the lack of rights and freedom within the African-American population. Throughout the speech, Martin Luther King refers to the Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution and the Gettysburg Address.

In the years preceding the "I have a dream" speech, African Americans fought against segregation and oppression in the form of laws and social inequalities. On August 28, 1963, a civil rights march comprised of 250,000 Americans from a range of racial backgrounds moved towards Washington. At the Lincoln Memorial, King began delivering the speech on a day that fell 100 years after Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. The speech opened with a reference to this, by stating that "5 score years" after the event, African Americans still had not achieved true freedom.

The speech received a positive response in some areas of the press, with the New York Times comparing him to Gandhi and Lincoln. However, the FBI stated that it would mark him as a dangerous individual pushing for communism. King was later awarded TIME's "man of the year" and the speech was voted as the best American speech by a public speaker in the 20th century.