Today marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963 to a packed crowd. King’s speech was part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in support of President John F. Kennedy’s proposed civil rights legislation. King began the speech by recalling the words of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and asserting that Lincoln’s proposed ideals of racial equality had not yet been realized due in part to the restraints of segregation. The most famous part of the speech, in which he expounds upon the refrain of “I have a dream,” calls for a brighter future in which true equality might be found. Watch the speech in its entirety below.
Though he was the public face of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. was not the only great man surging the movement forward in pursuit of equality and justice. One of the men working alongside King was civil rights lawyer Fred D. Gray. As King led the movement in the public sphere, Gray led the way in establishing legal footholds and precedents for civil rights legislation.
At the age of 24, Gray was the lawyer for Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization behind the 382-day Montgomery Bus Boycott. Led by a passion to destroy “everything segregated that [he] could find,” Gray continued to take on landmark civil rights cases throughout his impressive career, including those concerned with voting rights, education, housing, employment, law enforcement, and jury selection.
Gray has documented these extraordinary experiences in his autobiography Bus Ride to Justice: The Life and Works of Fred Gray, which was called “A valuable record of the ground-level struggle for civil rights.” by The New York Times Book Review, “A lively account of how one man made a difference in the South.” by The Commercial Appeal, and “A valuable firsthand chronicle, an instructive legal casebook, and a stirring personal story.” by Publisher’s Weekly. As King’s speech promoted taking inspiration from the past in working toward a more equal future, so can we learn from the pursuits of Gray and his peers when considering the struggles that have yet to be won.