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The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.s Dream (2013) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 10, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, author and Nation columnist Younge (Who Are We-And Should It Matter in the 21st Century?) carefully examines the political and emotional climate of August, 1963. In the weeks preceding, there were 758 related demonstrations in 186 cities all of which added to the "condition that made the March on Washington possible and King's speech so resonant." As Clarence Jones, who helped draft the speech, later reflected, "Text without context, in this case especially, would be quite a loss." Younge takes on this mission in his terse book, which is divided into three parts: "The Moment," "The March," and "The Legacy." He provides just enough context to convey the anticipation and chaos leading up to the speech and adds meaningful layers to the rhetoric. Vivid details instill the emotional importance of the event. Younge balances his account using outside and original commentary from rhetoricians, activists, and scholars, including different interpretations of the speech itself and its relevance in the civil rights movement. A grand blend of history, horrors, and honor.
Fifty years after Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington, that refrain has resonated across time and geography, continuing to inspire movements for freedom and equality and giving King’s speech memorable status. Younge, journalist and columnist for the Guardian and the Nation, considers King’s speech in the context of its significance in the U.S. and abroad. Exploring the factors that determine how speeches are remembered and whether they are remembered at all, Younge details the context of the August 1963 speech, in the tumultuous year that started with Alabama governor George Wallace declaring eternal segregation in the South and ended with President Kennedy’s assassination. He details the long, sleepless night of preparation, the dramatic moment when King turned over his prepared speech and delivered remarks from his heart, using the phrase many had advised against, warning that it was trite and overused. Despite its lukewarm reception at the time, the speech has gone on to resound throughout the world—in Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe—as an appeal for justice and equality 50 years after it was so famously uttered. --Vanessa Bush