7 Facts About Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream Speech’

August 28, 1963, was a very important day in history. That was the day when almost 250,000 people gathered around the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to listen to what Baptist preacher and civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had to say. On this day, he delivered the I Have a Dream speech as he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Martin Luther KingMartin Luther King, Jr Had a Large Turnout

The event was organized with the hope to attract about 100,000 people. It was officially recognized as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom event. In the end, more than twice the number of people gathered at the nation’s capital to protest in a peaceful march which ended up being the largest demonstration in the United States to that date.

While the speech is one of the most unforgettable speeches in US history, there are some facts many people don’t know.

1. Originally, No Women Were Included

All of the March on Washington speakers were men
While many women, like Rosa Parks, Daisy Bates, and more were center roles in the civil rights movement, all of the March on Washington speakers were men. Anna Hedgeman, the only woman on the planning committee, urged organizers to add a tribute to the “Negro Women Fighters for Freedom” who were recognized at the event.

2. Two Out of Ten Speakers Were White

White Speakers
Martin Luther King, Jr was one of the 10 speakers at the event. He was alongside other civil rights leaders like John Lewis and A. Phillip Randolph. Out of the 10 speakers, 2 were white, one of which was the head of the United Automobile Workers, which was a powerful labor union, Walter Reuther. The president of the American Jewish Congress, Joachim Prinz, also spoke at the event. Both were advocating for Black rights.

3. MLK’s Speech Almost Didn’t Go As Planned

Martin Luther King, Jr. had prepared his speech, without the phrase, but later improvised and added it in.
MLK first introduced the famous phrase “I have a dream” 9 months before the March on Washington event. He had used it several times, and many advisors told him to refrain from using the same theme. Martin Luther King, Jr. had prepared his speech, without the phrase, but later improvised and added it in.

4. There Were Many Historical References

 Historical References
In MLK’s speech, he had made many historical references including the Emancipation Proclamation, the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bible, and Shakespeare.

5. MLK Impressed the Kennedy Administration

 MLK Impressed the Kennedy Administration
MLK’s speech was the first time many Americans heard him give a full speech. This included current president John F. Kennedy. He advanced the civil rights legislation in Congress, and though he was assassinated 3 months later, Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1064 as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law.

6. The FBI Grew Suspicious

March 17, 1965. From left: Rev. Ralph Abernathy, James Foreman, King, Jesse Douglas, Sr., and John Lewis (partially out of frame).
While federal authorities were monitoring the March on Washington event closely, it turned into a military operation with the codename Operation Steep Hill. There were 19,000 troops on standby surrounding the D.C. suburbs to act on potential rioting, but that didn’t happen. Due to the success of the speech, the FBI believed MLK to be a danger to the Nation which caused them to tap his phones and look into possible communist ties.

7. MLK’s Family Still Owns the Speech

MLK’s Family Still Owns the Speech
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech is one of the most famous and highly celebrated speeches in U.S. history. It’s protected by copyright and owned by King’s family.