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Marking The 53rd Anniversary Of The March On Washington


Finally, today, we'd like to mark the 53rd anniversary of a March on Washington. On this date in 1963, a crowd of at least 250,000 people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to hear what would become one of the best known and, for many, one of the best loved speeches in American history.


MARTIN LUTHER KING JR: I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.


MARTIN: But that iconic line did not come until 11 minutes into Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech. So we thought today would be a good time to play some other parts of the speech that are not quite as famous.


KING: When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men - yes, black men as well as white men - would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.


KING: But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.


KING: We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.


KING: We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.


KING: Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time...


KING: ...To lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time...


KING: ...To make justice a reality for all of God's children.

MARTIN: We'll leave you with those words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 53 years ago speaking just a few miles from our studios here in Washington, D.C.


KING: Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children - black men, white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics - will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual - free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.

(APPLAUSE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.

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