Digitizing revolutions: The Negro still is not free [‘My lord’ a sister can be heard saying, and you can almost see her gleaming from sweat, fanning herself and shaking her head side to side with her eyes firmly fixed on Dr. King].
Can you imagine twittering from the ‘I have a dream speech’? Time and time again I have wondered what it must have felt like to be on ground during these life changing events, so here’s a bit of framing to help bring the speech to us today. Sites streaming audio, video or posting the full text of the “I Have a Dream” speech are too plentiful to warrant individual mention. Of note, however, are the rarer speeches made by King, including one he made to All India Radio upon his visit to the only land which proved the fertility of non-violent revolution in the hearts and minds of modern humanity. In the midst of the Cold War, and bodies bloodied in imperialism as the norm, King concluded: “Today we no longer have a choice between violence and non-violence; it is either non-violence, or non-existence.”
The “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the easiest iTunes Podcasts or YouTube videos to find, and one can even see related clips of Mahalia Jackson moving that day’s gathering with “How I Got Over”, or spot gay activist/march organizer Bayard Rustin in the crowd. These recordings of Mahalia Jackson inspirational and rare. Mahalia’s best recordings are of course those of her in a small rural chapel with other worshippers ready to hear her call. Oh if crowds had mobile video recording then, or would it have just been a distraction?!? Yet, this tradition of ‘call and response’ iterates that what the crowd says is integral to the message delivered out in front. Greek tragedies formalized this sort of response by placing an actual chorus on the stage- a group of people who spoke in union. Thinking back about this summer day where ‘change we can believe in’ came to America, here is a closer listen to all the people calling out “free at last”. The following is a transcript from Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech at he March On Washington for Jobs and justice delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in late August 1963.