Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Lynchburg, Virginia – March 27, 1962
As printed in the News and Advance article: ‘The American Dream’: MLK address in 1962 at E.C. Glass. Martin Luther King Jr. Feb 27, 2011. Accessed 2018 June 04. Click here to listen to a recording of the speech.
Editor’s Note: Here is the full text of the speech delivered by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on March 27, 1962, at E.C. Glass High School. Text provided by Lynchburg physician Peter Houck, who transcribed it several years ago from a tape of the speech while working on a project about black history in Lynchburg.
Thank you very kindly for your heartwarming applause and I want to express my deep personal appreciation to my good friend and close associate in the struggle for freedom for those very kind and gracious words of introduction.
I need not pause to say how very delighted I am to be here in the City of Lynchburg and the State of Virginia and to join my colleagues in bringing the people-to-people (tour) of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to this community and to this state.
We have a great deal to be thankful for, and certainly we are grateful to our many friends and our many co-workers in this state — from the president of the State Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Virginia, Dr. Milton Read, and the presidents of our various affiliated organizations throughout the state — for making our visit so enjoyable and meaningful and for all of the courtesies extended.
And I know that after we leave we will be able to go on to the next state knowing that some very significant gains have been made here in the state of Virginia.
I must express my personal appreciation to your leader and our friend, the Rev. Virgil Wood, for the great leadership that he has given to this community in this tense period of transition … I must also express my appreciation to you in this community who have worked with him and who worked in such untiring manner to grapple with the problems here and to break down the barriers of segregation and discrimination.
May I say to you that you have my prayers, my moral support, and all of the support that I can possibly give as you continue in the days ahead. Whether you are facing court trials, whether you are facing other trying moments, we want you to know that we are with you.
We bring greetings to you from the deeper South; I say the deeper South because I don’t want to feel that Virginia is not in the South. But I bring greetings from the part of the South where we live at this time, and the state of Georgia, and where we lived a few years ago, in the state of Alabama. The Cradle of the Confederacy, Montgomery, Ala., was a community where I lived some five or six years, along with Rev. Ralph Abernathy.
And I can never address any audience in this country or out of the country without bringing just a word of greetings from Montgomery, Ala. For it was in Montgomery that a mighty struggle took place and I bring special greetings to you from the 50,000 Negro citizens of Montgomery who came to see back in 1955 on the 5th of December that it is ultimately more honorable to walk in dignity than to ride in humiliation.
Certainly as a result of their willingness to substitute tired feet for tired souls they were able to break down the barriers of bus segregation. And I am happy to report that today in Montgomery, Ala., a Negro passenger can sit anywhere on the bus that he wants to sit and where a seat is available.
This is because of that struggle. And this struggle could not have taken place and we could not have continued the struggle without the support and backing of people all over America. For as we walk the streets of Montgomery we realize that we did not walk alone, for hundreds and millions of people walked with us — and above all, God walked with us. This was the encouragement that we had all along.
Now for the moments left I would like to say — as Rev. Wood has already said — that after my message we want everybody here to remain for just a few minutes for we have a message for you. An important message, which will come from the lips of one of the prophets of our struggle. We want you to remain for that word and that message.
I want to talk with you tonight and I want to be as brief as possible — and I know briefness has always been a magnificent accomplishment for a Baptist preacher — but I want to try to be as brief as possible and talk with you on a theme that is very dear to my heart and I believe a theme that is dear to the heart of every devoted American assembled here tonight.
I want to talk about the American Dream. For this is the American Dream, a reality, and we need not look very far, we need not utter many words, to find the expression of this American Dream. We can just turn back to 1776 and read the words that were penned by a man who once lived in this state: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This, in brief, is the American Dream.
One of the first things we notice about this dream is its amazing universalism. It does not say some men, but it says all men. It does not say all white men, but it says all men, which includes black men. It doesn’t say all Gentiles but it says all men, which includes Jews. It doesn’t even say all Protestants, but it says all men, which includes Catholics.
There is something else at the center of that dream, which is one of the things that disguises democracy from totalitarian forms of government. It says that there are certain basic rights that we all have, and that these rights are neither derived from nor conferred by the state.
In order to discover where they came from, it is necessary to move back behind the dim mist of eternity. They are God-given. Very seldom, if ever, in the history of the world has a socio-political document expressed in such profound, eloquent and unequivocal language the dignity and the worth of (the) human personality of the American Dream. It reminds us that every man is the heir of a legacy of dignity and worth. This is the meaning of the American Dream.
And ever since the founding fathers of our nation dreamed this dream to use a big word that is used by psychiatrists or psychologists, America has been a schizophrenic personality tragically divided against herself. On the one hand, we have proudly professed the great principles of democracy, but on the other hand the nation has sadly practiced the very opposite of those principles.
Indeed, slavery and segregation have always been strange paradoxes in a nation founded on the principles that all men are created equal. There is something tragically wrong with a nation that is spending billions of dollars and is making speedy plans to get a man on the moon and has no plans to put a Negro in the state legislature of Virginia.
But now, more than ever before, America is challenged to make this dream a reality. For the shape of the world of today does not afford us the luxury of an anemic democracy. And the price that our nation must pay for the continued oppression of the Negro is a price of its own destruction. We must come to see now that the hour is late. The clock of destiny is ticking out, and we must act now before it is too late.
I know that there are people telling us to slow up. They are telling us that all over the South. And sometimes, governmental officials tell us to cool off. But we must say in patience and in firm terms that we can’t afford to cool off. The fact is that we have been cooling off too long and if we keep cooling off we will end up in the deep freeze.
Yes, they are saying that we must adopt a policy of moderation, and certainly if moderation means moving on toward the goal of justice with wise restraint and calm reasonableness, then moderation is a great virtue which all men of goodwill must seek to achieve during this tense period of transition. But if moderation means slowing up in the move of justice and capitulating to the undemocratic practices of the guardians of the deadening status quo, then moderation is a tragic vice, which all men of goodwill must condemn.
We can’t afford to slow up. We love America too much to slow up. When we look around the world we think of the fact that there are some two billion seven hundred million people in this world. The vast majority of these people live in Asia and Africa. For years they have been dominated politically, exploited economically, segregated and humiliated by some foreign powers.
Today they are gaining their independence, and they’re saying in no uncertain terms that racism and colonialism must go. And they are making it clear that they will not follow any nation that will subject a segment of its citizenry on the basis of race or color.
So I can only say in figurative language that the motor is cranked up and we are moving up the highway of freedom toward the city of equality and we can’t afford to stop now because our nation has a date with destiny. We must keep moving. So those of us who are working across the South — whether we be Negro or white — those of us who are working all across the nation to make the American Dream a reality are engaged in the most significant work of this age for we are seeking to save the souls of the United States of America.
This is our mission. And if we succeed America will succeed. If we fail America fails. This is what we must get over. Over and over again.
Now, what are some of the things that we must do in order to make this dream a reality? First I want to suggest to you that we must continue courageously to challenge the system of segregation.
Now you know about segregation in Virginia. And we know about it in Georgia and we know about it all over the United States because segregation is a glaring reality today. Some years ago, in 1896, the Supreme Court of our nation rendered the decision known as the Plessy vs. Ferguson Decision. The decision established the doctrine separate but equal as the law of the land.
But we all know what happened as a result of that old Plessy doctrine. There was always a strict enforcement of the separate without the slightest intention to abide by the equal, and so the Negro ended up being plunged into the abyss of exploitation where he experienced the bleakness of nagging injustice.
Then we came to see something. We see it today more than ever before — that is that there is something evil, that there is something morally wrong with this idea of racial segregation of separate but equal.
All over this nation now there are those humble souls who are coming to see that segregation is a cancer in the body politic, which must be removed before our democratic and moral health can be realized. There are those who have the vision to see now that segregation is nothing but a new form of slavery covered up with certain necessities of complexities. And separate can never be equal in race relations.
I remember some few years ago, when I was still living in Montgomery, Ala. I had a speaking commitment in Norfolk and I took a flight out of Montgomery and went on to Atlanta, then I changed planes in Atlanta to get to Norfolk. I took a Capitol Airlines flight.
At that time it was Capitol, now it has merged with United, but it was Capitol then and I got on the flight and we started out for Norfolk and developed a little motor trouble and turned around and came back to Atlanta, and of course I was very happy to get back. Whenever these planes develop motor trouble it is always a great experience to get back on the ground.
Now, I don’t want to give anybody the impression tonight that I don’t have faith in God in the air; simply that I’ve had more experience with him on the ground. But we got back to that Atlanta airport.
We got back to discover that we had to stay some two hours and a half while they repaired the aircraft. And they gave all of us tickets to get our dinner at the Daug Haus in Atlanta. Now at that time the Daug Haus in Atlanta was still segregated. We all had our tickets and I got my ticket like everybody else and went on in the Daug Haus and took a seat like everybody else.
I saw that the Daug Haus was made for people to eat in. And I thought that I was probably a person, although many things tried to remind me that I wasn’t in our society. But, I felt that I was, so I decided to sit down in the Daug Haus with everybody else. And as soon as I took my seat the hostess came over and she said, “Ah, ah we can’t serve you here. Ah, but we do have a place right back in the back where we can serve you, if you can come right on back.”
And I said, “No, this is fine right here.” And then she went on and she said, “Now this is, this is terribly embarrassing but you know that law, you know the law and we can’t serve you here.”
I said, “Well, I certainly can’t eat behind those curtains there.” I said, “Do you mind if I talk with the manager?” She said, “Yes, it’s all right” and she went and got the manager and he came out and he started talking and he said, “Ah, I believe you are Martin Luther King.”
I said, “Yes, I am.”
“Now Rev, you, you is s’pose to be a law-abiding citizen and ah, you know the law. It’s just the law. We didn’t make these laws, Rev, and the law in this state and in this city says that the races must be separate and we have a fine place provided for you back there” and he made this statement: He said, “Now, now Rev, the food is the same and Rev, if you just try it back there you’ll discover that they are going to serve you in the same plates and the table back there is just like these tables out here, Rev.”
And he said, “In fact, it gets better back there; you’ll get served sooner. You’ll be the only one back there.” So we had a nice conversation and I said, “Well, let me say two or three things to you if you don’t mind.”
I said, “I just want to discuss this issue, it’s wonderful that we are communicating. One of the tragedies of the South is that we are still trying to live in monologue instead of dialogue. We’ve got to talk more.”
So we started talking together. I said, “Let me tell you why I believe that it’s wrong for me to sit there and that it is not equal back there.”
I said, “Now first a man gets on the plane in Mobile, Ala. and the plane stopped in Montgomery. I got on and I took my seat by this man. He’s a white man. We started talking about several problems and this man is in here now and we want to continue that conversation. Now I can’t talk with that man if I got to go back in the back there, in the back around that curtain.”
I said, “So, now you have inflicted upon inequality and if I can’t communicate with a man I am not equal to him. Now that is the first level of equality.” I said, “Now the other thing is that I don’t like sitting back behind curtains; it does something to my soul. The danger of it is that I might not (survive) in the process, so that you have inflicted upon me the possibility of a greater accumulation of bitterness, so it is inequality in the realm of the potentiality for the greater accumulation of bitterness.”
I said, “There’s a third thing that bothers me. You see all these beautiful paintings around here you got all over these walls? Beautiful paintings. And I like them. They have moved my aesthetic faculties and now you’ve gone and put me behind a curtain and I can’t see them. So then you have inflicted upon me aesthetic inequality.
I’m saying all of this to say to you, my friends (manager and waitress), that the Supreme Court was imminently correct in 1954 when it said the ol’ Plessy doctrine must go. That separate faculties are inherently unequal and that to segregate a child on the basis of his race is to deny that child equal protection of the law. The Supreme Court discovered that there can never be something called separate but equal because the separate is always unequal in areas of race relations.
All over this United States we must stand against segregation. Realizing that as we stand up against it, we are not against something just to be standing up against it. We are not for integration just because this seems to be the thing that is taking place on the stage of history and a sociological transition. We just stand up for integration because in a real sense this is what God stands up for.
Some of the great theologians and philosophers have sought to define God. When they came to their definition, they started seeking God as something working for integration. So when Jan Smuts defined God he said, “He is a principle of holism.” When Henry Nelson Wieman defined God, he said that he is a process of integration. (When) Alfred North Whitehead defined God, he says, “He’s a principle of consecration.”
Whenever we think of God we think of power, working in every moment to bring together the disconnected aspects of reality into a harmonious whole. Integration is more than something we are talking about, is a part of the ethic of God himself. This is what we are struggling for. So when we talk about integration, we are talking about something that the universe is working toward. We must work with determination to end the evil system of segregation.
The second thing that we must do to make the American Dream a reality is to work passionately and unrelentingly to double the number of Negro voters in the South. I’ve said before and I reiterate that one of the most significant steps that the Negro can take at this hour is that short walk to the voting booth.
Let nobody fool you. Even politicians respect voters. Even Senator Byrd respects voters. Now we have about a million three hundred thousand Negroes registered to vote in the South. There are a little more than 5 million Negroes that are eligible to vote. You can see that we have a long, long way to go.
Just think of what we could do if we had 3 million or 4 million Negroes registered to vote. Number one, we would be able to liberalize the political structure of the South and from that point we would be able to liberalize the political structure of this nation.
What is it that blocks every liberal move and civil rights legislation? It is a vicious correlation in Congress made up of Southern Dixiecrats and right-wing reactionary Northern Republicans. They join together and unite and defeat almost every liberal move in the area of civil rights.
Not only civil rights … social welfare legislature, labor or any other liberal legislation. It is this coalition that gets together, defeating. Now how can this coalition be defeated? I believe firmly that the increased registration on the part of Negroes in the South will defeat this evil coalition in Congress. We must go out to do it.
Now take Mississippi as an example: Senator Eastland is often elected with less than 100,000 votes. Just think of this. His colleague in the Senate — like a state like Connecticut, which is about the same size as Mississippi population-wise — is elected with a million votes. Now is this democracy?
Now why is it that Senator Eastland can be elected with less than 100,000 votes? Number one, you have in Mississippi about 20,000 Negroes registered to vote and there are almost a million Negroes in the state of Mississippi.
Think of this: A lot of the white people are blocked from voting because they have something that Virginia has, namely the poll tax. The poll has said as a conniving scheme to keep the electorate small and it has served to block the freedom not only of the Negro, but of the white men and we must make it clear that (as) we struggle to gain the ballot and to make the American Dream real, we are not struggling merely to free the Negro, but struggling to free the white man for he is also a slave under this system.
So, we must struggle in determination to get the ballot and this is what we are trying to do on this people-to-people tour. This is what we are trying to do through the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. We ask you to work here in this community and all over the state of Virginia in determination to get this job and it will make a great difference in our move to make the American Dream a reality.
The other thing I would like to mention is this: We must make full and constructive use of the freedom we already possess. We need not wait until the day of emancipation before we make a contribution to the life of our nation. We must not use our oppression as an excuse for laziness.
I know the temptation — and I know how we’ve been trampled over with the iron feet of oppression — and there is always a temptation to say that since we’ve been the victims of social isolation, economic deprivation so long, we can’t be anybody. Somewhere along the way we must, in spite of this system, develop a sense of “somebodyness” and discover that human nature cannot be catalogued.
For history has proven that a determination can often break through the outer shackles of circumstance. Jews for example. For years they have been exploited, trampled over. They have walked through the fires of prosecution and in the midst of this they have risen up to plunge against power-filled nights of oppression — new and blazing stars of inspiration.
So being a Jew did not keep Einstein from amusing his genius-packed mind to challenge an axiom and leave for the multi-insights of science a theory of relativity. Being Jews did not keep Amos and Hosea, Jeremiah and Isaiah from standing up in the midst of the unjust conditions of their day. They declared to men the eternal word of the Almighty God.
I said, “Being a Negro is not apt to keep us from rising up at this moment. We already have numerous and inspiring examples of Negroes who have proved that we will not wait. So from a slave cabin, in this very state of Virginia, Booker T. Washington rose up to be one of America’s great leaders. He lit a torch up in Alabama and darkness fled from the red hills of Gordan County, Georgia and arms of mothers who could neither read nor write.
Roland Hayes rose up to be one of the world’s great singers; he carried his melodious voice into the palace of King George V and the mansion of the Queen mother of Spain.
A humble, poverty-stricken condition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marian Anderson rose up to the world’s greatest contralto so that Toscanini could say that a voice like this comes only once in a century; and (composer Jean) Sibelius (in) Finland cried out, “my (roof) is too low for such a voice.”
From humble poverty-stricken circumstances, George Washington Carver rose up, carved for himself an imperishable niche in the annals of science.
There was a start in the skies of female leadership. Then came Mary McLeod Bethune and grabbed it and allowed it to shine in her life in all of its radiant beauty. There was a start in the diplomatic sky and then came Ralph Bunche, the grandson of a slave preacher, and allowed it to shine in his life with all of its radiant beauty.
All of these people have come to tell us that we need not wait. They’ve justified the conviction of the point greasy locks and the black complexion cannot fault the natural claim. Skin may differ, but affection dwells in black and white the same. (Were I) so tall as to reach the pole I could grasp the ocean at a (span). I must be measured by my soul. The mind is a standard of the man. This is what Truman said.
Now there is one other point I want to bring out. We are to make the American Dream a reality. We must continue to engage in creative protest in order to break down the barriers of segregation and discrimination.
Now there is somebody here tonight. I don’t know your name but you are in here. There is somebody here tonight who is living with a strange illusion and a strange mess and that is that you can sit down and do nothing and this problem will work itself out. Let’s just wait and it will work itself out. You have heard this myth, this myth of time. Just let time take care of it. President Eisenhower used to say that, I heard him say that one time.
This problem, if to be solved, will take the time that history will afford it to be solved and I say to you that time is neutral. It can be used constructively or destructively. I am convinced tonight that some of the segregationalists have used time more effectively than the people of goodwill and it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the bitter words of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. They have been sitting down waiting on time.
We must remember that somewhere along the way we must help time. The human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless and the dedicated work of devoted individuals, and without this hard work, time itself becomes the ally of deprivative forces and social stagnation. We must remember that the time is always right to do right. Somehow we must use it creatively.
I say also that there is another illusion that some of us have. That is that only education can solve this problem. We’ve heard that. Now there’s a half-truth involved here because education does have a great role to play. But those who use this argument use it to say only education can solve it, not legislation.
So don’t be going up talking about legislation through the South and civil rights legislation. It is only going to take the slow process of education to change attitudes. Now there is some truth in this, but even though morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated.
You see, the law may not make man love — but religion and education must do that — but it can keep it from lynching me and I think that is pretty important also. But even though legislation may not change the heart, it can restrain the heartless and this is what we must continue to see as we move on in this struggle.
We got to continue to work through legislation. We got to work through the courts. The day of litigation is now over with. We got to continue to work through the courts to gain our rights.
But then there is another thing that I want to leave with you tonight before leaving. A court order can only declare rights. It can never deliver them. Only when the people themselves begin to act for the rights, which are on paper given like blood, only when the people in mass begin to act, are they able to make all of these laws real and meaningful.
So each of you here tonight must decide as that individual to be a solid creative obstetrician presiding at the birth of new age. You must stand up and sit down and ride in and walk in and any other kind of ins necessary, in order to solve this problem that faces America.
In other words, we must supplement what we do through the courts and through legislation with non-violent direct action. Now there are several things about this method that make it powerful. Number one, it has a way of disarming the opponent. It weakens his morale and exposes his moral defenses. At the same time, it works on his conscience and he does not know what to do.
Now I can assure you that if we rose up with violence in the South, our opponents would really know what to do, because they know how to operate on this level. They are tacticians and strategists and everything else on this level. See, they control all the forces of violence and you don’t have a single Negro in the National Guard in the South.
I used to hear somebody talk about Negroes that use violence in this struggle, and I got to thinking, where in the world are we going to get weapons to compete with the National Guard that doesn’t have a single Negro in it? So violence in our struggle is not only immoral — and I think that is the basic reason — but it is also impractical, and there is something about this nonviolence approach that disarms the opponent and it leaves him frustrated and he doesn’t know what to do.
If he beats you, you have developed the power to accept it without retaliating. If he doesn’t beat you, fine. If he throws you in jail in the process, you go on in there and transform the jail from a dungeon of shame to a haven of freedom and human dignity.
Even if he tries to kill you, you develop the quiet courage of dying if necessary without killing. So, you leave him disarmed, not knowing what to do, so he ends up frustrated and disillusioned. This is the power of nonviolence.<?p>
There’s another thing about it. It helps you to work for something that is morally right —namely integration, and the brotherhood of man — with methods that are morally right. In other words, it helps you to secure moral ends with moral means.
One of the greatest discussions of history is this whole question of means and ends. There have been those individuals who argue that the end justifies the means. I think that if there is any weakness and any tragedy of communism it is right here. Communism lives with a philosophy that the end justifies the means. Go back and read Lenin and hear him saying, lying and deceit and even violence (are) justifiable methods to bring about the end of the classless society.
But this is where nonviolence breaks with communism and any other philosophy that says that the end justifies the means, because the end is pre-existent in the means, and in the long run of history this destructive method cannot bring about constructive ends.
In the long run of history destructive — I mean immoral — means cannot bring about moral ends. We have a method now: We can struggle to secure moral ends without moral means. There is another thing about this method. It said, as you struggle you can be determined, you can be courageous, you can stand up against the system and yet you don’t even have to hate the perpetrators of that unjust system.
Oh, isn’t it a wonderful thing to have ourselves reminded over and over again, that we need not hate? Isn’t it a wonderful thing to have the insights of our religion? To tell us that it is possible to stand up against this evil system and then love those people, love those people who are using this system to oppress us.
Isn’t it a wonderful thing to hear the words echoed across the centuries — love your enemy. Bless them that curse you. Pray for them that despitefully misuse you.
Isn’t it a wonderful thing to hear somebody say turn the other cheek. Jesus realized when he said this that turning the other cheek meant sometimes that you would have some harm done to you. He didn’t feel at any point that turning the other cheek meant that you were escaping things.
Turning the other cheek might mean that you are getting your home bombed. Turning the other cheek may mean getting jailed, may mean getting stabbed and getting your body scarred up. What He was saying was this: It is better to go through life with a scarred-up body than a scarred-up soul.
This evening if I can leave anything with you here in Lynchburg, if I can leave anything in Virginia, I want to leave the message of love. For I think it is the most durable power in all the world. This is the only way that we will be able to transform the jangling discords of the South into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. We can’t do it through hatred.
So we must come to the point of saying of those who oppress us, do with us what you will, and we will still love you. We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force.
Yes, we cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because non-cooperation would be as much a moral obligation as cooperation would. So throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children and as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities after midnight hours and drive out on some wayside road and leave us half dead, and we will still love.
Be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves. We will so appeal to your heart and your conscience that we will win you in the process. Our victory will be a double victory. This is what we are doing.
I say to you my friends as I go on to my conclusion, that this method is not successful presently. It was used in a magnificent way by Mahatma K. Gandhi to free his people from indignities and exploitations that they confronted in India. It has been used in a marvelous way in our southlands by hundreds and thousands of students. They have taken out these ambiguous and our passionate yearnings for freedom and filtered them in their own souls, fashioned them into a creative protest which is an effort known all over our nation and as a result of that discipline non-violent, yet courageous actions.
Do you realize that they have been able to bring about integration at lunch counters in more than 150 cities of the South? This is nothing less than revolutionary. This method has been used in the Freedom Ride. We were told to cool off in the Freedom Ride. But there were those who were determined not to cool off. As a result of the Freedom Ride, almost every bus terminal in the South is now integrated.
You have heard about Alabama; Lynn Hope told you about what we went through there. Remember, in that same city where we were locked in church and couldn’t get out. The violent march stood outside in that same city, where men of violence kicked and beat Freedom Riders in that same state where the buses were burned, in that same city of Montgomery, Alabama, Negroes and white people are eating breakfast in the restaurants of the Greyhound bus terminal this day. They will be tomorrow. This is a result of the Freedom Ride.
So we have a powerful method. We have a powerful approach. I believe that we will be able, if we will use it, to bring into full realization the ideals and principles of the American Dream.
This is the challenge that I leave with you tonight. As I go to my seat let me say something that we would never forget before the struggle is won, before the victory is won. Some will suffer. Let us not run from suffering. I am convinced now more than ever before that there can be something creative in suffering. Just as the cross of Christ has always had value for us in giving us the meaning and the powerful of suffering, we must see it anew in our struggle.
Before the victory is won some more will be thrown in jail. Before the victory of brotherhood is won somebody will lose a job here and there. Before the victory is won somebody will have to face physical death. The physical death is the price that some must pay to free their children from a permanent life of physiological death when nothing could be more redemptive.
Before the victory is won some will be misunderstood and dismissed as dangerous rebel rousers and agitators. Some will be called reds and communists simply because they believe in the brotherhood of man.
But as Lynn Holt said to us, in spite of all of this we shall overcome. I tell you why. We shall overcome because the ark of the whole universe is long but bends toward justice. We shall overcome because Carlyle is right. No lie can live forever. We shall overcome because William C. Bryant is right. Truth crushed to earth will rise again. We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right. Truth forever on the scaffold runs forever on the throne; yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown standeth God within the shadow keeping watch over his own.
We shall overcome because the Bible is right. Ye shall reap what you sow. So if we will go off with that faith we will be able to move out of the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man into the bright and glittering daylight of freedom and justice.
This will be a great day. This will be the day when all God’s children, black men and White, 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!”