King's Dream Eric J. Sundquist

Icons of America
Publication date:
02 Jan 2009
320 pages: 229 x 152 x 27mm
16 b&w illustrations

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"I have a dream" - no words are more widely recognized, or more often repeated, than those called out from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial by Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1963. King's speech, elegantly structured and commanding in tone, has become shorthand not only for his own life but for the entire civil rights movement. In this new exploration of the "I have a dream" speech, Eric J. Sundquist places it in the history of American debates about racial justice, debates as old as the nation itself, and demonstrates how the speech, an exultant blend of grand poetry and powerful elocution, perfectly expressed the story of African American freedom.This book is the first to set King's speech within the cultural and rhetorical traditions on which the civil rights leader drew in crafting his oratory, as well as its essential historical contexts, from the early days of the republic through present-day Supreme Court rulings. At a time when the meaning of the speech has been obscured by its appropriation for every conceivable cause, Sundquist clarifies the transformative power of King's "Second Emancipation Proclamation" and its continuing relevance for contemporary arguments about equality.

Eric J. Sundquist is UCLA Foundation Professor of Literature, UCLA. He is author or editor of eight books on American literature and culture, including the award-winning volumes To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature and Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America.

"Sundquist's close reading of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech reveals the essence of the Civil Rights movement in America. . . . . Sundquist's book represents perhaps the most detailed analysis of King's speech to date. It does an excellent job of comparing and contrasting King's words with the thoughts of other African American leaders such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Malcolm X. . . . Sundquist powerfully reminds his readers that one cannot begin to comprehend the history of race relations in America without fully understanding the 'I Have a Dream' speech."--Raymond Frey, "Magill's Literary Annual 2010"--Raymond Frey "Magill's Literary Annual 2010 "