Issues Martin Luther King, Jr. First Raised 50 Years Ago Remain Central Challenges in American Life
Source Newsroom: Wake Forest University
Did you know Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was only 15 years old when he first made the case for civil rights reform in a speech delivered at the 1944 Georgia Black Elks oratorical contest?
Though ‘I Have a Dream’ is a more polished text, the timeless ideals, themes and images celebrated in 1963 — including brotherly love, nonviolence and freedom from racial hatred — were first presented in 1944.
As the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech approaches, the significance of this speech and its anniversary has multiplied. The issues King first raised 70 years ago, and famously reiterated 50 years ago, remain central challenges in American life.
“August 28th marks the 50th anniversary of the most important speech by an American in the 20th century. It brings to a light an almost 70-year-old secret that King’s unforgettable speech was first spoken almost two decades prior,” says John Llewellyn, speechwriting expert and associate professor of communication at Wake Forest University, has studied both works extensively.
Llewellyn, who teaches a course on American speeches of the 20th century, is available to address:
• The lasting importance and legacy of King’s “Dream” speech and what both mean to today’s society;
• How an articulate young King embodied and expressed all the points of his 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech in his 1944 “The Negro and the Constitution" speech;
• Why society may want to pay closer attention to what today’s youth have to say, especially in an age of social media and instant communication;
• What significant parallels in the two speeches can teach us about the life and work of the visionary Civil Rights leader.
Though unfortunately King did not live to see his dream become reality, we are reminded that his life and work still have more to teach us about building a just society. Additional information - including the full text of each speech - is available at go.wfu.edu/mlkspeech.