On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech that would change history. Before a crowd of 250,000 at the Lincoln Memorial, with millions more watching on television, King offered a powerful vision of racial equality and harmony. Delivered at the height of the second American Revolution – the struggle for civil rights – King’s words are now imbedded in the national conscience. Yet the story behind his “I Have A Dream” speech and the events of that remarkable summer has long been overlooked. “Peter Jennings Reporting – I Have A Dream” tells the story behind what many consider the most important American speech of the 20th Century.
With the speech as the program’s backbone, I Have a Dream looks at the emergence of King’s movement onto the national stage.
Interwoven with the speech itself is the story of the dramatic events of 1963, which culminated in the March on Washington. “What happened on August 28, 1963, was a social revolution of enormous proportions that continues to unfold,” says University of Pennsylvania professor Michael Eric Dyson. “The masses of people who were affected, changed, transformed by that moment, forever appeal to that incredibly eloquent orator and the 250,000 voices that joined him that day to suggest what was possible in America.”
In the spring of 1963 Dr. King took his Southern Christian Leadership Conference to Birmingham, Alabama, to try and break the system of segregation that was entrenched in the south. The confrontation set the children of Birmingham against the dogs and fire hoses of Bull Connor, Birmingham’s commissioner of Public Safety. The images made front pages around the world, and galvanized a public that had often turned a blind eye to the blight of Jim Crow. The public outcry forced a reticent Kennedy Administration to intervene and set the stage for groundbreaking legislation.
The events in Birmingham unleashed a firestorm of unrest around the nation. King and other civil rights leaders saw an opportunity to harness this grassroots momentum into a massive demonstration in the nation’s capital.
King spent weeks preparing his address. The speech he wrote for the March on Washington did not include the “I Have A Dream” refrain he had used many times before in other speeches. But, in a moment of inspiration as he neared the end of his prepared text, King turned to that refrain. It was classic King, demonstrating the power of his oratory and his values: non-violence, moral righteousness, simple justice, racial unity, and American idealism. This would be the first time that most of white America had heard it.
Through the voices of King himself and the people who surrounded him – Andrew Young, Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Cotton, John Lewis and many others – the program brings to life the dramatic story of the of the speech that inspired the nation.
I Have a Dream first aired August 28, 2003 on ABC.
CINE Golden Eagle Award
Communicator Award – Crystal Award of Excellence
National Headliner Award – Documentary, second place
US International Film & Video Festival – Documentary, first place
The Chris Award – The Chris Statuette
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Dallas Morning News
PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY
Richard E. Robbins
Peter Jennings and Richard E. Robbins
DIRECTORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY
Helen Hood Scheer
Talleah E. Bridges
Yu & Co.