Commemorating the Legacy: The 60th Anniversary of the “I Have A Dream” Speech

Every August, Martin Luther King III, his wife Arndrea Waters King, and their daughter Yolanda revisit the profound address delivered by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Despite their personal connection to the civil rights icon, the Kings view the anniversary of the march as an opportunity to educate their daughter and draw parallels with present movements and individuals. They believe in the importance of passing down the knowledge of historical milestones to future generations.

A Grand Commemoration at the Lincoln Memorial

On the 60th anniversary of the “I Have A Dream” speech, the Kings will be part of a massive gathering at the Lincoln Memorial. Tens of thousands of people, organized by the Kings’ Drum Major Institute and the National Action Network, will rally together on the same sacred ground where a quarter of a million individuals stood in 1963, demanding racial justice and equality. This historic event reflects the urgency to address current challenges such as voter suppression, eroded civil rights, and increasing acts of hate and violence targeting marginalized communities.

Honoring the Reverend’s Monument

Ahead of the commemoration, Martin Luther King III and his sister Bernice King visited their father’s monument in Washington, D.C. Standing before the statue, Bernice expressed her perception of her father as a figure still calling for righteousness and equality. The original March on Washington, prominently featuring their father, paved the way for significant civil rights and voting rights legislation in the 1960s. The siblings see this occasion as an opportunity to not only honor their father’s legacy but also reinvigorate the fight for justice in the face of ongoing challenges.

Martin Luther King III emphasizes that this commemoration is not simply a traditional event, but a rededication to continuing the work of his father and the civil rights movement. The organizers and participants aim to recapture the spirit and determination of the original march, recognizing the crucial need to address the erosion of voting rights, affirmative action, and abortion rights. They firmly believe that collective action can bring about the necessary change, making a statement against racial injustice and inequality.

The commemoration will commence with speeches and performances, setting the tone for the main program. At 11 a.m. ET, the featured speakers, including Ambassador Andrew Young, leaders of the NAACP and the National Urban League, and a diverse coalition of allies, will address the crowd. The march procession, following the program, will pass through the streets of Washington, culminating at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The powerful voices and messages of these prominent figures aim to inspire and galvanize attendees, renewing their commitment to the fight for equality.

Leaders responsible for organizing the march have met with Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke to discuss pressing issues such as voting rights, policing, and redlining. These conversations serve to emphasize the importance of governmental commitment and involvement in addressing systemic injustices. The gathering itself acts as a precursor to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’s meeting with organizers of the original 1963 March on Washington on the anniversary date. All of Martin Luther King Jr.’s children have been invited to engage in this dialogue, underscoring the continued relevance and significance of their father’s legacy.

Rev. Al Sharpton, the founder of the National Action Network, has made it his mission to honor the late Coretta Scott King’s request to carry on the legacy of the civil rights movement. Sharpton, together with Martin Luther King III and Arndrea, will fulfill this promise through their ongoing commitment to justice and equality. Recognizing the challenges faced in the current climate, Sharpton plans to lead a voting rights tour and collaborate with Black entrepreneurs to establish a fund dedicated to combating conservative attacks on diversity and inclusion initiatives. The shared dedication of these individuals and their advocacy work aims to protect and advance civil rights for all.

A Never-Ending Struggle towards Freedom

Bernice King, the CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center For Nonviolent Social Change, carries on her mother’s message that the struggle for freedom is an ongoing process. She emphasizes the need for vigilance and acknowledges the difficulties present in the current climate. However, she remains hopeful, reminding others of her father’s words: “We have to always remember, it’s difficult and dark right now, but a dawn is coming.” Bernice King urges celebration of the small victories along the path to progress, reinforcing that each generation must contribute to the preservation and advancement of civil rights.

Learning from History, Shaping the Future

The “I Have A Dream” speech continues to echo through the decades, serving as a reminder of the progress made and the challenges that persist in the fight for civil and human rights. It is crucial to acknowledge the dark moments that followed that pivotal address, such as the tragic Birmingham church bombing and the brutal assault on marchers in Selma. In the face of these atrocities, significant legislation was passed, reinforcing the power of collective action. As we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the “I Have A Dream” speech, it is important to recognize the profound impact of historical milestones and the responsibility we carry to advocate for and uphold the values of justice, equality, and freedom.


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