Wednesday, August 28, 2013

'Tell them about the dream, Martin'

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Also participating was New Orleans’ Mahalia Jackson, who played a key role in later inspiring King at the podium. 

With input from advisers, King’s speech had been composed the night before at Washington’s Willard Hotel. As King delivered the prepared text — the original copy of which belongs to former college basketball coach George Raveling, who was at King’s side during the speech — Jackson prompted King to veer into an unscripted passage she might’ve heard him deliver in earlier appearances. 

“He was just reading, and she just shouted to him, ‘Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream,’” said Clarence Jones, an attorney and adviser to King who had contributed to King’s text. “I was standing about 50 feet behind him, to the right and to the rear, and I watched him — this is all happening in real time — just take the text of his speech and move it to the left side of the lectern, grab the lectern and look out. 

“One of the world’s greatest gospel singers shouting out to one of he world’s greatest Baptist preachers. She may have ignored the fact that there were almost 300,000 other people there, and she just shouted out to Martin, ‘Tell them about the dream.’ Anybody else who would yell at him, he probably would’ve ignored it. He didn’t ignore Mahalia Jackson. 

“I said to somebody standing next to me, ‘These people don’t know it, but they’re about ready to go to church.’” The words “I have a dream” do not appear in the text Raveling owns.

AND THAT'S the way it was, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 1963 . . . 50 years ago today.

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