August 28, 1963 marked one of the most iconic moments in the history of the Civil Rights Movement. It was the day of black American civil rights champion Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's famous speech at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., delivered from the steps of a memorial dedicated to U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, another person who, among countless others, played a role in making the so-called "peculiar institution" a bit less commonplace in the American landscape.
More than 200,000 people were in attendance to hear the following speech, featured in the video below and in an archived transcript:
Dr. King was rightfully appalled by the nation's continuing efforts to maintain a parallel system that effectively reduced black Americans to a second-class existence, primarily as a group to be merely tolerated when their services were needed, ignored whenever possible and denigrated, parodied and outright abused for sport. Attempts to make themselves heard and known were often met with both sanctioned and unsanctioned violence from common mobs and law enforcement.
Dr. King's legendary speech was just one of many that laid bare the truth of America's refusal to fulfill its own claims of offering freedom and liberty to all who lived within its borders. It was - and remains today - a powerful condemnation of the nation's continued refusal to accord a significant portion of its population so much as the right to be treated with common decency and respect, regardless of their appearance or lineage.
It's been 50 years to the day of Dr. King's moving speech at the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial. In those five decades, the realization of the civil rights leader's ultimate dream of genuine equality for all people has been met with both triumphs and setbacks. These are signs that point to this dream as an ever-continuing work-in-progress - one that's likely to continue for as long as this country exists.