"I have a Dream"

Address delivered at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Martin Luther King, Jr.


I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

During the last 1950's and early 60's mass demonstrations in many communities culminated in a march on August 28, 1963, that attracted more than 250,000 protesters to Washington, D. C. Addressing the marchers from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" oration. His speech called for racial justice and encouraged African-Americans to fight for their inalienable rights with dignity and discipline. He inspired them to go back to their hometowns and make changes peacefully towards racial equality.


The Dream...yesterday, today, tomorrow

In this lesson, students explore and investigate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream, analyze the progress that has or has not been made, and think about what Dr. King's dream means for the future. Students will consider the following questions: What did the dream mean in 1968? What does it mean today? How does it apply to the future?

Time 2 45-minute periods


Standards met by lesson [details]

National Standards for Civics and Government

Standard II.B.2-4
Standard II.D.3, 5
Standard III.D.2, 6
Standard V.A.1
Standard V.B.1, 2
Standard V.C.6, 7
Standard V.E.1, 3

National History Standards

Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
Standard 4A, C
Era 10: Contemporary United States (1968 to the present)
Standard 2D, E


Group 1 - 1968

Group 2 - 2000


Before Period 1

This lesson requires an introduction, which should happen the class before the discussion is to occur.

Students will be divided into two groups.

  1. Group 1 will examine documents from 1963-1968 regarding MLK and the "I have a dream" speech in particular.
  2. Group 2 will examine documents from the past decade that deal with MLK and civil rights.

Students will be given the documents to read the night before class. They should annotate them and highlight anything of interest.

Period 1

Using the documents they have read as a basis, students will examine the ways that change occurred in the past and answer the following questions.

Questions for Group 1

  1. What was MLK's dream in 1968? - students will critically read the speech and relevant documents.
  2. What are the larger issues that relate to MLK's dream? - students will expand upon the literal references in the speech and look beyond the race issues. Was MLK just talking about racial equality? What other forms of equality are related to this?
  3. How does MLK's dream relate to you? - students will examine their own lives and the impact of MLK's dream on their own lives.

The other group will examine the current ways that change occurs.

Questions for Group 2

  1. How does MLK's dream relate to you? - students will examine their own lives and the impact of MLK's dream on their own lives.
  2. What might your life be like now, if the world had not known MLK? - students will examine the impact of MLK's dream on their communities and the modern world.
  3. How and to what extent has the dream been realized today? How do you know? What events, documents, etc. indicate this? How has MLK's dream affected today's society? Who are the people who have facilitated change? What are the characteristics of such people? - students will research current events and evaluate the state of society today in terms of racial equality and social justice.

Groups should spend about 20 minutes sharing their answers to these questions.

After 20 minutes, students from each group will pair up and share their findings.

Period 2

    Groups of four will spend about 15 minutes to discuss and answer the following questions. These questions are intended to help them brainstorm ways to enable change in today's society.

    1. Who was MLK and what qualities or characteristics did he possess that enabled him to inspire and motivate change during his time? Who and what influenced him and his beliefs? - students will learn about MLK as a person and reflect upon the personal characteristics that contributed to his ability to enable changes during his time.
    2. What still needs to happen in order to realize the dream? - students will research and examine the ways that change happens in society.
    3. What can be done to further realize the dream? What can you do as an individual? What can you do as a part of a group within your school? What can you do as a part of your community? - students will research and examine ways that they can enable change in their society.

    Each group of four will write their ideas on butcher paper and post them around the room.

    Students will examine all of the groups' ideas, making notes on common themes, ideas, and actions.

    Groups will share their ideas and the whole class will formulate a plan of action to help realize the dream.

Follow up

The class could follow through with the plan of action and report on the progress every two weeks.


The class could have an ongoing assignment to bring to class any current news articles that relate to MLK, social justice, and social change.

The class could discuss similar issues around the world and compare and contrast them to the struggles that people faced during MLK's time as well as the ones that we face today.