I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Future of Multicultural America

By James Echols | Go to book overview

chapter 3
From Prophetic Preaching
to Utopian Community

Robert M. Franklin

It is the most famous sermon in modern American history. It didn't have a title as such, or a single biblical text, but we know it as the “I Have a Dream” speech. In that brief message, a young African American Baptist preacher from the South stood before America and challenged it to repent. He challenged America to rediscover its own neglected religious heritage and to lay aside the social sins of racism, indifference towards the poor, and obsession with violence. He dreamed for America, and in sharing his dream of America he invited others to embrace it and work to make it a reality.


An Arresting Portrait

Look again at the familiar portrait of Dr. King delivering his speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The image is so familiar that we may fail to grasp its extraordinary, multidimensional character. The speaker's podium where King stood was situated just yards away from the feet of Abraham Lincoln, who sits uncomfortably in his great stone chair. Look closer and you might see King restraining the high voltage of his own sectarian religious passion and instead harnessing it in the service of the common good. Some Christians today might feel that he missed an opportunity to preach Christ to the nation. Others feel that that is precisely what he was doing as he pleaded with the nation to include people of

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