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Martin Luther King

What was Martin Luther King's dream?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gives a speech

Martin Luther King was a Christian minister who believed that racial harmony was vital. He fought for equality for black people in the 1950s and ’60s in America. At the time there was a system of segregation in place, where black and white people weren’t allowed to mix in everyday life. Black people were treated very poorly, having separate schools, restaurants, and parks. They were not even allowed to vote.

Being a Christian, Martin Luther King knew that violence was the wrong way to ‘fight’ problems. He believed it was important to follow the teachings of Jesus, including this teaching from the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! 48 You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48.

men in suit walking on street holding signages


Because of teachings like this, he organised peaceful, non-violent protests against the government. He told his followers not to fight back, no matter what happened to them.

The movement was committed to ending the desegregation rules which divided the nation by the colour of people's skin. During this time, people who supported the movement were involved in many forms of passive resistance, including:

  • Sit-ins: African Americans, along with their white friends, would sit in restaurants that they were banned from because of their skin colour.
  • Boycotts: People refused to use certain shops or services which had segregation rules. For example, many of the people in Montgomery, Alabama, boycotted the buses,1955-1956; people simply walked everywhere in protest. The Montgomery bus boycott lasted just over a year before the company was forced to change its rules as it couldn't afford to run without its customers.
  • Freedom rides: These were protests against segregation, which involved African Americans and white people riding buses together throughout the American South in 1961. This was against the law at the time.
  • Protests: Organised and attended by all races, these protests were non-violent in nature. Even when people were being attacked, they refused to respond with violence.
  • Protest marches: The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was where he gave his famous 'I Have a Dream...' speech.

Gradually things did begin to change, with schools being desegregated in 1964, allowing black people to go to the same schools as white people. The Voting Acts Rights of 1965 finally allowed them to vote.



In 1963, Martin Luther King gave what has become one of the most famous speeches in history in Washington. It has become known as his ‘I Have a Dream…’ speech. It is so famous, you’ve probably even heard of it yourself!

The most famous part of King’s speech, ‘I have a dream…’ was not originally planned in the speech that day.

He’d used the phrase on a number of other occasions but it was not part of the plan for that day. It was not until a friend of King’s shouted, ‘Tell them about your dream,’ that he wrote it into his script and began to speak from the heart about the dream he had.

Many people think this is one of the most significant speeches ever made in history.

Martin Luther King's work is celebrated in America, with a national holiday in the country during the month of January each year.

You can read more about Martin Luther King here.

You can read and hear his famous 'I have a dream...' speech here.