Before the Pilgrim Father’s landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before Thomas Jefferson etched across the pages of history the words I just quoted, we were here. Before the beautiful words of The Star-Spangled Banner were written, we were here. And for more than two centuries our forbearers labored here without wages. They made cotton king and they built the homes of their masters in the midst of most humiliating and oppressive conditions.
And yet out of a bottomless vitality, they continued to grow and develop. And I say to you this afternoon that if the inexpressible cruelties of slavery couldn’t stop us, the opposition that we now face will surely fail.
We are going to win our freedom because both the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of the almighty God are embodied in our echoing demands. And so I can sing anew, “We shall overcome” and we shall overcome because Carlyle is right, “No lie can live forever.” We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right, “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.” We shall overcome because James Russell Lowell is right, “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne. Yet that scaffold sways the future and behind them unknown stands God within the shadows keeping watch above his own. ” With His faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain the slab of stone of hope. With His faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discourse of our nation into a beautiful, sensitive brotherhood. With His faith, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children all over this nation, black men and white men, Protestants and Catholics, Jews and gentiles, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty we are free at last.” Thank you.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.