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Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘Dream’ – and Why the Speech Is Hard to Find

| August 23, 2013
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Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Tom LeGro/PBS NewsHour/Flickr)

Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Tom LeGro/PBS NewsHour/Flickr)

August 28 marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, when more than 250,000 peaceful demonstrators gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to push for a federal civil rights bill. On that day in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech.

Unfortunately, King’s speech is difficult to access in full because of copyright issues. Because of laws that protect intellectual property long after the author is deceased, any commercial enterprise that broadcasts or reprints the whole 17-minute speech, including online, must pay a hefty fee to King’s estate. The speech will not be a part of the public domain until 2038, when the current copyright expires. (You can purchase a DVD of the speech, however; on Amazon it’s $13.49.)

(You also can access it at The Takeaway’s website.)

Stanford’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute does offer audio of the speech. On Monday, the institute will join with the City of Palo Alto for “Let Freedom Ring,” a celebration of the anniversary. It’s one of numerous events planned across the country, including the “Realize the Dream March and Rally for Jobs, Justice and Freedom,” on Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Also coming up on Tuesday is PBS’ “The March.” The one-hour documentary, at 9 p.m. PST, is narrated by Denzel Washington and looks at the pivotal Civil Rights events culminating with King’s speech.

The connection between King’s legacy and Silicon Valley goes back to 1985, when King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, asked Stanford history Professor Clayborne Carson to edit and publish her late husband’s writings. Carson, who attended the 1963 march as a 19-year-old from New Mexico, subsequently founded the King Papers Project, which is producing the definitive record of King’s writings, from speeches and sermons to personal correspondence and unpublished manuscripts.

King himself spoke on at least two occasions at Stanford. Palo Alto’s City Hall Plaza was renamed King Plaza in 2007.

“Let Freedom Ring! A Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington” will take place at King Plaza, 250 Hamilton Ave., in Palo Alto, from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26.

Watch a preview of “The March” here:

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  • microlith

    If you think that’s bad, know that when Mickey Mouse is about to fall out of copyright again, Disney will probably be lobbying hard to extend copyright to even more ridiculous lengths.