(See video at the above link.)
When you watch Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech from the March on Washington, it’s almost shocking how slowly he begins, plodding along as the crowd cheers him, trying to summon prophecy.
Then several minutes in, gospel legend Mahalia Jackson plays a crucial role in inspiring the man behind the podium that only one woman had been allowed to speak from.
“He was just reading, and she just shouted to him, ‘Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream,’”said Clarence Jones, an advisor to King who had helped write King’s speech. “I was standing about 50 feet behind him, to the right and to the rear, and I watched him — this is all happening in real time — just take the text of his speech and move it to the left side of the lectern, grab the lectern and look out.”
King had spoken about his “dream” before. But if Jackson hadn’t been there that day, we may have been denied a piece of oratory that captured a vision of an America that we’re still trying to realize today.