Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mahalia Jackson's Dream Rhetoric

Forty-five years ago today, Mahalia Jackson sang at Martin Luther King Jr.'s request. To half a million people in front of the Lincoln Memorial, she sang "I Been 'Buked and I been Scorned."

Then she listened to Martin speak. Just as he was about to deliver a line containing the scripted phrase "the International Association for the Advancement of Creative Dissatisfaction," Mahalia shouts out to him:

"Tell them about the dream, Martin."

So, Taylor Branch tells us now, "King launched into a series of riffs. . . Among them were phrases like 'let freedom ring,' 'with this faith' — and 'I have a dream.'" Take a look at King's prepared sermon notes and halfway through, when Jackson shouts outs, "You can see exactly where it broke off." Roger Wilkins was there and adds, "If Mahalia, with that voice, told you to do something, you did it."

Jackson sang and shouted and prepared King, prompted him, to speak from the heart. It was the dream for change, the audacity of hope. Listen again.


Anonymous said...

Wow--I didn't know this. Excellent and important post!

J. K. Gayle said...


Here's a bit more from Doug Worgul (Managing Editor, Together We Will RiseUp Publications): "Heeding the Call"

And here's Taylor Branch's Parting the Waters : America in the King Years 1954-63; the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and book that Worgul quotes from.