August 27, 2010
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. -Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963
So began King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 47 years ago tomorrow to a crowd of 250,000 marchers standing on the National Mall. The protest, known today as the March on Washington, was undeniably one of the most important milestones on the road to civil rights.
Several performers played before Dr. King’s speech, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mahalia Jackson, Peter, Paul and Mary and Marian Anderson. Members of the sponsoring organizations each spoke, as did Catholic, Protestant and Jewish religious leaders. Last was Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
To commemorate that day, we thought we’d offer a selection of works in the Smithsonian collections related to Dr. King:
National Portrait Gallery: Photographer Jack Hiller captured a pensive King in 1960 when he delivered a speech to the Virginia Teachers Association in Richmond, Virginia. King had just been released from prison with help from presidential candidate John F. Kennedy to reverse a judge’s sentence (King had been arrested during a sit-in in Atlanta earlier that year).
National Postal Museum: King’s “I Have a Dream” stamp is in the collections of the Postal Museum. The 33-cent stamp issued in 1999 depicts him looking up to the sky, with the National Mall and the Washington Monument in the background.
National Museum of American History: A smattering of King photographs are available in the collections that depict the Civil Rights leader at dinner with friends and giving speeches. One notable work from the Scurlock collection shows King standing next to Jackie Robinson at Howard Univeristy in academic dress. The Scurlock Studio captured many of the important people in Washington, D.C.’s vibrant and influential African-American community.
American Art Museum: Among a group of artworks depicting Dr. King, one of the most vibrant is Washington, DC artist Lois Mailou Jones’ 1988 watercolor, “We Shall Overcome,” which shows King along with other renowned African Americans of the 20th century.
Prominent among the vast trove of works honoring King’s legacy is a nearly 13-inch-high bronze sculpture crafted by Harlem Renaissance artist and teacher Charles Alston in 1970. The work (left) is held by the National Portrait Gallery and currently sits in the Oval Office, on loan to the White House along with many other works of art from the Smithsonian collections.
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