Behind the camera: G. Marshall Wilson
Where: Steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
Photo Summary: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Picture Taken: August 28, 1963
I have a dream!
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I Have a Dream” is the name given to the August 28, 1963, historic public speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he spoke of his desire for a future where blacks and whites would coexist harmoniously as equals (I Have a Dream). The speech is seen as his crowning moment and one of the most Iconic moments of that time. The speech is often ranked as one of the greatest 20th-century speeches in America. Footage and pictures of the speech are still famous and the clip is used in movies and on TV to represent the civil rights movement in the ’60s.
Taking the photo
G.Marshall Wilson started the day with 6:00 AM walking through the crowds with four 35mm cameras. The cameras, film and other equipment weighed 38 lbs but that didn’t slow down Wilson. Around noon he had wandered over to the speaker’s platform in front of the Lincoln Memorial and climbed to the top of the elevated cameramen’s stand. Seeing the crowd spread out he had an idea for a photo. Walking back down he talked with King and his entourage and King always on the lookout for iconic photos jumped at the chance for a front page photo. Climbing to the top of the cameramen’s stand Wilson took a number of shots of King waving to the crowd. Space was limited so Wilson used a 24mm wide-angle lens on his 35mm camera.
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
The federal government had for years tried half-heartedly to pass some kind of civil rights bill that would grant equality to all Americans. It wasn’t until President John F. Kennedy tried to pass his bill on June 11, 1963, that a real attempt to give Blacks civil rights was undertaken. The bill was quickly blocked by southern representatives in Congress.
It was under this atmosphere that leaders from the civil rights movement planned a march to Washington to build political momentum behind the measure. Proposed by A. Philip Randolph and organized by him, Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King Jr. the march saw a joining of multiple parties who often were in disagreement. At first, the Kennedy Whitehouse was against the march as it might turn violent and hurt the passage of the bill. The organizers agreed to tone down the rhetoric and keep the more militant organizations in check but refused to cancel the march. Once he saw that he couldn’t stop it Kennedy supported the march but because of the concessions organizers gave Kennedy many prominent Black leaders were against it. Malcolm X called it the “Farce on Washington” and the Nation of Islam punished any members who attended.
Stay home. This will not be safe
Before the march there was an atmosphere and fear of potential violence, on one side Southern congressmen told their white female employees, “Stay home. This will not be safe.” and on the other, there was a fear that not enough people would show to show how much the public supported the goals of the march. These fears proved unfounded as almost a quarter of million people came to hear the speeches given that day, the largest demonstration in America at that point in time. Amongst the speakers were Martin Luther King Jr and many others who each got 15min to speak or perform. The speakers included SNCC leader John Lewis, civil rights figures such as Gordon Parks and Roy Wilkins, labor leaders such as Walter Reuther, clergy including Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle (the Archbishop of Washington, who made the invocation), Rabbi Uri Miller (President of the Synagogue Council of America) who gave the prayer, remarks by Rabbi Joachim Prinz (President of the American Jewish Congress), Archbishop Iakovos primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, author James Baldwin, film stars such as Charlton Heston, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and Marlon Brando, nightclub stars Josephine Baker and Eartha Kitt, and singers such as Mahalia Jackson, Marian Anderson, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan (who performed after King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, as seen in the film No Direction Home)
Legend holds that King departed from his prepared text and began preaching on the fly, but he had delivered a similar speech incorporating some of the same sections in Detroit in June 1963, when he marched on Woodward Avenue with Walter Reuther and the Rev. C.L. Franklin. He had rehearsed other parts before the march.
Because King distributed copies of the speech at its performance, there was controversy regarding the speech’s copyright status for some time. This led to a lawsuit, Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc. v. CBS, Inc., which established that the King estate does hold copyright over the speech and had standing to sue; the parties then settled. Unlicensed use of the speech or a part of it can still be lawful in some circumstances under the doctrine of fair use.
Text and Audio of Speech Accessed Dec, 2006
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Copyright of the Speech
While the recording King gave that day is considered a national treasure it is still copyrighted, like a song would be. This is why you can’t find a full copy on YouTube or even a government site. This is due to the British music publishing EMI Publishing house (In 2011 Sony Corp bought out EMI) and the King estate own the rights to the recording. If movies, documentaries want to use the speech they have pay. If you want a copy for yourself you have to buy the Martin Luther King Jr. – I Have a Dream DVD.