"The parallels between the speeches are so striking," he explained. "Brotherly love, nonviolence and freedom from racial hatred are all contained in his 1944 speech. He even described scenes of black and white children playing together in harmony - famously echoed in the ‘Dream' speech."
The 1944 version was presented during a speech contest in Dublin, Georgia, according to the researchers. In it, 15-year-old King mentioned the history of Marian Anderson, who was an African American opera singer. She helped to break down racial barriers, becoming one of the most celebrated opera stars of the twentieth century.
In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution banned Anderson from singing at Constitution Hall. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the group in protest, and invited Anderson to sing on the Washington Mall - the same site where King would present his stirring ‘Dream' speech 24 years later.
King clearly never forgot the 1939 episode.
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"Anderson's effect on King was not only incorporated in his 15-year-old writings, but (also) in his more polished ‘I Have a Dream' presentation," Llewellyn said.
He added, "Will's research found that Anderson sang ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee' in the same drawn out phrasing King used in 1963, and she closed her 1939 performance with two Negro spirituals. King ended his ‘Dream' speech in the same way, which is where the ‘Free at last!' quotation comes from" - a phrase also used when King spoke in Wake Forest's Wait Chapel on October 11, 1962."
August 28 of this year marks the 52nd anniversary of the 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech. The original texts of both the 1944 and 1963 speeches are now on a Wake Forest University website.