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A quarter of a million people, black and white together, gathered in the summer heat at the Washington Monument and then surged forth to the Lincoln Memorial. They had come on buses and trains, many from the Deep South. Large contingents represented white religious faiths and, despite lack of backing by the AFL-CIO, many labor unions. Haunting freedom songs—”We Shall Overcome” sung by Joan Baez, “Oh, Freedom!” by Odetta—blended with speeches by the civil rights leadership. SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee]’s John Lewis pierced the uplifting mood by denouncing the inadequacy of conventional liberalism and Kennedy’s legislative program to complete “the unfinished revolution of 1776.”
Around midafternoon Martin Luther King stood beneath the brooding face of Abraham Lincoln. Inspired by the sea of upturned black and white faces, he left his carefully crafted text and in rippling cadences and rich colors, he painted his vibrant dream of racial justice. Repeatedly invoking his phrase, “I have a dream,” responding to the people in rhythm with him, he implored that freedom ring from the hilltops of New Hampshire, the mountains of New York and Pennsylvania, and even more, from Georgia’s Stone Mountain. “Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and mole hill of Mississippi. From every mountain top, let freedom ring. [...]
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