Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech was a defining moment for the civil rights movement, for America, and for King himself.

Fifty years ago this week, King’s soaring words marked a turning point in this country’s long and bitter conversation about race, and earned King a place in history. When we remember Martin Luther King, we remember his dream. It helped awaken an entire nation.

So it’s hard to believe that just over three and a half years after that triumph, King would tell an interviewer that the dream he had that day had in some ways “turned into a nightmare.” But that’s exactly what he said to veteran NBC News correspondent Sander Vanocur on May 8, 1967. In an extraordinary, wide-ranging conversation, King acknowledged the “soul searching,” and “agonizing moments” he’d gone through since his most famous speech. He told Vanocur the “old optimism” of the civil rights movement was “a little superficial” and now needed to be tempered with “a solid realism.” And just 11 months before his death, he spoke bluntly about what he called the “difficult days ahead.” To mark the 50th anniversary of King’s speech, we present highlights from that exclusive, rarely seen interview, newly restored from the original color film.

A lot had changed for King since 1963. John F. Kennedy was gone. He had been impressed by King and had delivered his own historic, nationally televised speech on civil rights in June of that year. Kennedy’s successor Lyndon Johnson won passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, declaring in a memorable 1965 speech to Congress, “We shall overcome.” But by 1967 Johnson had taken the country deeply into the war in Vietnam.

King opposed that war – in fact he was one of its most prominent and vocal critics. Just four days before his interview with Vanocur, King delivered a scathing anti-war speech at New York’s Riverside Church, calling the U.S. government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” It cost him white support, and even angered many blacks, who felt King should confine his message to civil rights. And crucially, it poisoned his relationship with Johnson, who had been a key ally.

By 1967, King also had to contend with the fact that he was no longer the unchallenged leader of the civil rights movement. A new generation, impatient to build on his hard-won gains, increasingly rejected his message of non-violence – preaching “Black Power,” and encouraging oppressed blacks to fight back. In growing numbers, they did. And following the victories of the early Sixties in desegregating schools and lunch counters and securing the right to vote, King took on the far more difficult challenge of battling poverty and economic injustice. He brought his campaign to northern cities, where he was met with fierce, entrenched opposition.

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  • SdotP

    This part isn’t just a speech, it’s poetry:

    I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

    I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

    I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

    I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

    I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

    I have a dream today.

  • 007

    And 50 years later, the Voting Rights Act is neutered and states like Texas (as just one example) are busy disenfranchising minority voters.

  • Truth

    He became enemy #1 to the government when he finally woke up.

  • Moor#BpCoffins

    Give a damn about MLK. Its all about Malcolm X. The media won’t touch him though. Why? Because MLK preached what the white man wanted blacks to think and that’s non violence and was paid handsomely for it.

    • Playboy69

      @moor….Brother Moor U was not saying that yesterday tho….LMAO!

      • @moor you all fuked up in the head. I really think you lacked a real father figure growing up. Just because King preached non violence, that don’t mean the whites had him in their pockets. You sound dumb as hell.

        To be honest Brother Malcolm was wrong for publicly talking sh!t about MLK. He could have kept his opinions to himself and just did him. But that was pretty much the start of the “divide” in our race. Now look at us, beefing about everything. Music, Blogs, Reality Shows, Hell, even Spike Lee throwing shade at Tyler Perry and they black movie producers.

        • Moor#BpCoffins

          MLK was a coon. Anyone in the know, knows this. That’s why whites have given him his own holiday and many other accolades. Use your head and ppl been killing and beefing since the beginning of time.

          • Camaro434

            “MLK was a coon.” Wow. Just wow. It’s so easy to sit there and type your cowardly bullshit instead of getting out there and fighting for what you really believe in, isn’t it? It’s the ignorant, uninformed and uneducated NIGGERS such as yourself that hinder us. YOU, my house negro, are the biggest coon of them all. And the pitiful shame is that you don’t even know it.

          • @camaro aside from the “coon” reference you are dead on with this comment. And you want to know what else is real sad? These cats on here defending rappers, but can’t stand up come to the defense of an African American Icon like MLK.

            This fake b!tch moor shouldn’t be able to breath on this blog without someone coming @ his head just knowing how he feels about black people.

            Where the real cats at around here?

          • Moor#BpCoffins

            Not my words, Malcolm’s words. Did you brother to watch a min of the video I linked? How about the comment below. They all said what I said.

            MLK preached assimilation among your enemy while Malcolm wanted to be separate as a nation, a black nation because divided we’d always be conquered. Who was right? All our best and brightest leave the hood amd live among them, me included. You all are the victims of an Anglo American sub par, govt subbed education. Its so ingrained in your head that MLK was our hero that when anyone says different or opposite, he’s wrong. You’ll enjoy your ignorance because its Bliss.

  • jamarxyz

    King was very intelligent and fearless….it actually takes a strong man to be against violence…anybody can get mad and react to bullshit…patience kept me out of jail a few times….there’s a time for violence and there’s a time to use strategy…it’s like chess…you cant be in attack mode all the time….but I think if King had the chance to live longer he would have changed some of his ideas due to reality.

    • Moor#BpCoffins

      No. Malcolm was smarter. He rejected their bu11shit religion which they forced on us and he never preached violence. Malcolm preached self defense.

      • 1luv

        Look who came on top. Malcolm got killed by his own people because he realized that black were not the only Muslims on the planet. When he took that trip to Mecca, it open up his eyes on how backwards America was. Jamarxyz spoke some heavy wisdom but you too damn ignorant to realize that life is a game of chess and your sill ass is barley winning checkers.

        Tell me Moor, what do you do for the black community? What do you do to help out others? Do you even help out others or are you looking out only for your self? Anyone can take arms to defend your self but very few will actually take the time out of there lives to help out less miss unfortunate people.

        Instead of spending most of your time commenting on big asses, try doing some community service for a non profit organization. Oh, and before you go on a rant, make sure you through some wisdom and not that same old uncle Tom, bitch nigga. F nigga comebacks like you normally do!

        • Moor#BpCoffins

          @jamar you really believe the NOI was Malcolm’s largest enemy and no one else had anything to do with his killing? There weren’t any cops for blocks when that shooting started. And is there a difference between Allah and God? Both lead us right back to Egyptian mythology-sun gods-and have yet to be proven. Perhaps there is no god.

          • jamarxyz

            @Moor….1rst of all,i don’t trust no organized group when it comes to faith….I have my own personnel relationship with my higher power(or GOD)…the nation was shady…just look at their track record…Malcom killed,Wallace D,banned from the family…Clarence X,killed….and Khalid…anybody that tries to outshine Farrakhan mite end up on a hit list…anyway Allah is only arabaic for God….as far as there not being a God…look at how small the earth is compared to the still growing universe…we are like a speck of dust…there has to be a higher power than man…the blackman is the image of that most high power…this life is a passing phase..the blackman is a baby GOD.

      • jamarxyz

        @Moor….you rite….Malcolm was smart…he had faith in ALLAH…but King was smart too….he also believed in GOD.

  • Bob

    Now we know there is no god. And by now it should be clear to all you adults that those who win in this world are the ruthless, the violent and persistent. You want power you got to kill and fight for it. If “innocents” get killed along the way that’s collateral and inevitable. I don’t give a hoot about so called “non-violence”.

    • jamarxyz

      @bob….how many have you killed so far on your quest for power.

      • Moor#BpCoffins

        @Bob said it all, Malcolm did too although Malcolm still had a faith, I don’t. I also will never view MLK the way most blacks do.

        “By ANY means necessary” -Malcolm X