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Martin Luther King workshopped his 'I have a dream' speech in Seattle

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Martin Luther King in Seattle in 1961

King was 32 years old when he came to Seattle. He was small-framed – several who met him would note this – charismatic, and considered radical.

He was known for leading boycotts down South, but this Northwest visit was before the March on Washington, the “I Have a Dream” speech and the Nobel Peace Prize. Still, he drew thousands.

There are no known transcriptions of the speeches he gave in Seattle, but his address to Garfield High School students, titled “The American dream,” has several lines that would make their way into the famous “I have a dream” speech two years later, in 1963.

On Nov. 8, 1961, a Wednesday, Martin Luther King Jr. checked into the Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle.

The next day, King addressed 2,000 students in Meany Hall at the University of Washington. The hall was so packed that campus police had to close it “because of extreme overflow,” according to a typed student account in the university archives.


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