King used the phrase “I have a dream” eight times in his address to about 2,000 people at Booker T. Washington High School in Rocky Mount, eight months before electrifying the nation with the same words at the March on Washington.
He also referred to “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners,” saying he dreamed they would “meet at the table of brotherhood.” On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King changed that to “sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” In both speeches, “Let Freedom Ring” served as his rallying cry.
“It’s not so much the message of a man,” the Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, said Tuesday. “It’s the message of a movement, which is why he kept delivering it. It proves once again that the ‘I have a dream’ portion was not a good climax to a speech for mere applause, but an enduring call to hopeful resistance and a nonviolent challenge to injustice.”