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Congresswoman remembers hearing Dr. King's speech on the National Mall

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964.
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964.
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You’re likely to hear one speech quite often in the next few days as the nation observes the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: the one he delivered from the Lincoln Memorial at the end of the March on Washington. It’s better known as the “I have a dream” speech. One Congresswoman was there that day.

In 1963, Eleanor Holmes Norton was a law student and a member of SNCC – the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

She says Dr. King’s passion and intelligence impressed young people like her.

"He was not just another Southern Baptist preacher," she says. His speech "was full of allusions. Remember, we were in college – it was full of the kind of allusions and metaphors and love. And the crowd was absolutely thunderstruck! That’s the only word for it. They expected a wonderful speech, but none of us expected to be carried away on a cloud."

One of the things Dr. King fought for was voting rights for African Americans. Today, Holmes Norton is a Democratic Congresswoman who represents the District of Columbia — which is denied a vote in Congress.

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