George Raveling and the “I Have a Dream” Speech

August 27th, 2013

On August 28, 1963, young volunteer George Raveling stood near Martin Luther King Jr. at the podium for his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. After the speech, Raveling was given a piece of history—King’s personal copy of the speech—and recently spoke to CBS News about his experience at the March on Washington and the legacy of King’s remarks.

Raveling’s journey to the March on Washington was the result of happenstance. Staying at a friend’s house in Delaware, Raveling watched evening news coverage of the upcoming march, but planned not to attend. When his friend’s father suggested it was important that the two young men be a part of the movement, they decided to venture to Washington, DC the night before the march. Upon arrival in the city they ran into an organizer who asked if the men would be interested in volunteering, and they were promptly placed in charge of security around the main podium, just a few feet from the civil rights leaders who spoke.   

After the “I Have a Dream” speech, Raveling approached King in hopes of acquiring a memento from his time at the march:

I walked over, and he was just foldin’ . . . the paper. And I said, ‘Dr. King, can I have that copy of the speech?’ And he—he turned and handed it to me. Just as he did, a rabbi on the other side came up to congratulate him, and it was over. And—and it happened that quick.

For nearly 20 years, Raveling kept the speech tucked inside a book in his basement, and it was only after a local reporter asked him about the Civil Rights Movement that it dawned on Raveling that his memento was so significant. Raveling went on to have a successful career as a college basketball coach, and now keeps the historic speech protected in a bank vault, and has arranged for it to be passed down to his son upon Raveling’s death.

For more on the Civil Rights Movement, check out our “The Meaning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day” ebook, full of stories, speeches, and songs honoring the movement.

Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

Tags: , , ,