Amanda Gorman Will Write the Foreword for a New Edition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream”

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Photo credit: Author photo: Danny Williams
Photo credit: Author photo: Danny Williams


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As the world’s oldest continuous democracy, the United States draws on indelible speeches as signposts toward a more perfect union, among them President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural. And then there’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream,” delivered with a kind of holy passion on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on a sultry August afternoon in 1963, and now an icon of American oratory and a benchmark for human rights around the world.

Next month a sumptuous hardcover edition of I Have a Dream will launch Harper’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Library imprint, a collaboration with the MLK Archives, destined to carry the torch of his writings to future generations in an array of formats and across the globe. The Dream Journal—a guidebook for reflection inspired by Dr. King—will come out simultaneously, enhancing an ambitious, aspirational project that’s been percolating for years. As Judith Curr, president and publisher of Harper One and its sister imprints, Amistad, Harper Via, and HarperCollins Español, notes, the imprint is modeled on a similar reimagining of Zora Neale Hurston’s oeuvre, 10 classics repackaged with striking original designs by artists of color, representing the author at different moments in her singular career. Impressed by the look and feel Harper had created for Hurston, the King Estate approached the Harper, already the literary and “spiritual home” for Dr. King’s A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches.

Amanda Gorman, who electrified us all with her poem at President Biden’s inauguration, has contributed a soaring foreword to the series’ début, lauding Dr. King’s command of evangelical cadences and rhetorical devices, echoed in her own bestselling work. As Gorman observes, the speech is itself a monument, “albeit made of sentences and not stone”—a foundation for reckonings past, present, and future, captured in thrilling language: the fierce urgency of Now; the content of their character; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia, let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. The publication of I Have a Dream will commemorate the Juneteenth holiday, which Harper is observing for the first time; Spanish, Portuguese, French, and German translations will appear later this year, and the audio version features Gorman, the actor Blair Underwood, and Dr. King’s original 1963 presentation.

The imprint’s colophon is an incomplete circle, suggesting Dr. King’s vision for a just and equitable society remains unfulfilled. The volume’s interior design is both intimate and innovative: Each page spotlights a line or lines beautifully tailored to his Dr. King’s cadences, compelling readers to see and hear it anew, in its totality. Five more speeches are in the pipeline, targeted for the MLK holiday in January—“The American Dream,” “Our God Is Marching On,” “Beyond Vietnam,” “The Other America,” and “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”—along with a guide to reading and mulling these canonical speeches. As with I Have a Dream, each hardcover will include a foreword by a younger, contemporary writer.

Clear your shelves for this reimagining of a preeminent American life.

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