What Happened to the Original Copy of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” Speech?

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Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most famous in American history. On August 28, 1963, King addressed nearly 250,000 people from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

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When King was finished speaking, he stepped away from the podium and folded the papers containing his speech. George Raveling was a 26-year-old former college basketball player who was asked to provide extra security around King on the day of the historic speech.

Raveling was moved by King’s words, and after the address, he asked King if he could have the papers containing the legendary speech. Without hesitation, King handed over the documents to Raveling, who stuck the three sheets of paper into a Harry Truman biography. The papers stayed tucked away in that book for nearly three decades, as Raveling embarked on an impressive career coaching college basketball.

In 1984, Raveling was coaching at the University of Iowa when he was interviewed by a writer for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. The writer brought up the 1963 March on Washington, and Raveling told him, “You know, I’ve got a copy of that speech.” Raveling proceeded to dig the papers out of the Harry Truman biography to show the reporter. The reporter wrote a story about Raveling’s connection to the famous speech and had the papers framed for him.

Raveling displayed the framed papers in his house for a few years before he finally decided to put them in a bank vault due to their potential value. Raveling has received many offers for the speech – one for $3 million – but has decided to hang on to the incredible piece of American history for now (though he has talked with museums and universities about possibly displaying King’s papers).

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Raveling said,

“That to me is something I’ll always be able to look back and say I was there. And not only out there in that arena of people, but to be within touching distance of him. That’s like when you’re 80 or 90 years old you can look back and say ‘I was in touching distance of Abraham Lincoln when he made the Gettysburg Address.’”

Raveling added, “I have no idea why I even asked him for the speech. But I’m sure glad that I did.”

Watch a video of the incredible speech below.

h/t: Mental Floss

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