King was winding up what would have been a well-received but, by his
standards, fairly unremarkable oration. "Go back to Mississippi, go back
to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to
Louisiana," he said. Then, behind him, Mahalia Jackson cried out: "Tell
'em about the dream, Martin." Jackson had a particularly intimate
emotional relationship with King, who when he felt down would call her
for some "gospel musical therapy".
"She was his favourite gospel singer, and he would ask her to sing
The Old Rugged Cross or Jesus Met The Woman At The Well down the phone,"
Jones explains. Jackson had seen him deliver the dream refrain in
Detroit in June and clearly it had moved her.
"Go back to the slums and ghettoes of our northern cities, knowing
that somehow this situation can and will be changed," King said. Jackson
shouted again: "Tell 'em about the dream." "Let us not wallow in the
valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends." Then King grabbed
the podium and set his prepared text to his left. "When he was reading
from his text, he stood like a lecturer," Jones says. "But from the
moment he set that text aside, he took on the stance of a Baptist
preacher." Jones turned to the person standing next to him and said:
"Those people don't know it, but they're about to go to church."
A smattering of applause filled a pause more pregnant than most.
"So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream."
"Aw, shit," Walker said. "He's using the dream."