Americans Divided On Progress Made Since 'I Have A Dream' Speech

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Jan 16, 2024 - 12:30 AM

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday in the United States that honors the memory of the influential civil rights activist and baptist minister who called for an end to racial segregation through non-violence.

The civil rights leader's assassination in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, caused an international outcry at the time. His campaign of non-violent resistance to further equal rights for all citizens in the United States, no matter the color of their skin, had made him one of the most iconic and popular leaders in American history.

As Statista's Katharina Buchholz reports, King was a Baptist minister and drew on his faith for his campaigns. He held his best known and often quoted speech "I Have A Dream" at the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963 as part of the March on Washington, with a quarter of a million people attending. The father of four children he had with his wife Coretta Scott King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a year later, in 1964.

He was gunned down by convicted criminal James Earl Ray who was apprehended two months after King's murder and served 29 years in prison until his death. The FBI under its notorious director J. Edgar Hoover tried to brand King a communist and had him observed. King forcefully denied having anything to do with the communist movement, which by default is staunchly atheist.

Infographic: Facts About Martin Luther King Jr. | Statista

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It's six decades since King delivered the world-changing “I have a dream” speech and U.S. adults have mixed feelings over the progress made towards racial equality in the country.

As Statista's Anna Fleck points out, according to a poll taken by the Pew Research Center in April, while 52 percent of respondents thought that either a "fair amount" or a "great deal" of progress has been made in the time that lapsed, a third said that there has been "some progress" and 15 percent said that there has been either "not much" or none at all.

Infographic: Americans Divided on Progress Made Since March on Washington | Statista

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Tellingly, when looking at the breakdown by race, wide disparities still exist.

As the chart above shows, white respondents were twice as likely to say a “fair amount” or a “great deal” of progress had been made than Black respondents, signalling to an imbalance in perceptions between white respondents who think progress has been made, and Black respondents who are more affected by racial inequality and say otherwise.

There are differences along party lines too. According to Pew Research Center, 67 percent of Republicans or Republican-leaning voters thought that a great deal or a fair amount of progress had been made since the March on Washington, while the share of Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters holding the same opinion stood at 38 percent.