Fifty-seven years later, powerful words from Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, “I have a dream,” remain in the public consciousness, inspiring generations of younger Americans. King’s preaching interpreted the gospel to address black misery as well as bring the message of Christian hope.

On the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, scholar Kenyatta R. Gilbert, who studies African-American preaching, writes that King used a “prophetic voice” that he learned from black preachers responding to the challenges of an oppressed community. He brought a hopeful voice to human tragedy.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the Freedom March on Washington in 1963. Bettmann/Contributor via Getty images

How a heritage of black preaching shaped MLK’s voice in calling for justice

Kenyatta R. Gilbert, Howard University

A long heritage of black preachers who played an important role for enslaved people shaped Martin Luther King Jr.'s moral and ethical vision.

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