Monday, April 30, 2012

Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation by Clarence B. Jones, Stuart Connelly

I got this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers and here is my review

Book Summary (from

“I have a dream.” When those words were spoken on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, the crowd stood, electrified, as Martin Luther King, Jr. brought the plight of African Americans to the public consciousness and firmly established himself as one of the greatest orators of all time. Behind the Dream is a thrilling, behind-the-scenes account of the weeks leading up to the great event, as told by Clarence Jones, co-writer of the speech and close confidant to King. Jones was there, on the road, collaborating with the great minds of the time, and hammering out the ideas and the speech that would shape the civil rights movement and inspire Americans for years to come

My Review

Reading this book I came to realize how little I knew about Martin Luther King and the March. I learn about the movement in my History of the World class, back in school, and then read a little bit more up to the level of general culture, but that was about it. Then, after I read The Help by Kathryn Stockett, I wanted to know more, and luckily for me, this book became available in the LTER giveaway and I got it!

Even though is a non-fiction book, the events are so beautifully told that I felt I was going deep in another world, and then the author just caught me:

                “Oh, but you have to read the book”

When comparing how you had to be there to understand the extent of the event. Anyone using such a phrase will have my attention.

I learn that the speech was actually copyrighted, I had no idea about this, but reading about it, it just made sense. I learn about how this speech was partially made in the moment, out of the inspiration of a great man, and how he let everyone around him to be part of this moment. Also that Bob Dylan was there along with Joan Baez

There were a couple of sentences that stayed with me:

                “Ideas are the change agents of our world, and words are the building blocks of those ideas”

And Jones certainly has his way with words. He built a really nice book, well researched (with all the references that make the scientist in me giggle knowing that a sentence is well supported) and he also has a way with ideas. The way he described the whole three days right before and the day of The March, really covers you, transporting you to the moment where MLK addresses the public and changes, with nothing else but words and himself, the course of the movement.  The descriptions, the familiar tone, it gave me the same feeling I had when sitting next to my grandfather while he told me stories of his own struggle. 

                “My wish for every reader of this book […] is for you to remember and believe that nothing is set in stone. Change can happen, and knowing that is empowering”

It certainly is, it gives you power to believe that this too shall pass, that this can AND will be better, that it might take a while, but, to quote Dylan, times are changing.

It is sad to read and acknowledge the fact that they hadn’t changed as fast as they could, for every step forward it seems that hidden groups take 2 steps back, and when they stop hiding make so much noise that it feels like the steps we made before where in circles. 

Only one thing I didn’t like about the book, but this is a personal thing. The fact that he compares the “Occupy Wall Street” movement to the “Arab Spring”. I understand why someone would see a resemblance, but for me, the reasons underlying both movements are utterly different, even though they are both pushing for a change in society. This in no way damages the quality of the book to my eyes, it is a very good book, is just a point where Mr. Jones and I do not agree.

I believe, if you are interested in the Movement, or just if you want to learn a little bit more about that day this is the book for you.

I'm adding the link of the speech, just in case you want to listen to it, which I'm doing as I write:

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