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Since Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, some scholars have privately suspected that King’s “dream” was connected to Langston Hughes’s poetry. Drawing on archival materials, including notes, correspondence, and marginalia, W. Jason Miller provides a completely original and compelling argument that Hughes’s influence on King’s rhetoric was, in fact, evident in more than just the one famous speech.

King’s staff had been wiretapped by J. Edgar Hoover and suffered accusations of communist influence, so quoting or naming the leader of the Harlem Renaissance—who had his own reputation as a communist—would only have intensified the threats against the civil rights activist. Thus, the link was purposefully veiled through careful allusions in King’s orations. In Origins of the Dream, Miller lifts that veil and shows how Hughes’s revolutionary poetry became a measurable inflection in King’s voice. He contends that by employing Hughes’s metaphors in his speeches, King negotiated a political climate that sought to silence the poet’s subversive voice. By separating Hughes’s identity from his poems, King helped the nation unconsciously embrace the incendiary ideas behind his poetry.

Table of Contents

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  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page, Copyright
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  1. Contents
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  1. List of Figures
  2. p. vi
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. vii-x
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  1. Introduction: Giving New Validity to Old Forms
  2. pp. 1-14
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  1. 1. "Mother to Son": The Rise, Removal, and Return of Hughes
  2. pp. 15-31
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  1. 2. Black and Red: Accusations of Subversiveness
  2. pp. 32-54
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  1. 3. King and Poetry: Quotations, Revisions, and Unsolicited Poems
  2. pp. 55-81
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  1. 4. "Dream Deferred": King's Use of Hughes's Most Popular Poem
  2. pp. 82-107
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  1. 5. "Poem for a Man": King's Unusual Request
  2. pp. 108-121
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  1. 6. " Youth": Hughes's Poem and King's Chiasmus
  2. pp. 122-141
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  1. 7. "I Dream a World": Rewriting Hughes's Signature Poem
  2. pp. 142-159
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  1. 8. "I Have a Dream": King Speaks in Rocky Mount
  2. pp. 160-175
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  1. 9. " The Psalm of Brotherhood": King at Detroit's March for Jobs
  2. pp. 176-194
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  1. 10. The March on Washington: Veiling Hughes's Poetry
  2. pp. 195-204
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  1. Conclusion: Extending the Dream
  2. pp. 205-216
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 217-234
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  1. Bibliography
  2. pp. 235-240
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 241-250
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