The Willard InterContinental, Washington DC

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The “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. before a crowd of some 250,000 people at the 1963 March on Washington, remains one of the most famous speeches in history. Seamlessly weaving in references to the U.S. Constitution, the Bible, and other universally recognized themes, Dr. King illuminated the struggles long suffered by African Americans. It is truly a wonder, then, how such a masterfully composed speech was written only the night before.



Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the March on Washington on August 27, 1963.


Lobby of The Willard Intercontinental Hotel in the 1960s.

On the night of August 27, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spent several hours sitting in the lobby of the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington DC. With him were a team of advisors, working tirelessly to write (and whittle down) his speech. Unlike his fellow speakers, King did not write his speech in advance, but in fact didn’t even sit down to write it until arriving at the hotel. He had a strict time limit consider, as each speaker was allotted eight minutes to address the crowd. King and his advisors exchanged suggestions back and forth with King writing it, his secretary typing it, and King making even more changes in the margins. In order to help everyone’s concentration, Dr. Clarence B. Jones, one of King’s political advisors, paid some of the hotel staff to create a secluded area hidden by plants in the Lobby. According to Andrew Young, King’s personal assistant, King stayed up all night perfecting the speech, “You’d look in the margin and see as many as four or five different words in one place, where he crossed it out, selected another one. He was much more particular about the language than he’d ever been before.”



Official program for the "March On Washington For Jobs And Freedom".

The next morning, August 28, 1963, Dr. King left the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, and participated in the mile-long march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. While initially sticking to his written text, King ended up going off-script in order to share his “dream” with the crowd of over 250,000. This was not the first time King had used his “I have a dream” mantra, in fact he had used the segment two months prior in Detroit. But those words took on an even greater meaning when they echoed across the National Mall that day.



Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Today, the Willard Intercontinental Hotel proudly lists Dr. King’s late night writing session as yet another prominent moment in American history that took place within its walls.

This has been a Historic Hotels History Mystery.
For more fun facts, trivia, and historic highlights, check out our History Mystery pages for Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. Subscribe to our newsletter below and follow us on social media to play along.

Question: At which hotel did Martin Luther King Jr. write his “I have a dream” speech?

  1. The Peabody Memphis
  2. The Willard Intercontinental Hotel
  3. The Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection
  4. Williamsburg Inn
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