The Surprising Story Behind MLK’s ‘Dream Speech’

Original reporting by CBS Sunday Morning

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I Have a Dream Speech” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago, all those present were witnessing something of epic historical significance. But only one of them went home with this unique piece of history: the written copy of the speech.

“I walked over, and [Dr. King] was just folding… the paper. And I said, ‘Dr. King, can I have that copy of the speech,'” George Ravelin told CBS Sunday Morning about that day in 1963. “And he turned and handed it to me. Just as he did, a rabbi on the other side came up to congratulate him, and it was over. And it happened that quick.”

Raveling, then a 26-year-old who’d volunteered to do security and ended up near the podium, tucked the pages away in an autobiography of Harry Truman until 1984, when he was interviewed about being the first African American head basketball coach at the University of Iowa and talked about his experiences during the Civil Rights Movement. The written speech, which never actually says the words “I have a dream” because that part was ad libbed, was soon framed and safely put away in a bank vault.

Raveling says he plans to pass the historical documents down to his son upon his death, with the intention that it never be sold.

“The speech belongs to America, the speech belongs to Black folks,” said Raveling. “It doesn’t belong to me, and it would be sacrilegious of me to try and sell it to profit from it… And everything in life you can’t equate in money.”

This article has been edited.