King Maker

During demonstrations in Birmingham, Martin Luther King Jr. took perhaps the most fateful decision made during the civil rights era

On April 12, 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr., faced the prospect of failure in his most significant civil rights campaign. For all his generally acknowledged leadership in the escalating southern black protest movement, King had actually never initiated a major demonstration. Read more »

Lincoln The Orator

Our most talented writer-president always wrote his own material and sweated hours over it

On February 27, 1860, Abraham Lincoln stood before a crowd of 1,500 at Cooper Union Hall in New York City. Until he had declared his candidacy for President of the United States, the former one-term Congressman had drawn little attention outside his home state of Illinois. Now the rail-thin prairie lawyer attracted a sizeable audience, including the “pick and flower of New York culture,” along with an army of journalists eager to record and reprint his words. Read more »

King, Obama, And The Great American Dialogue

What would Martin Luther King Jr.—had he been alive today—thought of our latest president’s oratory?

Standing in the cold with 2 million others near the Capitol as Barack Obama delivered his inaugural address, I couldn’t help but recall another crowded day 45 years earlier, when I heard Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” oration at the other end of the National Mall, in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Read more »

Robert Ingersoll The Illustrious Infidel

He built a career and a fortune out of shocking his fellow Americans

Whatever town he was lecturing in—Chicago or Cheyenne, New York or Denver—Robert Green Ingersoll packed the house. When the seats were full, people would stand in the aisles, on the stage, in the wings. When the box office ran out of tickets, eager crowds would still find a way in, usually by paying scalpers three or four times the regular admission rate. Read more »

The Untold Delights Of Duluth

A few dazzling words about that emerging metropolis, delivered in 1871 by Congressman J. Proctor Knott. Edited for 1971 visitors by David G. McCullough

On January 27, 1871, a forty-year-old congressman from Kentucky sought recognition on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Upon being recognized by the Speaker, the Honorable James G. Blame, the congressman expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of time he had been allotted on past occasions and so requested, and was granted, one full, uninterrupted half hour to speak his mind. The congressman was a Democrat, an able lawyer, ambitious, learned in the classics, and generally well liked by his colleagues.Read more »