January 13, 2012 by Reader's Connection
Clarence B. Jones was Martin Luther King´s attorney, and one of his strategists and confidants. Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation is Jones’s account of the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom, and of how one of our most celebrated speeches came to be.
That speech is so much a part of our national memory that readers may smile when they read about the jockeying of other men scheduled to speak that day, who didn’t want King to have a longer time slot, or to necessarily be the last speaker.
Jones is a serious man with some serious opinions (Barack Obama gets a pretty low grade), but he can be funny even when he’s angry. He writes of how the March’s leaders learned, years later, that their every step was being followed illegally by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI–including the decision that, in the days leading up to the March, King would be staying in Jones’s house in the Bronx.
The plan was that no one from the outside world should be able to penetrate Martin’s getaway, and we managed to pull that off–sort of. According to a memo from the Atlanta field office of the FBI to J. Edgar Hoover: “Jones states that only four individuals will know where King will be staying.” Yes, four individuals and the entire justice department.
Jones is also funny when he imagines the annoyance of journalists who were working with copies of King’s speech that had been printed ahead of time, only to have King extemporaneously–at Mahalia Jackson’s suggestion–launch into the speech’s most famous (“I have a dream”) passage.
Not quite 200 pages long, Behind the Dream is quick and personal, told from a unique point of view.