Joan Baez performed first and sang "Oh Freedom," Odetta followed and then, Peter,Paul and Mary sang "If I had a Hammer and then they were joined by Bob Dylan on "Blowin' in the Wind." King's speech was scheduled after Mahalia Jackson's performance of "I Been 'Buked and I Been Scorned." It's said that Dr. King was so moved by Mahalia Jackson's performance he asked her that day to perform at his funeral. Sadly, she did five years later.
By the time King stepped up to the microphone, the energy of that day was palpable. So much so, that King began to improvise his scheduled four minute speech. His speech would last more than fifteen minutes and take on the cadence of a sermon. As he searched for a way to pull it to a close, he heard Mahalia Jackson behind him. She had heard him speak many times and knew that something was missing, she yelled out "Tell them about the dream, Martin." And so he did:
I have a dream that one day on the red fields of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down at the table of brotherhood... I have a dream my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. I have a dream today..."
And so one of the most famous speeches of our times was improvised brilliantly. Thank you Dr. King.