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John Lewis’ “We Must Free Ourselves”

The then 23-year-old’s speech at the March on Washington in August 1963 often plays second fiddle to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech but the living icon’s speech made a huge impact that day.

The revolution is at hand, and we must free ourselves of the chains of political and economic slavery.  The non-violent revolution is saying, “We will not wait for the courts to act, for we have been waiting for hundreds of years.  We will not wait for the President, the Justice Department, nor Congress, but we will take matters into our own hands and create a source of power, outside any national structure that could and would assure us a victory.”  To those who have said, “Be Patient and Wait,” we must say that, “Patience is a dirty and nasty word.”  We cannot be patient, we do not want to be free gradually, we want our freedom, and we want it now.  We cannot depend on any political party, for freedom, and we want it now.  We cannot depend on any political party, for both the Democrats and the Republicans have betrayed the basic principles of the Declaration of Independence.

Shirley Chisholm’s Address to U.S. House of Representatives on Equal Rights for Women in May 1969

Mr.Speaker, when a young woman graduates from college and starts looking for a job, she is likely to have a frustrating and even demeaning experience ahead of her. If she walks into an office for an interview, the first question she will be asked is, “Do you type?”

There is a calculated system of prejudice that lies unspoken behind that question. Why is it acceptable for women to be secretaries, librarians, and teachers, but totally unacceptable for them to be managers, administrators, doctors, lawyers, and Members of Congress.

The unspoken assumption is that women are different. They do not have executive ability orderly minds, stability, leadership skills, and they are too emotional.

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10 Speeches That Shifted Society  was originally published on

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