WG600; Stephen F. Somerstein / Getty; Lukas Maverick Greyson

Editor's Note: Read The Atlantic’s special coverage of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.

For you, son,
I dreamed a childhood
unburdened by hate;
a boyhood of adventure—
skinned knees and hoops,
first loves and small rebellions;
I dreamed you whole
and growing into your own
manhood, writing its definitions
with your daily being.
I dreamed you alive, living.

For you, America’s African heir,
I dreamed a future
of open doors, of opportunity
without oppression,
of affirmation and action,
I dreamed Oprah and Obama
I dreamed Colin and Condoleezza
I dreamed doctors and dancers,
lawyers and linebackers, models,
musicians, mechanics, preachers
and professors and police, authors,
activists, astronauts, even,
all black as Jesus is.

I dreamed you dapper—
the black skin of you
polished to glow; your curls,
your kinks, your locs,
your bald, your wild,
your freshly barbered—
all beautiful.

I dreamed you wearing whatever the hell you want
and not dying for it.

For you, brother,
I dreamed a world softened
by love, free from the fear
that makes too-early ancestors of our men;
turns our boys into targets,
headlines, and ghosts.

I had a dream
that my children will one day live
in a nation where they will not be judged
by the color of their skin
but by the content of their character.

Sweet song of my sorrow.
Sweet dream, deferred.
For you, gone one, I dreamed
justice—her scales tipped
away from your extinction,
her eyes and arms unbound
and open to you
at last.