This Week In History: August 27-September 2


This week in history: “I Have A Dream” orated at the Lincoln Memorial, Bobby Fischer wins “Match of the Century,” and J.R.R. Tolkien dies. Read more below and dive deeper with The Great Courses Plus.

August 28, 1963 – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Delivers his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech

By Various (National Archives) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Today in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would deliver his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech while standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. The culmination of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, it was delivered to over 250,000 marchers and is considered to be one of the defining moments of the Civil Rights Movement. One of the greatest pieces of rhetoric in history, Dr. King threaded references to many major documents in US History throughout the speech, including the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation. Following the speech, Dr. King would be TIME Magazine’s Man of the Year, and become the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

Learn more about this historic speech in The Art of Public Speaking


September 1, 1972 – Bobby Fischer becomes World Chess Champion

American chess player Bobby Fischer would play his historic match against Russian chessmaster Boris Spassky in Reykjavík, Iceland on this day in 1972. Billed as the “Match of the Century” it would receive unprecedented media coverage in both the United States and abroad, and be the first chess match to be broadcasted on American prime-time television. A chess prodigy from an early age, Fischer would quickly obtain the title of grandmaster and is considered by master chess players to be one of the best, if not the best chess player in history. An erratic individual, Fischer would refuse to defend his world title the following year and would lead a tumultuous life until his death in 2008.

Learn more about chess from a master in How to Play Chess: Lessons From an International Master

September 2, 1973 – J.R.R. Tolkien Dies

Beren and Luthien buried together On the grave of JRR Tolkien and his wife Edith Mary (Pratt), their respective names Beren and Luthien are those of the lovers in The Silmarillion. Their fictional romance deliberately echoed the real life devotion of the Tolkiens. Credit: ceridwen via Wikimedia Commons

Hailed as the father of modern high fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, would die on this day in 1973. Trained as a linguist, Tolkien developed a series of dialects and writing conventions for use in his fictional world of Middle-Earth; these, combined with the richly detailed history collected in the Silmarillion, helped to create a sense of realism never before seen in the fantasy genre. Unlike most authors, Tolkien’s works would become increasingly popular in his lifetime, and his close friend C.S. Lewis would even nominate him for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1961. He would die at the age of 81 and be buried with his wife in Wolvercote Cemetery in Oxford.

Learn more about Tolkien’s works in Heroes and Legends: The Most Influential Characters of Literature