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A Dream Speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Essay by   •  July 31, 2011  •  Presentation or Speech  •  541 Words (3 Pages)  •  1,843 Views

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"I Have a Dream" is a 17-minute public speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered on August 28, 1963, in which he called for racial equality and an end to discrimination. The speech, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement. Delivered to over 200,000 civil rights supporters,[1] the speech was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century by a 1999 poll of scholars of public address.[2] According to U.S. Representative John Lewis, who also spoke that day as the President of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, "Dr. King had the power, the ability, and the capacity to transform those steps on the Lincoln Memorial into a monumental area that will forever be recognized. By speaking the way he did, he educated, he inspired, he informed not just the people there, but people throughout America and unborn generations."[3]

At the end of the speech, King departed from his prepared text for a partly improvised peroration on the theme of "I have a dream", possibly prompted by Mahalia Jackson's cry, "Tell them about the dream, Martin!"[4] He had first delivered a speech incorporating some of the same sections in Detroit in June 1963, when he marched on Woodward Avenue with Walter Reuther and the Reverend C. L. Franklin, and had rehearsed other parts.[5]

Widely hailed as a masterpiece of rhetoric, Martin Luther King's speech resembles the style of a Baptist sermon (King himself was a Baptist minister). It appeals to such iconic and widely respected sources as the Bible and invokes the United States Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the United States Constitution. Early in his speech King alludes to Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address by saying "Five score years ago..." Biblical allusions are also prevalent. For example, King alludes to Psalm 30:5[6] in the second stanza of the speech. He says in reference to the abolition of slavery articulated in the Emancipation Proclamation, "It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity." Another Biblical allusion is found in King's tenth stanza: "No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." This is an allusion to Amos 5:24.[7] King also quotes from Isaiah 40:4-5--"I have a dream that every valley shall be exalted..."[8] Additionally, King alludes to the opening lines of Shakespeare's "Richard III" when he remarks, "this sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn..."

Anaphora, the repetition of a phrase at the beginning of sentences, is a rhetorical tool employed throughout the speech. An example of anaphora is found early as King urges

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