Essay on Martin Luther King and 'I Have a Dream' Summary

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Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15th,1929, and passed April 4, 1968. He was an American Baptist priest and dissident who turned into the most noticeable representative and pioneer in the American social liberties development from 1955 until his death in 1968. King progressed social liberties through peacefulness and common insubordination, propelled by his Christian convictions and the peaceful activism that was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. He was the child of early social liberties lobbyist and pastor Martin Luther King Jr.

In this essay, I will be focusing on 3 different speeches and explaining how he promoted social change throughout his speech using rhetorical devices such as; repetition, metaphors, and allusions. The speeches I will be looking at are ‘I Have a Dream’, ‘Loving Your Enemies’, and ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’.

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King uses a lot of rhetorical devices to persuade people and manipulate them into believing him and being on his side, this is what makes him such a good spokesperson as well as a great social activist. By being able to manipulate and convince people to a certain side he gains more confidence in himself which can then also help with him speaking out to people. King’s speech ‘I Have A Dream’ which took place in Washington DC on August 28, 1963, is one of the founding moments of the civil rights movement and one of the most famous speeches in American history, a cry for dignity and democracy. The critical message in the speech is that all individuals are made equivalent and, albeit not the situation in America at that point, King felt it should be the situation for what's to come. He contended energetically and capably. 'Manacles of segregation and chains of discrimination.” Using metaphors, King utilizes this analogy to portray to the crowd that even after the liberation declaration which implied that all slaves be free and treated equivalently isn't being dealt with equivalently and it is similar to being a slave with loads on him. He uses alliteration throughout his speech to get the attention of the audience, as the way the lines are said sounds lyrical. “Rise from the dark and desolate” In this line that he said I think he was trying to convey the “light”, to get up and move forward from the past darkness that a person may be living in. He also uses alliteration when he says “trials and tribulations” This phrase means hardship or a problem that may test one's courage, the two T’s that come right after each other give the audience something a little playful, as alliteration is often melodic. King uses parallelism to give his speech rhythm and a nice memory for the audience, it also makes it engaging which draws the audience in “We will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together”. When King says “free at last” he uses allusion, By using allusion he's giving the audience a chance to make their own direct connection of “free at last” which can make the audience feel more engaged. “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today…” King alludes to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, in this manner stimulating a feeling of nationalism in his audience members. The utilization assuming that initial line likewise lays out a norm of assumption for the remainder of his discourse. He involves a similar way of opening as did the Gettysburg address he situates a correlation between that noteworthy speech and his own promptly setting the assumption that his speech is just about as great and strong as Lincoln's. “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked” King uses amplification in this line, getting his point across by repeating the explanation of the problem which gives his line a lot more power and affects the audience. Toward the end of the speech, King repeats the opening clauses of successive sentences with the phrase “I have a dream” He utilizes anaphora causing a lingering effect that resonates in the listener’s mind. Throughout this speech, King continues to use strong language and rhetorical devices to bring his point across to the audience and as he uses rhetorical devices it gives him the power to manipulate his words and draw the audience in which can help him promote social change.


In his speech ‘Loving Your Enemies’ he preaches on the commandment of Jesus to love our enemies implying that while this is a daunting task, it is both possible and necessary for one to act as a good Christian or a good human being. The speech took place on November 17, 1957, in Montgomery, Ala, his target audience was mostly churchgoers who believed in God and supported King's great black movement. King lectures on Jesus' edict to cherish our foes and proposes that while this is an extremely challenging thing to do, it is both conceivable and fundamental for one to live as a decent Christian or a decent individual. It is a brilliant illustration of the way of thinking of Nonviolence and Christian pacifism. In his speech, he says “painfully hard, pressingly hard” he uses repetition in this line, repetition is a strong way to get a message across because as you repeat the same word or phrase over and over again it gets stuck into the audience's head. “thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thin enemy” he uses antithesis to create contrast in his speech and bring in the audience's attention as this will help him convey the message he wants to. He uses a rhetorical question “How do you go about loving your enemies?” This is a great way to engage with the audience, making them subconsciously answer his question and feel a part of his speech and they are able to interact with him. “The Doctor said it would be best for me to stay in bed this morning” It directly addresses the audience and brings up past notes that he has mentioned before. “You must begin by analyzing yourself” By saying this it conveys to the audience that whether or not they like or dislike a person it doesn’t hurt to approach them with love and positive energy, it gives the audience hope to form love around the world. As King uses rhetorical devices he can easily cajole the audience and can make a change as he promotes a new social aspect.

King’s last speech was ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’; it was on April 3, 1968, at Mason Temple in Memphis. It was the day before he was assassinated, he gave this speech in defense of protesting sanitation workers. On February 12, 1968, 1,300 African-American sanitation workers in Memphis went on strike in response to inadequate working conditions and low pay. They advocated for financial justice for employees of color as part of the civil rights movement. King advocates for peace, economic action, boycotts, and nonviolent protest. “Something is happening; something is happening in Memphis; something is happening in our world” he uses parallelism, by doing this he implants the message into the audience's head trying to get their attention with the situation that has been addressed. He uses repetition as he says “I would” at the beginning of a new point that he would make in the first few parts of his speech. This gives him power, however, as he says “I would” it also implies that he ‘can’t’ as this can later lead on to the part of his speech where he talks about untimely death, his untimely death. “I can remember--I can remember” he uses repetition, however, between the lines he pauses creating a dramatic effect that can lure the audience in. As King uses strong rhetorical devices he is able to draw the audience in.

King was able to successfully inspire and encourage the crowd to seek freedom for all American citizens by referring to all three rhetorical components, pathos, logos, and ethos. He had a huge influence on American society during the 50s and 60s. His belief in nonviolent protest set the tone for the movement he was creating. In his speech, he incorporates Western history with Christianity. He takes quotations out of the bible which helps him promote social change, as he incorporates the beliefs of others within his speech.

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