Martin Luther King's Role In The Independence Of African Americans

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No matter how many years past since the horrific treatment of African American was considered normal, there seems to always be another bar that has to be raised to make things right for African Americans. The Emancipation Proclamation being signed was the beginning of a long journey that people of color had to go through to get the justice that they deserve, though America has made it a long way from where it once started.

Martin Luther King’s dream has finally come true; schools all over the United States are desegregated and are mixed with all races, but there is still a lot of progress that needs to be done with systemic racism in our schools, government, and law enforcement. In this inspirational speech Martin Luther King Jr. uses the pathos, ethos, logos, and many other figurative language to bring out the crowds emotions, to get them to relate to what he is saying, and to convince the men in congress that change is inevitable. This speech took place at the end of this grand March on Washington that was for freedom and jobs for people of all color where “about 250,000 people attended”(; there were many other speakers and performers as well. The march was planned during the heat of the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 where multiple occasions of police brutality on peaceful protestors in Birmingham, Alabama had taken place within the past year.

It was originally planned to end the march at the capital, but the civil rights leaders agreed to move the location to the Lincoln Memorial. Which was perfectly fitting because Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation one hundred years earlier in 1863 at the end of the civil war that freed all of the slaves. All of the other speakers wanted to go first in fear of the media leaving by the time it was the end of the rally, so Martin Luther King did his speech last where he at first sticks to his original script, but towards the end he starts to improvise and starts referencing this dream that he has. Which is one of the most famous parts of the speech.

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Martin Luther King’s goal with this speech was to persuade his audiences to demand racial justice for the mistreated African Americans, and to stand up together for all rights that are guaranteed to them in the constitution. He does this with his many rhetorical devices and figurative language like simile, metaphor, and repetition to better get his emotions out in a more abstract way. Throughout the essay, King uses “we” many times, and in doing so he is treating his diverse audience as one whole, to be all-inclusive with everyone, and to develop a degree of trust with the audience. Furthermore, the chronological organization of the speech is also very logical, because he begins by alluding to history then paints a picture of the racial injustice in America and ends the speech with a dream of a better, fairer future of racial harmony and integration in America.

King starts off his speech with Abraham Lincoln’s famous line “five score years ago” which is powerful because of them standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and also because of how revered Abraham Lincoln is. So, with that line King is using the ethos device to appeal to the listener’s ethical appeal: to establish credibility with his audience. King also references light and darkness in his speech many times, which foreshadows the combination of religion and politics that makes up the rest of the speech. He likes to use repetition as well, in the first paragraph he repeats at the beginning of each sentence how “one hundred years later” African Americans are still not given the peace and justice that they thought they would be given. Also, when he is saying the famous line “Let freedom ring” and “ I have a dream” at the end of the speech. Repeating the important phrases at the beginning of the sentences can really help make the speech stick in people’s minds and makes the speech feel more dramatic.

There are many metaphors that are used in this famous speech, but the central metaphor that sticks throughout the whole speech is the metaphor about the bad “check” that was owed to African Americans by the rest of America. King uses ethos in the next few lines where he refers to the founding fathers as “architects of our Republic” and how they wrote the Declaration of Independence and Constitution as a “promise” that everyone would be guaranteed “the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” appealing to the ethical appeal of the audience (King). Everyone would know about those documents and what they say and how America is failing to live up to their wise words. King compares his dream of equality to the overall American Dream. He uses logos in his speech when he states, “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds” (King).

King is using logic as a form of reasoning, because everyone understands money and so the listener can relate to being handed a bad check. Likewise, King also proclaims that the “Bank” is not bankrupt and that it was time to “cash the check”, reinforcing the idea that African American people are not at fault, rather the victims of the crime, in turn evoking more emotion. The most used rhetorical device in this speech is the pathos appeal, because Kings uses so many powerful statements that are able to make people really feel something after listening to the speech. King’s use of pathos is incredible because he is able to strike emotional values of both black and white people. Along with his references to how African American people have no rights, King’s prevalent use of repetition also helps stirs up audience’s emotions. His use of this technique in the speech goes beyond just some repetition of key words and phrases, rather it unifies the speech.

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