Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. : 'I Have a Dream'

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. : ‘I Have a Dream’

Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech to the thousands of African Americans who had marched on Washington, D.C. at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.  The date of the speech was August 28, 1963, but it is one that will live for generations.  Of course his purpose was to convince his audience on several fronts: he sought to persuade the black community to stand up for the rights afforded them under the Constitution, and he also sought to demonstrate to the white community that a "simple" black man could so effectively use powers of persuasion that they too would have reason to join the cause.

He stated in his opening sentence that the event at which he spoke would "go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation".  His words were indeed true, and they certainly fit the event.

The first point that Dr. King made in his speech was that of recalling for all the promise inherent in Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.  He refers to the hundred years span as "five score," recalling even the manner in which Lincoln himself had referred to the passage of time in his Gettysburg address.  Of the Proclamation, King said, "This momentous decree came as a great beacon of light of hope to millions of Negro slaves, who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.  It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity".  Dr. King's allusion to Abraham Lincoln, one of the few political figures of American history respected by black and white alike, sets a tone of veracity.  The black people to whom he speaks know all too well the conditions in which they have been living; the white majority who would also be hearing Dr. King's words likely would need the framework of honesty and justice in which they could judge the truthfulness of the charges that Dr. King is about to make.  His purpose was not to further divide, but to unite.

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Abraham Lincoln is the central figure, it was his purpose to preserve the Union.  It is Dr. King's purpose to call for unity of the people.  It is only within this framework that Dr. King can make his next statement and still retain the white portion of his audience.  Though ostensibly speaking to the black population, it is the white portion that controls the ability to effect any real changes.  Without the allusion to Abraham Lincoln, Dr. King's statement that "the Negro still is not free" would have served to divide the people, rather than unite them in purpose and ...

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