During the mid-20th Century, racism was a huge issue in the United States, which the most prominent was the racism of African-Americans. Although all blacks were supposed to be free, under a corrupt law system, blacks were victimized mercilessly. Therefore, blacks decided to try and change the system and multiple civil rights activists and groups appeared. The most notable activist of them was Martin Luther King Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, or the SCLC (Martin Luther King, Jr. Biography). Throughout the 1960s, King engaged in various civil rights boycotts and protests, helping to further the movement and gaining its eventual victory. Out of all of his civil rights-related efforts, the “I Have a Dream” speech, given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” in 1963 (“March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom). The speech had a massive impact as it managed to illustrate the racist problems of the time and provoke the audience into feeling sympathy while providing hope to the depressed African-American population. Sadly, the speech also made the movement and King very popular, making his opponents treat him as a threat, causing him to be assassinated 4 years later and he was unable to enjoy the fruits of his work.
The reason for “I Have a Dream” massive impact is due to the tense social mood of the time and that it reflects the conditions of the time, giving black activists a vision for the future. It struck directly into the hearts of blacks across America, made whites ashamed of their actions and willing to have a new start and shook society to its roots. In just 17 minutes, King influenced and informed the generations and generations of people about racial equality and fairness. According to almost all scholars, the seventeen-minute speech is a masterpiece of rhetoric (Edwards). This is obvious when analyzing the speech as one can notice that King carefully structures his speech to appeal to the different types of audience, supporting it with the three rhetorical modes of ethos, pathos and logos which are reinforced with different rhetorical tropes and schemes, marking King’s name in history.
The most important of any speech is its structure – something which King does extremely well in his speech by showing the plight of the Negroes, showing the truth of the civil rights movement and that there is hope in the future. Basically, the speech’s structure is intended to appeal to the three types of audiences likely to be listening to King’s speech – the average blacks who are discriminated against, the average whites who harbor thoughts typical of that time and the militant blacks and racist supremacists who argue that blacks are evil and the civil rights movement is violent. In the first part of his speech, King, cleverly paints a picture of the plight of the Negroes and thoroughly describes their condition. For example, in the start of the essay, King says that the life of the blacks is “crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination” and that the blacks are living on a “lonely island of poverty” in the midst of a “vast ocean of material prosperity.” This first makes the whites realize how the blacks are in a terrible plight and make them dislike their actions while striking deep into the hearts of blacks as this clearly paints out their situation. Further on, King continues to emphasize this by continuing to list examples of the Negroes’ problems, which continues to strike at the Negroes as they are stirred by descriptions of their sadness and makes whites uncomfortable as they think that they are the ones responsible for this. Also, King makes references to how America has literally broken their promise to the Negroes by refusing them the rights granted in the Constitution. Therefore, the plight of the Negroes is not their fault; it is the fault of the whites. One problem with the civil rights movement, however, is that...
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