Composition Jennifer Bray



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Kuangyi Liu

1302-481 Composition

Jennifer Bray

Jan 29, 2011  Good 

Rhetorical Analysis of MLK’s “I have a dream”

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King gave the famous speech that “I have a dream” before the Lincoln Memorial.  Good topic sentence to clearly show the subject of this essay. This speech was given for a call to seek basic civil right for black Americans. This speech is not just simple speech, but a speech which changed the history. just like what Mark Vail says “The “I Have a Dream” speech was “magnificent, memorable, and soaring”; it “touched the hearts of millions” and “transformed a meandering march into one of America’s historic events” (1). How can a simple speech have such power? The “I have a dream” speech has reached a high position in the field of literary writing. It had such power because it had literary appeal of rhetoric and it appeared at right time. The effects on political and literary which it has made make it not a simple speech.  clearly show the main idea of this article.



King’s speech has a complex social and political background. Even though President Lincoln promised black Americans freedom and equality when he signed Declaration of Independence, black Americans were still not really free and treated not as fair as white people.  good topic sentence to help understand. Black Americans were discriminate against everywhere, especially in southern states. They could not find a job; their children had to go to special school settled for black children in case to separated them from white children; they even had the special seats in the back of the bus. Discrimination and unfair treatment were suffered by every black Americans. At that time, civil rights were just a dream for black Americans. They strongly desire to get really freedom and equality. They wished their children can share same civil rights with white’s. The strength of anger had reached a peak, and then a great leader lead them gathered in the capital to give the speech as a way to against.  one question to complete 

In King’s speech, he clearly appeal the political context that black Americans want civil rights. He mentioned the Emancipation Proclamation several times in his speech, and then he said Emancipation Proclamation is a “bad check” because of "insufficient funds" (King, 1). He did not believe that and claimed that now black Americans want to “cash this check” (King, 1). This check is civil rights. King’s early life experience made him the leader of civil rights. He was born in a pastor’s family. His grandfather and father were both pastors. He grew to accept Christianity. Then he learned deeply about Christianity in college. During the study, he deepened his understanding of theology and explored the Mahatma Gandhi in non-violent strategy for social reform. All these experience made him a leader of civil rights.  good 

Logos, ethos, and pathos are three important ways of rhetorical analysis. How did King use logos to analysis his speech? King explained people why black people need to fight for freedom. Because the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and Emancipation Proclamation had signed “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir”, but this note did not come true because of "insufficient funds"(King, 1). That’s the reason why black people came to the capital to give this speech and why there is a dream. At that time, thousands of black people arrived in capital were to “cash a check”(King, 1). King also used ethos to analysis his speech. MLK speaks as the speaker of God, such as “this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:". We can find several places that he used what do "the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence" say to prove his idea because God, the constitution and the Declaration of Independence are most creditable. He did not say what he says, but he says what he wants to say by using God’s name and Emancipation Proclamation’s context. Pathos is used in King’s speech also. King said this sentence which is “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges”(2). He compared the strength of anger with “whirlwinds of revolt”, and compared civil rights with “bright day of justice emerges”(King, 2). His speech follows listeners’ feeling and promote the feeling.  fuses one your grammar 

There are three appeals of rhetorical analysis: Rational Appeal, Ethical Appeal, and Emotional Appeal. MLK explains why black people were not free, why black people should be free, and then he used a word "check" to explain the situation. However, the "check" is a bad check.  good topic sentence to include the question. By using this specific causal logic, King explained that this speech and meeting were legal and reasonable. Also by saying in this way can touch citizen’s sympathy and understanding. This is the rational appeal. MLK used what Lincoln had done and spoken to make his speech more ethical and credible because Lincoln was present and also he was a person who has a great ethical character. This is his ethical appeal. MLK used “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges”(2). Also he claimed several times that” I have a dream” in his speech. In this way, he spread the seeds of “dream” to every listener. His emotion successfully infected others. It worked well because MLK was the leader of black people, and he knew what black people had suffered. He wanted black people to fight for their rights, and he tried to get his audience to feel angry. He was born leader. His career and his fame made his speech credible.

King’s speech is a great research topic of rhetorical analysis. His speech considered every elements such as audience, voice and situation. He used Lincoln and God to stress his speech because his audiences are Americans who almost believe in Lincoln and are Christians. Based on the situation, he persuaded black people to fight rationally. Also his tone was bold and serious. He used a lot of parallel sentences to strengthen his speech.  need to follow the introduction

Working Bibliography

Rose, Chanelle. "A Review of “King's Dream: The Legacy of Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream” Speech”." History: Reviews of New Books 38.4 (2010): 126-127. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 25 Jan. 2011.

Duffy, Bernard K., and Richard D. Besel. "Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” and the Politics of Cultural Memory: An Apostil." ANQ 23.3 (2010): 184-191. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 25 Jan. 2011.

Vail, Mark. "THE "INTEGRATIVE" RHETORIC OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.'S "I HAVE A DREAM" SPEECH." Rhetoric & Public Affairs 9.1 (2006): 51-78. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 25 Jan. 2011.

W.A.T.E.R., 17. "Is King's dream still an illusion?." New York Amsterdam News 99.4 (2008): 1-41. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 25 Jan. 2011.

Eddings, Jerelyn. "`I have a dream'--30 years ago and now." U.S. News & World Report 115.9 (1993): 10. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 25 Jan. 2011.

Garrow, David J. "KING THE MARCH THE MAN THE DREAM. (Cover story)." American History 38.3 (2003): 26. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 25 Jan. 2011.

King, Jr., Martin Luther. "I Have a Dream Speech." Essential Documents: I Have a Dream (2009): 1-3. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 26 Jan. 2011. .

1. The tone of this article from author was very formal, he did not use “ I , me, us” such words



2. yes, there is a works cited.

3. this is just a draft, this article will be much more better if he can detail more, and finish this.

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