Note: answers will vary. Accept any reasonable answer with textual support. Answer key is provided for example only

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“I Have a Dream” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Third Reading – Interpret, Author’s Purpose & Tone - ANSWERS)


1. What was Dr. King’s purpose in beginning his speech by talking about the Emancipation Proclamation?

To demonstrate how long it had been since slavery was abolished and to contrast this time span with what little progress had been made. It may also be to remind the audience of the positive measures that have begun, but are not yet fully realized.

2. What tone does Dr. King immediately establish and how? Frustration, by mentioning the “shameful condition” of American society and immediately describing the suffering of African Americans.

3. What was Dr. King’s purpose in using the extended metaphor about the check: To demonstrate that promises were made and not kept, to illustrate that freedom and opportunity should be limitless, and that there is no reason why a country like the U.S. should be “out of” either one.

4. What tone does Dr. King use in this section? Firm – demanding that the promises be fulfilled; however, he is not displaying outright anger.

5. Why is it an appropriate metaphor for Dr. King to call racial injustice “quicksand”? Because quicksand gets worse and once one is caught in it, they can’t get out. Quicksand also drags down those who come anywhere near it.

6. What tone does Dr. King use in this section? A tone of urgency – “we” must act now.

7. Dr. King seems to be responding to something in this section. Make an inference about what Dr. King may be responding to: Some people must have suggested that African-Americans back off or at least be happy with the strides they have made, and to stop advocating for full equality.

8. Infer what “new militancy” Dr. King is talking about: The African-American community has become more aggressive and confrontational rather than agreeing with Dr. King’s nonviolent protest methods.

9. What can you infer about Dr. King’s views based on this section? He believes in nonviolent protests.

10. What tone does Dr. King use in this section? Calming, soothing, yet persuasive – he is trying to convince his audience to embrace nonviolent protests.

11. List the reasons Dr. King gives for why people must continue to fight for civil rights: Police brutality, segregation, poverty, lack of opportunity for advancement, lack of suffrage in the South, lack of political candidates sympathetic to civil rights in the North.

12. Why does Dr. King list these reasons? To remind his audience of what they are fighting for and how far they must go.

13. What tone does Dr. King use in this section? Motivated – he wants to continue to work for change, but also annoyed by suggestions that things are “good enough”.

14. Do these conditions still exist for African-Americans today? Yes or no Explain your answer:

Students might explain that an inordinate number of African-Americans are living in the ghetto, that politicians still do not embrace the African-American community, that police brutality and racial profiling still exist, etc. On the other hand, they may say that segregation is over and that all people have equal access to the means to improve their lives, such as education.

15. Dr. King addresses the “trials and tribulations” that many in his audience have suffered while fighting for their civil rights. Explain why he does this.

Perhaps to thank them for their sacrifices and recognize what they have been through, to unite the audience, or identify with them since he has been through similar experiences. He may also want to remind them of what they have been through so that they do not settle for the advances they have made, and instead press on in order to make their sacrifices worthwhile.

16. What tone does Dr. King use in this section? Thankful and hopeful – he is thanking them for their sacrifices and telling them that their suffering was not in vain because things will improve.

17. The last line in this section is one of the most famous lines from the speech. Why do you suppose this line resonates with people? Because everyone wants to be judged for their character and not what group they belong to. They particularly wish this for their children.

18. What tone does Dr. King use in this section? Hopeful – he dreams of a better future.

19. How is the tone in this section different than the tone in the previous section? He becomes even more optimistic as he moves from talking about suffering to tentative hope for the immediate future and onward to dreams of what America could become eventually.

20. Has America achieved Dr. King’s dream, as explained in this section? Yes or no.

21. Explain why or why not? Again, students could focus either on strides that have been made or ongoing problems, lack of opportunities, and blatant and/or subtle racism that they perceive.

22. Dr. King keeps repeating “I Have a Dream.” Why? To draw attention and emphasize the positivity of what could happen if civil rights are achieved. He is being persuasive by appealing to his audience’s emotions.

23. Specifically, why does Dr. King repeat “I have a dream today?” He is emphasizing even more the emotional aspect of his vision for the future.

24. What tone does Dr. King use when talking about Alabama? Explain. He expresses disgust towards those who are racist and trying to continue to segregate by calling them “vicious racists” and saying that their lips are “dripping” with racist intent.

25. Why does Dr. King quote scripture? To establish his moral position as a pastor, appeal to Christians through their religious beliefs, and appeal to a higher power.

26. Why does Dr. King use these song lyrics? To appeal to his audience’s patriotism, nostalgia, and desire for freedom.

27. What goal does Dr. King explain in this section? For people of all races to work together for equality and civil rights.

28. Has America achieved this goal? Explain why or why not? Students may express that the passage of the civil rights act and suffrage for African-Americans shows that all races worked together to achieve Dr. King’s goal. There are examples of working together, struggling together, etc. Some may be unaware of these examples and/or may cite racist examples to support that the goal has not been achieved.

29. What tone does Dr. King use in this section? Cooperative, as he urges all races to work together.

30. Explain why Dr. King chose to list these states first? They did not support slavery, have desegregated, and are traditionally seen as less overtly racist.

31. Explain why Dr. King chose to list these states last? They did support slavery, have not desegregated, and are traditionally seen as more overtly racist.

32. Why does Dr. King keep repeating “let freedom ring”? To emphasize that the goal is freedom, in addition to appealing to the emotions of his audience.

33. Why did Dr. King end with this particular quote? To appeal again to his main audience of African-Americans, to appeal to the religious feeling of his audience, to point out the cultural contributions of African-Americans, and to emotionally appeal to his audience.

34. How is this quote related to the beginning of the speech? Dr. King goes back to the issue of freedom, and he also refers back to slaves and that historical time period by using a song that has been passed down since that time.

35. Describe the tone Dr. King uses at the end of his speech? Empathetic, hopeful, emotional, and energetic.

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