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Ethos, Pathos, Logos in I Have a Dream

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"I Have A Dream" Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

The ELA Common Core Standards, in high school, require students to improve their formal writing abilities by producing well-thought-out essays and arguments that are appropriately structured. They also need students to employ effective argumentative writing methods for them to defend a position or perspective.

The ability to deconstruct and validate, or debunk, opposing viewpoints is essential for strong persuasive writing. This necessitates a basic understanding of rhetoric. Teaching the Aristotelian concepts of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos as ways to enhance students' comprehension of good arguments is a fantastic approach to cultivating their understanding of effective arguments. Students may then assess the efficacy of these methods in a piece of writing, speech, or letter.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" is one of the most famous quoted speeches in history. In it, King uses rhetoric to appeal to his audience's emotions, values, and logic. By doing so, he is able to make a powerful argument for civil rights. So with that, it is worth exploring the ethos (expertise), pathos (emotional appeal), and logos (logic) of the speech to break it down into some core elements.

The speech was delivered on August 28th, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. during the march on Washington for jobs and freedom. Centering around the dreams that King had, having grown up during segregated times of black and white folk. The speech text included repetition of the line "I Have a Dream..." such as:

“I Have a Dream that one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

“I Have a Dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

To truly understand the impact of this speech, we first need to understand the meanings behind ethos (expertise), pathos (emotional appeal), and logos (logic).

Ethos is the credibility of the speaker. To establish ethos, a speaker must be seen as an expert in the topic at hand or be someone who is trusted by the audience. King was both an expert on civil rights and someone who was highly respected by the African American community. This gave his speech a great deal of authority and made it more persuasive.

Examples of Ethos in “I Have a Dream” Speech

Pathos is the use of emotions to persuade an audience. King does an excellent job of using pathos to appeal to his audience's emotions. For example, he talks about the dreams that he has for his children and how he wants them to be judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin. This is a powerful message that speaks to people's hearts and motivates them to act.

Examples of Pathos in “I Have a Dream” Speech

“Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree is a great beacon light of hope it 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. But 100 years later the Negro still is not free.”

Logos is the use of logic and reason to persuade an audience. King uses logos throughout his speech by providing evidence and reasoning for why civil rights are important. He also uses analogy and metaphor to help illustrate his points. For instance, he compares Blacks to "a nation of sheep" being led astray by a "jackass" (the White establishment). This comparison helps to paint a picture in the minds of his listeners and makes his argument more understandable.

Examples of Logos in “I Have a Dream” Speech

“The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”

You can use the I Have a Dream writing template during class to get students to think about the different elements of King's speech from a literary perspective . The template has sections for all three components discussed; Ethos, Pathos & Logos. This template may also be used as a guide for students to write their own speeches.

Each section assists students in the I Have a Dream speech rhetorical analysis by allowing them to type in a quote that belongs to each section of the template. Students can then use these I Have a Dream ethos, pathos, and logos sections to illustrate each example quote with characters, scenes, and emotions.

Take logos for example. The logos of the speech are the reasoning and examples that Dr. King uses to back up his argument. These logos quotes can be from famous cases, statistics, or even history. Here are some examples of logos in I Have a Dream speech:

“America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds'.”

“We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is a victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.”

Martin Luther King uses ethos in his speech by discussing his credentials as a Baptist minister and civil rights leader. He also talks about his experience with discrimination and how he has seen the effects of segregation firsthand. By sharing his personal experiences, he establishes himself as a credible source on the topic of civil rights.

In addition to discussing his own experiences, King also cites other sources to support his argument. He talks about the Founding Fathers and how they “were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” He as well references the Emancipation Proclamation and how it was a “great beacon light of hope” for African Americans.

Martin Luther King uses pathos in his speech by sharing the experiences of African Americans who have faced discrimination and segregation. He talks about how African Americans have been “seared in the flames of withering injustice” and how they are still not free even 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. By sharing these powerful stories, he elicits an emotional response from his audience and strengthens his argument for civil rights.

King also uses analogy and metaphor to help illustrate his points. For instance, his comparison of African Americans to “a nation of sheep” and the white establishment to “jackass”. This comparison helps to paint a vivid picture of the situation and makes his argument more relatable to his audience.

Martin Luther King uses logos in his speech by citing statistics and historical events to support his argument. He talks about how African Americans have been discriminated against in housing, education, and employment. He also references the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence to show how all men are supposed to be treated equally. By using these facts and figures, he demonstrates that segregation is unjust and must be abolished.

King also uses persuasive language throughout his speech. For example, he talks about how African Americans “have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check” that was written by the Founding Fathers. This analogy helps his audience understand that civil rights are not just a Black issue, but an American issue. It is something that everyone should be concerned about and working to fix.

Overall the activity resource teaches the children about ethos, pathos, and logos. It is a good way to introduce the topic and allow the children to explore it in more depth.

When looking at how Martin Luther King uses rhetoric, we can see that he employs all three of Aristotle's modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. He establishes his credibility as a leader early on in the speech, by talking about his experience with discrimination and sharing his credentials as a Baptist minister. Throughout the speech, he uses emotional language to connect with his audience and paint a picture of the struggles that African Americans face. He also uses logic and reasoning to back up his argument, by citing statistics and historical events.

The way he uses the three cornerstones of making a speech impactful will teach the children the importance of rhetoric in public speaking. They can then use literary devices in the “I Have a Dream” speech, get creative, and start to build up their own scenes, with characters to bring to life the quotes from each section that they have chosen. This will allow them to demonstrate to the high school ELA Common Core Standards that your teaching methods and school are providing the children with the learning resources to develop the ability to find, read, and comprehend complex informational texts.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Activity", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows examples of ethos, pathos, and logos from the text.

  • Identify one example of each rhetorical strategy: ethos, pathos, and logos.
  • Type the example into the description box under the cell.
  • Illustrate the example using any combination of scenes, characters, and items.

Ethos Pathos Logos Template

Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 9-12

Difficulty Level 2 (Reinforcing / Developing)

Type of Assignment Individual

Type of Activity: The Rhetorical Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, Logos

(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric .)

Proficient
33 Points
Emerging
25 Points
Beginning
17 Points

How to Use Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Creative Writing Assignments

Introducing ethos, pathos, and logos.

Start the lesson by explaining ethos, pathos, and logos. These are persuasive techniques used to convince an audience and are crucial in effective communication and writing. Use simple, relatable examples to describe each: ethos as establishing credibility or trust, pathos as appealing to emotions, and logos as using logic or reason. Reference "I Have a Dream" to show how Martin Luther King Jr. effectively used these techniques.

Analyzing Examples from "I Have a Dream"

After the introduction, move on to analyzing specific parts of "I Have a Dream" where King employs ethos, pathos, and logos. Break down the speech into sections and work with students to identify which technique is being used in each section. Discuss how each technique serves the overall purpose of the speech and enhances its persuasive power. This exercise not only reinforces their understanding of the concepts but also illustrates how these techniques can be effectively combined.

Writing Exercise Using Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

Now that students have a solid understanding of ethos, pathos, and logos, and have seen them in action, challenge them to write their own short essays, speeches, or letters employing these techniques. Provide a template or outline to help them structure their writing. Encourage them to think about an issue or topic they are passionate about, as this will naturally lend itself to the persuasive style of writing.

Peer Review and Reflective Discussion

Conclude the lesson with a peer review session. Students exchange their writings with each other for review. Encourage them to provide feedback specifically on the use and effectiveness of ethos, pathos, and logos in the piece. Finally, bring the class together for a reflective discussion. Ask students to share their experiences of writing with these techniques and how their perspective on persuasive writing has changed.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ethos, Pathos, Logos in "I Have a Dream"

What are ethos, pathos, and logos.

Ethos is a style of writing that appeals to the reader’s authority, thus building trust. Pathos appeals to the emotions of the reader, and logos appeals to the reader’s ability to reason. All of these are ways of writing that make the reader trust, believe, and feel for what the author is saying.

What is Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech about?

Dr. King’s speech had two main goals: to end racism, and to call attention to equal civil and economic rights for all people.

When did Martin Luther King deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech?

Dr. King delivered this famous speech on August 28, 1963 at the March on Washington in Washington, D.C.

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Why “I Have A Dream” Remains One Of History’s Greatest Speeches

A black and white photo of Dr. King waving to the crowd at the March On Washington

Monday will mark the holiday in honor of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Texas A&M University Professor of Communication Leroy Dorsey is reflecting on King’s celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech, one which he said is a masterful use of rhetorical traditions.

King delivered the famous speech as he stood before a crowd of 250,000 people in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963 during the “March on Washington.” The speech was televised live to an audience of millions.

“He was not just speaking to African Americans, but to all Americans” ~ Leroy Dorsey

Dorsey , associate dean for inclusive excellence and strategic initiatives in the College of Liberal Arts, said one of the reasons the speech stands above all of King’s other speeches – and nearly every other speech ever written – is because its themes are timeless. “It addresses issues that American culture has faced from the beginning of its existence and still faces today: discrimination, broken promises, and the need to believe that things will be better,” he said.

Powerful Use of Rhetorical Devices

Dorsey said the speech is also notable for its use of several rhetorical traditions, namely the Jeremiad, metaphor-use and repetition.

The Jeremiad is a form of early American sermon that narratively moved audiences from recognizing the moral standard set in its past to a damning critique of current events to the need to embrace higher virtues.

“King does that with his invocation of several ‘holy’ American documents such as the Emancipation Proclamation and Declaration of Independence as the markers of what America is supposed to be,” Dorsey said. “Then he moves to the broken promises in the form of injustice and violence. And he then moves to a realization that people need to look to one another’s character and not their skin color for true progress to be made.”

Second, King’s use of metaphors explains U.S. history in a way that is easy to understand, Dorsey said.

“Metaphors can be used to connect an unknown or confusing idea to a known idea for the audience to better understand,” he said. For example, referring to founding U.S. documents as “bad checks” transformed what could have been a complex political treatise into the simpler ideas that the government had broken promises to the American people and that this was not consistent with the promise of equal rights.

The third rhetorical device found in the speech, repetition, is used while juxtaposing contrasting ideas, setting up a rhythm and cadence that keeps the audience engaged and thoughtful, Dorsey said.

“I have a dream” is repeated while contrasting “sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners” and “judged by the content of their character” instead of “judged by the color of their skin.” The device was used also with “let freedom ring” which juxtaposes states that were culturally polar opposites – Colorado, California and New York vs. Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi.

the MLK memorial statue in Washington D.C.

Words That Moved A Movement

The March on Washington and King’s speech are widely considered turning points in the Civil Rights Movement, shifting the demand and demonstrations for racial equality that had mostly occurred in the South to a national stage.

Dorsey said the speech advanced and solidified the movement because “it became the perfect response to a turbulent moment as it tried to address past hurts, current indifference and potential violence, acting as a pivot point between the Kennedy administration’s slow response and the urgent response of the ‘marvelous new militancy’ [those fighting against racism].”

What made King such an outstanding orator were the communication skills he used to stir audience passion, Dorsey said. “When you watch the speech, halfway through he stops reading and becomes a pastor, urging his flock to do the right thing,” he said. “The cadence, power and call to the better nature of his audience reminds you of a religious service.”

Lessons For Today

Dorsey said the best leaders are those who can inspire all without dismissing some, and that King in his famous address did just that.

“He was not just speaking to African Americans in that speech, but to all Americans, because he understood that the country would more easily rise together when it worked together,” he said.

“I Have a Dream” remains relevant today “because for as many strides that have been made, we’re still dealing with the elements of a ‘bad check’ – voter suppression, instances of violence against people of color without real redress, etc.,” Dorsey said. “Remembering what King was trying to do then can provide us insight into what we need to consider now.”

Additionally, King understood that persuasion doesn’t move from A to Z in one fell swoop, but it moves methodically from A to B, B to C, etc., Dorsey said. “In the line ‘I have a dream that one day ,’ he recognized that things are not going to get better overnight, but such sentiment is needed to help people stay committed day-to-day until the country can honestly say, ‘free at last!'”

Media contact: Lesley Henton, 979-845-5591, [email protected].

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examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

 

 

, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the . This momentous decree came as a great beacon 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.

, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

today!

wn in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

today!

of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

 

in the above transcript.

(rendered precisely in The American Standard Version of the Holy Bible)

:

: Linked directly to: archive.org/details/MLKDream

: Wikimedia.org

:.jfklibrary.org

: Colorized Screenshot

:

: 5/31/24

:   here). Image #2 = Public domain. Image #3 = Fair Use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Read Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech in its entirety

examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., where he gave his "I Have a Dream" speech on Aug. 28, 1963, as part of the March on Washington. AFP via Getty Images hide caption

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., where he gave his "I Have a Dream" speech on Aug. 28, 1963, as part of the March on Washington.

Monday marks Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Below is a transcript of his celebrated "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered on Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. NPR's Talk of the Nation aired the speech in 2010 — listen to that broadcast at the audio link above.

examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders gather before a rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, in Washington. National Archives/Hulton Archive via Getty Images hide caption

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon 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.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check.

The Power Of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Anger

Code Switch

The power of martin luther king jr.'s anger.

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men — yes, Black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.

Martin Luther King is not your mascot

Martin Luther King is not your mascot

We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

Civil rights protesters march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. Kurt Severin/Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.

There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

Bayard Rustin: The Man Behind the March on Washington (2021)

Throughline

Bayard rustin: the man behind the march on washington (2021).

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.

And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, when will you be satisfied? We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: for whites only.

We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

How The Voting Rights Act Came To Be And How It's Changed

How The Voting Rights Act Came To Be And How It's Changed

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our Northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

People clap and sing along to a freedom song between speeches at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Express Newspapers via Getty Images hide caption

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right down in Alabama little Black boys and Black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

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This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrims' pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that, let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.

Correction Jan. 15, 2024

A previous version of this transcript included the line, "We have also come to his hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now." The correct wording is "We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now."

examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

I Have a Dream Speech

Martin luther king, jr., ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions.

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s I Have a Dream Speech . Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

I Have a Dream Speech: Introduction

I have a dream speech: plot summary, i have a dream speech: detailed summary & analysis, i have a dream speech: themes, i have a dream speech: quotes, i have a dream speech: characters, i have a dream speech: symbols, i have a dream speech: theme wheel, brief biography of martin luther king, jr..

I Have a Dream Speech PDF

Historical Context of I Have a Dream Speech

Other books related to i have a dream speech.

  • Full Title: “I Have a Dream”
  • When Written: Early 1960s
  • When Published: King delivered versions of “I Have a Dream” in North Carolina in 1962 and in Detroit in June of 1963 before delivering the definitive version of the speech at the March on Washington on August 28th, 1963
  • Literary Period: civil rights movement
  • Genre: Speech, religious sermon
  • Climax: King begins calling for freedom to ring out across America, from the “mighty mountains of New York” to the “molehill[s] of Mississippi”
  • Point of View: First person

Extra Credit for I Have a Dream Speech

Ringing Into the Future. On August 28th, 2013—the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington—thousands of people gathered on the mall in Washington D.C. where King delivered his iconic speech to celebrate and commemorate the occasion. President Barack Obama spoke at the gathering. Obama paid homage to King while reminding those in attendance that King’s dream was still not yet complete, and that the work of justice and anti-racism is complex and ongoing.

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“I Have A Dream”: Annotated

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic speech, annotated with relevant scholarship on the literary, political, and religious roots of his words.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr (1929 - 1968) waves to the crowd of more than 200,000 people gathered on the Mall after delivering his 'I Have a Dream' speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Washington DC, 28th August 1963.

For this month’s Annotations, we’ve taken Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech, and provided scholarly analysis of its groundings and inspirations—the speech’s religious, political, historical and cultural underpinnings are wide-ranging and have been read as jeremiad, call to action, and literature. While the speech itself has been used (and sometimes misused) to call for a “color-blind” country, its power is only increased by knowing its rhetorical and intellectual antecedents.      

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Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation . This momentous decree came as a great beacon 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 captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now . This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred .

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream .

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted , every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood . With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

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This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

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MLK’s “I Have A Dream” Speech: An Example Of Anaphora

Politicians and political figures often use anaphora in speeches to emphasize their points. One of the most famous anaphora examples comes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. King uses the anaphoral phrase, “I have a dream,” to start eight consecutive sentences:

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi … will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!

King uses anaphora to highlight the difference between how things are and how he hopes they will be.

In fact, anaphora is a rhetorical device often favored by poets … and that’s why MLK Jr.’s speech lives among the greatest speeches.

Martin Luther King Jr. had an exquisite way with words. Learn about some of his most powerful words.

What is  anaphora ?

As a rhetorical device, anaphora is “the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of consecutive sentences, poetry stanzas , or clauses within a sentence.” Rhetorical devices—which include  metaphor and hyperbole —are used to make a point when you’re speaking. Specifically, an anaphora can be as short as a single word, such as I , when , or and . It can also involve several words, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s anaphoral phrase “I have a dream.” Anaphoral phrases are rarely longer than a few words (lengthy, repeated phrases can be confusing to readers). Fun fact: the opposite of anaphora is epistrophe , “a word or phrase repeated at the end of consecutive lines.”

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The purpose of anaphora

Poets use anaphora to establish a rhythm , structure a poem, or highlight certain ideas. Some poets use extreme anaphora as a stylistic choice. “Howl,” by Allen Ginsberg, does this. Almost every line in the first section starts with who . The second section repeats the name Moloch at the beginning of each line. The repetition gives the poem rhythm and makes it feel energetic.

Discover other advanced poetic devices and how to use them here.

Anaphora in everyday speech

Anaphoral phrases are pretty common in daily speech, too. People use them to express desires or needs. A petulant child might say, “ I don’t want to get out of bed. I don’t want to get dressed. I don’t want to go to school. I just want to go back to sleep!”

So, basically, we can all be poets … but we’ll probably never be as poetic as Martin Luther King Jr.

Be inspired by more of MLK Jr's enduring words by reading this quotes.

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I Have a Dream Speech Rhetorical Analysis

I have a dream speech rhetorical analysis lyrics.

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Why “I Have A Dream” remains one of history’s greatest speeches

Professor of Communication Leroy Dorsey explains the rhetorical devices used by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his 1963 speech and reflects on why the address remains relevant.

examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

By Lesley Henton, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications

Monday will mark the 34 th  annual holiday in honor of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Texas A&M University Professor of Communication Leroy Dorsey is reflecting on King’s celebrated “ I Have a Dream ” speech, one which he said is a masterful use of rhetorical traditions.

King delivered the famous speech as he stood before a crowd of 250,000 people in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963 during the “March on Washington.” The speech was  televised  live to an audience of millions.

Dorsey , associate dean for inclusive excellence and strategic initiatives in the College of Liberal Arts, said one of the reasons the speech stands above all of King’s other speeches – and nearly every other speech ever written – is because its themes are timeless. “It addresses issues that American culture has faced from the beginning of its existence and still faces today: discrimination, broken promises, and the need to believe that things will be better,” he said.

“He was not just speaking to African Americans in that speech, but to all Americans”

Powerful use of rhetorical devices

Dorsey said the speech is also notable for its use of several rhetorical traditions, namely the Jeremiad, metaphor-use and repetition.

The Jeremiad is a form of early American sermon that narratively moved audiences from recognizing the moral standard set in its past to a damning critique of current events to the need to embrace higher virtues.

“King does that with his invocation of several ‘holy’ American documents such as the Emancipation Proclamation and Declaration of Independence as the markers of what America is supposed to be,” Dorsey said. “Then he moves to the broken promises in the form of injustice and violence. And he then moves to a realization that people need to look to one another’s character and not their skin color for true progress to be made.”

Second, King’s use of metaphors explains U.S. history in a way that is easy to understand, Dorsey said.

“Metaphors can be used to connect an unknown or confusing idea to a known idea for the audience to better understand,” he said. For example, referring to founding U.S. documents as “bad checks” transformed what could have been a complex political treatise into the simpler ideas that the government had broken promises to the American people and that this was not consistent with the promise of equal rights.

The third rhetorical device found in the speech, repetition, is used while juxtaposing contrasting ideas, setting up a rhythm and cadence that keeps the audience engaged and thoughtful, Dorsey said.

“I have a dream” is repeated while contrasting “sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners” and “judged by the content of their character” instead of “judged by the color of their skin.” The device was used also with “let freedom ring” which juxtaposes states that were culturally polar opposites – Colorado, California and New York vs. Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi.

examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

The King memorial statue in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Words that moved a movement

The March on Washington and King’s speech are widely considered turning points in the Civil Rights Movement, shifting the demand and demonstrations for racial equality that had mostly occurred in the South to a national stage.

Dorsey said the speech advanced and solidified the movement because “it became the perfect response to a turbulent moment as it tried to address past hurts, current indifference and potential violence, acting as a pivot point between the Kennedy administration’s slow response and the urgent response of the ‘marvelous new militancy’ [those fighting against racism].”

What made King such an outstanding orator were the communication skills he used to stir audience passion, Dorsey said. “When you watch the speech, halfway through he stops reading and becomes a pastor, urging his flock to do the right thing,” he said. “The cadence, power and call to the better nature of his audience reminds you of a religious service.”

Lessons for today

Dorsey said the best leaders are those who can inspire all without dismissing some, and that King in his famous address did just that.

“He was not just speaking to African Americans in that speech, but to all Americans, because he understood that the country would more easily rise together when it worked together,” he said.

“I Have a Dream” remains relevant today “because for as many strides that have been made, we’re still dealing with the elements of a ‘bad check’ – voter suppression, instances of violence against people of color without real redress, etc.,” Dorsey said. “Remembering what King was trying to do then can provide us insight into what we need to consider now.”

Additionally, King understood that persuasion doesn’t move from A to Z in one fell swoop, but it moves methodically from A to B, B to C, etc., Dorsey said. “In the line is ‘I have a dream  that one day ,’ he recognized that things are not going to get better overnight, but such sentiment is needed to help people stay committed day-to-day until the country can honestly say, ‘free at last!’”

Originally posted here .

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Parallel Structure in "I Have a Dream" Speech

The Functions of Conjunctions in English Argumentative Writing

The Functions of Conjunctions in English Argumentative Writing

Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech includes prolific examples of parallel structure. With his ministerial, faith-based roots, King used his superb rhetorical skills to create an inspirational piece of history. While the entire speech is well-crafted, King uses parallel structure -- the intentional repetition of grammatical structures -- to organize, connect and emphasize the most important elements.

Organizes Ideas

Parallel structure organizes related information. In the second paragraph of King’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” four consecutive sentences begin with the phrase “one hundred years later.” Each sentence reveals a different element of despair or hardship the African-American community faced: poverty, discrimination and segregation. King uses the phrase “one hundred years later” -- referring to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation -- to organize effectively and communicate clearly the present plight and the need for change.

Clarifies Author's Intent

Parallel structure clarifies and highlights an author’s intent by building up to a more important point. For example, King repeats “We cannot be satisfied as long as” and “We can never be satisfied as long as” five times in the span of 10 sentences. A few of these statements even stand alone as an independent paragraph to draw further attention. Following each repeated structure is a reason why “we cannot be satisfied”: the lack of safety, housing, voting rights and personal dignity. After building his case with these statements, King inverts the structure to say, “No, no, we are not satisfied, we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” The foundation built through parallel structure enables this last sentence to fully reveals King’s desire for justice.

Emphasizes Significant Elements

Parallel structure emphasizes certain elements and points. King also draws on parallel structure to stress a sense of urgency. Repeating the clause “now is the time” four times across two paragraphs, King forces the audience to think in present terms. In this example King also employs a more advance technique of parallelism -- repeating grammatical structures. After each “now is the time,” King follows with an infinitive phrase -- the word “to” followed by a verb -- to call his audience to action. For example, “to make,” “to rise” and “to lift” are all found after the clause “now is the time.” In combining these two techniques, King crafts a sophisticated and emotive example of parallel structure.

Unifies Ideas

Parallel structure unifies a text. For example, the title of the speech “I Have a Dream” is a repeated clause that appears throughout the text. Sometimes at the beginning and in the middle of sentences and at other times appearing independently, the phrase points to the purpose of King’s speech. To illustrate his dream further and create unity, King uses phrases such as “with this we will be able,” highlighting his visions for the future. He also uses parallel structure in lists to achieve this end. For example, he states, “We will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together.” This statement illustrates literal unity, while also producing a cohesive text.

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  • I Have a Dream Speech; Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Based in West Palm Beach, Fla., Emily Layfield has been writing and editing education-related work since 2009. She holds a Bachelor of Science in English and English/ language arts education and a Master of Arts in secondary English education from Auburn University.

examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

Tips and ideas for teaching high school ELA

4 Ways to Analyze Rhetorical Devices in MLK’s “I Have a Dream”

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. is known for his powerful speeches – in particular, his “I Have a Dream” speech. Ripe for rhetorical devices analysis and inspired by seminal documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, this speech has become a staple in many ELA classrooms. 

Observant teachers of American literature courses should note some similarities between King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and another famous speech on the rights of blacks – Frederick Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the Fourth July?”. It is certainly worth noting that the speeches, written almost 100 years apart, address many of the same issues.

With Martin Luther King day just around the corner, and Black History Month following soon after, many teachers are turning to this revered speech for analysis, particularly of MLK’s rhetorical devices. This is the approach I’ve taken in my own classroom in years past (although earlier in the year due to district curriculum maps).

Looking for some structure for your dive into King’s rhetorical devices? Search no further.

rhetorical devices

All good lessons and units begin with ensuring that students are familiar with the vocabulary and terminology (both general and domain-specific) that will be used. At its most basic level, a rhetorical device is “any language that helps an author or speaker achieve a particular purpose”. This purpose is usually persuasion since rhetoric is often referred to as the art of persuasion.

When you hear the words  rhetorical devices , many of us automatically picture what I think of as the big three – ethos, pathos, and logos. During my lessons with my students, we start by reviewing the definitions of these terms and several examples of each. We then view several commercials and/or ads and determine which of the devices (also often called appeals) is being used AND how it impacts the commercial and/or ad.

A little deeper

Once your students have mastered the art of these three, then it’s time to move on to some other devices. Some of these devices will be familiar to your students as they are often taught as literary devices while others may be completely foreign. The devices you choose to cover will depend on the focus of your unit and your anchor text(s). Commonly taught devices include:

  • alliteration
  • anaphora – repetition of a word or expression at the beginning of successive clauses (“… we cannot dedicate – we cannot consecrate – we cannot hallow – this ground.” The Gettysburg Address)
  • epistrophe – repetition of a word or expression at the end of successive clauses (“of the people, by the people, for the people” – The Gettsyburg Address)
  • hyperbole – extravagant exaggeration
  • synecdoche – a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole ( creature  for  man )

Merriam-Webster has a list of the 31 most common rhetorical devices that can be found here.

rhetorical devices in MLK's "I have a dream" speech

Once students have a grasp of the different types of rhetorical devices, it’s time to apply that knowledge to King’s speech. First, have the students annotate for the different devices. Depending on your students’ level, you can assign them specific devices to look for or turn them loose and see what they find. I personally like to color-code all of my annotations. Here’s what my master copy looks like:

Devices and their frequency are easily seen with this method.

From here, students can begin to break down and analyze the devices. There are four ways to do this.

Rhetorical Devices Chart

The easiest way to collect and analyze the devices is a simple chart. Students can list the device in one column, the quote from the text in the second, and an explanation of the device’s effect in the third.

Rhetorical pyramid

The second way to analyze King’s use of devices is to create a rhetorical pyramid. For this activity, students simply draw a large triangle in the middle of their page and label each point with a different rhetorical device. I’ve used the tried and true ethos, pathos, and logos, but you can choose any three. Or, let the students choose and have them justify why they chose those three devices. From there, students provide examples of each of the devices. A rhetorical pyramid is especially helpful for visual students by helping them see connections between the devices.

Rhetorical Precis

A rhetorical precis is a type of writing that summarizes a text or speech. It includes not only the summary of the text or speech but also an analysis of its content and delivery. A rhetorical precis has four parts:

  • 1st sentence – presents author’s name, title, and genre of work. Uses verbs such as “argue”, “claim”, or “assert”
  • 2nd sentence – explains development and evidence of thesis. Done chronologically
  • 3rd sentence – state author’s purpose and WHY the author composed the text
  • 4th sentence – tell about intended audience

SOAPSTone/SPACE CAT Analysis

The final option is for students to complete a SOAPSTone analysis of the speech. SOAPSTone stands for

Examine the speech in light of these different areas. 

An alternate to SOAPSTone would be SPACE CAT, which stands for: 

So there you have it. Four ways to analyze “I Have a Dream” rhetorical devices. What’s your go-to rhetorical analysis strategy? Reply below. 

Want to incorporate all these activities? Check out my “I Have a Dream” Rhetorical Devices Mini Flipbook.  

Looking for more American lit teaching ideas? Check out 7 Units for a Complete American Literature Curriculum. 

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The Arts of Leadership

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The Arts of Leadership

9 Martin Luther King's ‘Dream Speech’: The Rhetoric of Social Leadership

  • Published: May 2001
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This chapter explores Martin Luther King's leadership in the acquisition of civil rights for black Americans in the 1960s. It considers the significance of speech and language and describes the origins and guidelines established by the ancient Greeks in the art of rhetoric. It explores Aristotle's model of rhetoric, and uses it to investigate the recent examples of rhetoric, in particular an analysis of Martin Luther's ‘Dream Speech’.

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Lesson Plan

Jan. 15, 2024, 9:20 a.m.

Lesson plan: Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech as a work of literature

examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

For a google doc version of this lesson, click here .

Introduction

Students will study Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and discuss the rhetorical influences on King's speech, the oratorical devices that King used in delivering his speech and how a speech is similar to/different from other literary forms.

English, Social Studies, Government

Estimated Time

One 50-minute class period, plus extended activities

Grade Level

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s most memorable speech from his life as an activist, “ I HAVE A DREAM , ” was delivered on August 28, 1963, before more than 200,000 people in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The speech was part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It not only helped to galvanize the already growing civil rights movement across the country at the time, but also became one of the most influential and inspirational pieces of rhetoric in American history.

Remarkably, midway through his delivery, King suspended his pre-scripted text and began to improvise; what resulted was the speech’s most recognizable section, the passage in which the words “I have a dream” are passionately repeated. Indeed, King’s background as a Baptist preacher in the South instilled in him a talent for improvisation as a speaker and the skill to frame the urgency of the moment.

What is also apparent in “I Have Dream” is King’s deep commitment to scholarship (he earned a Ph.D. from Boston University). King was clearly well-versed in both American history and religious scripture, and he seamlessly weaves references to both into the fabric of his oration. Overall, “I Have a Dream” can be held up as a masterful creative work in itself; its dramatic structure coupled with its image-laden content render a remarkably moving piece of American literature that still strongly resonates today.

  • Begin by supplying foundation material for the students through the NewsHour Classroom article and the NewsHour's Martin Luther King, Jr. section, the background explanation above and the links provided.
  • Distribute the COMPLETE TEXT OF "I Have a Dream."
  • Review the LITERARY TERMS HANDOUT with the students.
  • What examples of figurative language can be found in the text? (For example, "seared in the flames of withering injustice"; "manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination"; "whirlwinds of revolt"; "oasis of freedom and justice"; "symphony of brotherhood."
  • How do these uses enhance the overall impact of the speech? What oratorical devices does King use to add vitality and force to his speech? (For example, use of refrains such as "I have a dream," "let freedom ring" and "we can never be satisfied"; multiple shifts in sentence lengths; dramatic shifts in tone, such as from enraged to cautionary to hopeful; use of questions as well as exclamations, such as "when will you be satisfied?" and "I have a dream today!")
  • In what specific ways does King call forth his experience as a preacher to lend persuasive power to the speech? (For example, he uses several images that call to mind both the plight of black Americans as well as the Old Testament Hebrews under the oppression of slavery — "the manacles of segregation" and the "chains of discrimination"; the final line of the speech invokes "the old Negro spiritual" and is steeped in Biblical influence — "Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
  • Discuss the responses as a class.

Extension Activity

  • How are the speeches alike and/or different in their choices of language? In other words, do the speeches seem as if they were composed for the general public or rather for specific groups?
  • Of the three, which do you see as being the most direct? That is, which speech uses the least amount of figurative language and/or obscure references?
  • Which of the three is the most metaphorical in its content? In other words, which makes the most use of figurative language?
  • For each speech, explain how relevant its ideas would be in society if the speech were delivered today. Do the mentioned struggles still exist? Has the country evolved since the speeches were given? Has society responded to the specific appeals for change?
  • Passionate?
  • Intellectual?
  • Persuasive?
  • 5-10 minutes in length
  • Clearly defined opening, body and conclusion
  • Clearly defined thesis (main point)
  • Use of supporting examples to support thesis
  • Use of figurative language
  • Use of oratorical devices such as refrain and hyperbole
  • Clearly expressed goals (legal reform; public awareness; etc.)

Written by Doug DuBrin, French International School, Bethesda, Maryland, in 2010.

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Home — Essay Samples — Social Issues — Martin Luther King — Rhetorical Analysis of Martin Luther King’s Historic Speech

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Rhetorical Analysis of Martin Luther King's Historic Speech

  • Categories: I Have a Dream Martin Luther King

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Published: Mar 6, 2024

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examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

IMAGES

  1. Rhetorical Analysis of MLK's Speeches

    examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

  2. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" Speech

    examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

  3. Rhetorical Analysis of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" Speech

    examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

  4. 60+ Rhetorical Devices with Examples for Effective Persuasion • 7ESL

    examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

  5. I Have a Dream Speech: Rhetorical Devices

    examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

  6. Rhetorical device analysis: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches

    examples of rhetorical devices in martin luther king's speech

VIDEO

  1. Why does Martin Luther King use rhetorical devices in his speech?

  2. Martin Luther King Jr. Rare Speech From University of Berkeley (1957)

  3. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" Speech

  4. Martin Luther King speech

  5. Martin Luther King Jr's Iconic 'I Have A dream speech- America's Major Moments in History

  6. 45 of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Most Inspiring Motivational Quotes

COMMENTS

  1. What rhetorical device does Martin Luther King use in his "I Have a

    Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream Speech" is known for its skillful, impactful use of rhetorical devices. These devices are used to connect with listeners on an emotional level and ...

  2. Rhetorical Devices in I Have a Dream Speech by Martin Luther King

    Study the rhetorical devices in Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream." Analyze the use of personification, metaphors, and symbolism in the speech with examples. Updated: 11/21/2023

  3. Pathos, Logos & Ethos in I Have a Dream Speech by MLK

    Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" is one of the most famous quoted speeches in history. In it, King uses rhetoric to appeal to his audience's emotions, values, and logic. By doing so, he is able to make a powerful argument for civil rights. So with that, it is worth exploring the ethos (expertise), pathos (emotional appeal), and logos ...

  4. Why "I Have A Dream" Remains One Of History's Greatest Speeches

    Monday will mark the holiday in honor of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Texas A&M University Professor of Communication Leroy Dorsey is reflecting on King's celebrated "I Have a Dream" speech, one which he said is a masterful use of rhetorical traditions. King delivered the famous speech as he stood before a crowd of 250,000 people in ...

  5. PDF Rhetorical Devices- Listen Martin Luther King, Jr'S Carefully to The

    RHETORICAL DEVICES- LISTEN CAREFULLY TO THE PERSUASIVE SPEECH. IDENTIFY AND EXPLAIN WHERE YOU HEAR OR SEE THE USE OF THE FOLLOWING RHETORICAL DEVICES: parallelism and restatement in his speech. King uses the phrase "one hundred years later" to repeat and stress the idea that many years have passed and progress has not occurred.

  6. The Rhetorical Strategies Of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I ...

    Martin Luther King Jr.'s most apparent and well known rhetorical strategy was repetition. In the beginning of his speech King states, "But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free.

  7. What persuasive techniques does Martin Luther King use in his "I Have a

    Martin Luther King, Jr. uses many rhetorical devices in his "I Have a Dream" speech. A rhetorical device is a linguistic technique used to help a writer persuade or explain.

  8. Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Speech

    My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, From every mountainside, let freedom ring! And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

  9. "I Have a Dream" Speech

    The most iconic instance of repetition is King's use of the phrase "I have a dream," for which the speech is named. With each repetition of "I have a dream," King describes an instance ...

  10. Transcript of Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech : NPR

    AFP via Getty Images. Monday marks Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Below is a transcript of his celebrated "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered on Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial ...

  11. I Have a Dream Speech Study Guide

    Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech to an audience of over 250,000 people at the March on Washington in August of 1963. The march was one of the largest civil rights rallies in American history, and it came at a crucial moment in the decades-long struggle for civil rights. The successes of the Montgomery bus boycott ...

  12. Rhetorical Analysis of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" Speech

    Assonance, a literary device involving the repetition of vowel sounds, can be found in several instances throughout King's speech. One notable example is when he states, "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"

  13. "I Have A Dream": Annotated

    Martin Luther King, Jr.'s iconic speech, annotated with relevant scholarship on the literary, political, and religious roots of his words. Dr Martin Luther King Jr waves to the crowd gathered on the Mall after delivering his "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington, August 28th, 1963. Getty. By: Liz Tracey. February 28, 2022. 7 ...

  14. MLK's "I Have A Dream" Speech: An Example Of Anaphora

    King uses anaphora to highlight the difference between how things are and how he hopes they will be. In fact, anaphora is a rhetorical device often favored by poets … and that's why MLK Jr.'s speech lives among the greatest speeches. Martin Luther King Jr. had an exquisite way with words. Learn about some of his most powerful words.

  15. Rhetorical Devices in I Have A Dream

    Many literary devices are used in Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Some of the most prominent ones are alliteration, allusion, hyperbole, and imagery. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr ...

  16. Martin Luther King Jr.

    I Have a Dream Speech Rhetorical Analysis Lyrics. I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Five ...

  17. Why "I Have A Dream" remains one of history's greatest speeches

    Professor of Communication Leroy Dorsey explains the rhetorical devices used by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his 1963 speech and reflects on why the address remains relevant. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. waves to the crowd gathered on the Mall in Washington, D.C. during the March on Washington after delivering his 'I Have a Dream' speech ...

  18. Parallel Structure in "I Have a Dream" Speech

    Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic "I Have a Dream" speech includes prolific examples of parallel structure. With his ministerial, faith-based roots, King used his superb rhetorical skills to create an inspirational piece of history that is remembered and emulated to this day.

  19. 4 Ways to Analyze Rhetorical Devices in MLK's "I Have a Dream"

    A rhetorical precis has four parts: 1st sentence - presents author's name, title, and genre of work. Uses verbs such as "argue", "claim", or "assert". 2nd sentence - explains development and evidence of thesis. Done chronologically. 3rd sentence - state author's purpose and WHY the author composed the text. 4th sentence ...

  20. Martin Luther King's 'Dream Speech': The Rhetoric of Social Leadership

    Abstract. This chapter explores Martin Luther King's leadership in the acquisition of civil rights for black Americans in the 1960s. It considers the significance of speech and language and describes the origins and guidelines established by the ancient Greeks in the art of rhetoric.

  21. Lesson plan: Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech as ...

    For a google doc version of this lesson, click here. Introduction. Students will study Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and discuss the rhetorical influences on King's speech, the ...

  22. What are examples of repetition and parallelism in the "I Have a Dream

    Repetition is a powerful rhetorical device in a speech. It enables the speaker to emphasize key points, and it makes it easier for the audience to remember those key points. ... Martin Luther King ...

  23. Rhetorical Analysis of Martin Luther King's Historic Speech

    Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech is an exceptional example of persuasive rhetoric. The way he used ethos, pathos, and logos in his speech enabled him to create a message that's emotional, intellectually convincing, and based on a credible foundation. King's speech remains an essential piece of American history and a prime example of ...