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In the beginning of his speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. refers to the Emancipation Proclamation that came as "a great beacon light of hope" to the African-Americans. However, King observes, the "Negro is still not free"; he is still on the outskirts of his society.
Alluding to the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, King urges that "the promissory note" be paid. Further, he urges the nation to not ignore the urgency of this promise by providing opportunities to all in America. For, when these opportunities are offered to all, there is a better chance for racial harmony and happiness:
And when this happens, 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 join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last!
In order to be a free country, King states, all citizens of all colors and creeds must be free. Then, there can be harmony, "the great beacon light of hope" as mentioned in the speech's beginning.
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