Discuss the implied threat in both Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" and Langston Hughes' "Harlem."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The idea of a "threat" is interesting.  I do not think that each specific thinker would use the term, but the idea in each is present.  For Hughes, the closing image of "Or does it explode," causes a unsettling moment for the reader.  It brings to light that constant deferral of dreams cannot carry socially or personally positive consequences  The implications of this on a larger scale is a call for White America to view the manner in which it defers the dreams of people of color, specifically Black Americans.  At the same time, it is an exploration as to how people's cruelty to one another can carry profound implications.  This is part of the same idea that Dr. King holds in his speech.  The need to call out for a change is the fundamental premise of the work.  Within this, Dr. King suggests that American History and its promises and its fundamental construction all demonstrate a need to bring out equality for people of color, specifically Black Americans.  The threat that might be present here is that if White America does not acknowledge its own history and its own theoretical condition of freedom and justice for all, then its treatment of Black Americans serves as a reminder of its fraudulent condition.  The idea of a "promissory note" needing to have been made good is something that Dr. King brings out in his speech, and at the same time, is a veiled threat to the most hallowed of historical consciousness in American thought.   Both works do not outwardly threaten because they don't need to do so.  Merely suggesting the results of deferral of dreams and not heeding the calls to transform reality become unsettling visions of the future.

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