Identify specific facts given to support the speaker’s argument.

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

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While Dr. King's speech is rhetorically powerful, he offers specific facts and detail that enhance the purpose of his speech.  Dr. King clearly understands the context in which he delivers the speech.  The opening invocation of President Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation" speech is one factual context in which the issue of Civil Rights is introduced.  At a later point in the speech, Dr. King speaks to the conditions of African Americans a century later, facts that he believes justifies the demand for Civil Rights:

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. 

Many facts about life for African- Americans in the Civil Rights Era emerge from this passage.  Police brutality in the North and South was a reality for many African- Americans.  The inability to enjoy equal opportunity was a fact under Southern Segregation.  Jim Crow Laws in the South that substantiated a "separate, but equal" reality, even when the Court a decade earlier struck down segregation, is something that Dr. King addresses in the references to hotels and motels.  For African- Americans, the presence of the ghetto was a fact that Dr. King makes specific mention as well as the issue of political autonomy.  The fact was that Southern African- Americans were being intimidated from using their right to vote.  While Northern political autonomy was present for African- Americans, the institutional racism that presented itself prevented any real or full acknowledgement of this condition.  In this passage, specific facts becomes the basis of the speech and the reason why respecting "the fierce urgency of now" is something that Dr. King demands of his listeners.

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