Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the foreground with other people standing attentively in the background

"I Have a Dream" Speech

by Martin Luther King Jr.

Start Free Trial

What were Dr. King's political motivations behind delivering his "I Have A Dream" speech?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One of Dr. King's strongest political motivations in delivering his "I Have a Dream" speech was to generate public support for Civil Rights in America.

The moral and ethical dimensions of Dr. King's speech are well understood. However, there was a distinct political reality into which he inserted the speech's words.  Dr. King's speech was a part of the "The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom."  The entire weekend was dedicated to generating public awareness about the need for African- Americans to be seen as a part of American society.  Their demands were economic and social. Organizers of the event insisted on more economic opportunity for African- Americans.  They sought greater job opportunities and a higher minimum wage.  Both of these fed into the political context of the time.  While the Civil Rights Act had not yet been passed, President Kennedy had introduced anti- discrimination legislation.  Leaders in the Civil Rights Movement understood that they had an opening that had to be seized.  The public was slowly gaining awareness that the way African- Americans were being treated in America had to be reexamined.

Civil Rights leaders like Dr. King understood that the March on Washington could be an opportunity for the public to see the Civil Rights issue in both political and human terms.  They wanted the American public to see African- Americans as human beings, people who were simply trying to act upon their own vision of the American Dream.  It is for this reason that Dr. King's speech referenced "the promissory note" from the Founding Fathers, words from scripture, and the idea that "the dream" is within every human being who wants a better life for themselves and their children.  This "humanizing" effect was politically driven.  Dr. King recognized that once Americans began to see African- Americans as no different than anyone else, the political goals of greater social and economic freedom could be realized.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team