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.
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What is an example of a caricature in Martin Luther King Junior's "I Have a Dream" speech?

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A caricature is an image that exaggerates certain features or characteristics of a person or object. Often caricatures are comic in nature, like the ones you see at an amusement park or carnival. But they can also be designed to be grotesque or dramatic, to prove a point. 

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A caricature is an image that exaggerates certain features or characteristics of a person or object. Often caricatures are comic in nature, like the ones you see at an amusement park or carnival. But they can also be designed to be grotesque or dramatic, to prove a point. 

In his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963, Martin Luther King Junior (MLKJ) uses caricature, the dramatic and grotesque kind, in his discussion of "the Negro." MLKJ talks about all African American people using a synecdoche; "the Negro" represents all black people at the time. "The Negro," he says in the third paragraph of the speech, "still is not free.... The life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination." As MLKJ points out repeatedly, slavery ended in America 100 years before his speech. But he uses the image of slavery (manacles, chains, not being free) to describe the plight of African Americans facing brutal racism and extreme poverty.

Later in the speech, MLKJ would describe African Americans as living "a lonely island of poverty." Obviously, they weren't literally living on an island. Rather, this is an exaggerated image that is designed to prove his point. In this way, MLKJ uses caricature in one of the most famous American speeches of all time. 

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