What are the important things Martin Luther King wants his audience to know in his "I Have a Dream" speech?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his "I Have a Dream" speech, Martin Luther King bases his thesis on two main ideas: (1) African Americans still are not free; and (2) now is the time for African Americans to fight for freedom. These are two critical points King wants his audience to know.

Within the opening paragraphs of his speech, King references the Emancipation Proclamation, ratified by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War to set slaves free. King further points out that, "one hundred years" after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the "Negro still is not free." The African American still was not free because he still suffered from racial discrimination, segregation, and poverty, preventing the African American from benefiting from the "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" promised by the Declaration of Independence.

King further warns his audience, especially his white audience members, against being foolish enough to believe that, now African Americans have had their day of protest, they "will now be content" to go back to their places of subordination. Instead, he argues that "[n]ow is the time" for African Americans to rise up against injustice. However, he also warns his people against using violence to achieve their goals and continues to promote peaceful protest.

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"I Have a Dream" speech

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