What is the thesis of the "I have a dream" speech by Martin Luther King?

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I think that if we can choose one sentence of this speech that represents its main, central claim, it would be the following sentence from the sixth paragraph:

This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality—1963 is...

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I think that if we can choose one sentence of this speech that represents its main, central claim, it would be the following sentence from the sixth paragraph:

This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality—1963 is not an end but a beginning.

Prior to this, Dr. King has established that the discontent felt by African Americans at this time in history is absolutely "legitimate" and warranted by the treatment they have received at the hands of white Americans. He has given several reasons for the legitimacy of African Americans' dissatisfaction with their rights in a United States of America that promises equal rights to all people but does not actually enforce them: it oppresses racial minorities, especially black people, through economic privation, a lack of social mobility, segregation and Jim Crow laws, discrimination, police brutality, and more. He explains that African Americans are merely allowed to exist and do so in a "shameful condition" that is not only permitted but perpetuated by whites.

After this particular sentence, he goes on to discuss what will happen as a result of the continuation of this "sweltering summer," a metaphor for the effects of prejudice and segregation. Dr. King explains what protests should look like and how best to draw attention to the plight of the African American, still enslaved one hundred years after the emancipation of slaves; he promises that, some day, his dream of a truly free America can come true.

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The main point or thesis of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream Speech" is that blacks in the United States have waited long enough for whites to "pay up" on their promise of equality. A hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks are still segregated and second class. They have been told over and over to wait, to expect equality to emerge slowly, but they have waited long enough and must insist on having it now. King spells out for his audience the need for justice and says that blacks are going to keep on protesting until they get it, but that they won't do so violently. He ends his speech with a vision of a time when justice will roll through the land, and people will be judged by their character and not the color of their skin. This land of equality will benefit everyone, black and white.

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Another definition of a thesis statement is that it is the main point or objective of a written statement. This is especially relevant when examining a speech. We must ask, "What is the speaker's message?" After answering this question, it becomes possible to analyze the devices that the speaker uses to convey that message and ensure maximum impact on the listener.

I would argue that King's thesis or main point is that the United States—a supposed land of the free—has not lived up to its promises. He makes this point in the context of the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been delivered one hundred years before the March on Washington—the site of King's speech.

It was on that day, King contends, that the nation wrote a "promissory note" to people of color, a note on which the nation had defaulted. However, King does not address this from a place of cynicism or pessimism. Instead, he says that black people "refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt." These metaphors work to emphasize the tangibility of abstract concepts, such as justice—arguing that the United States, in its abundance, has no cause not to pay black people what it owes them.

The "dream" is that the nation will "spread its wealth"—access to voting power and better employment opportunities—so that it can fulfill on the promise that it made one hundred years before.

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A thesis statement is a summary of the position that is going to be presented in a piece of writing or, in this case, in his speech. A thesis statement gives the audience an introduction to the ideas and information that will be coming during the course of the presentation.

Earlier during the summer of 1963 (the time of the March on Washington), the civil rights movement had witnessed major events in Birmingham, AL which seemed to some to offer hope for more recognition of rights for black Americans but didn't go far enough to satisfy others. Efforts to work with Pres. Kennedy's administration to promote legislation advancing the cause of civil rights was moving slowly, to the great disgust of militant parties. The March on Washington on Aug. 28 occurred against this backdrop of attitudes and events.

Dr. King's thesis, "I have a dream," introduced each major point of his speech. As he retold the history of slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation, as he recounted the sufferings of blacks who had been injured and/or jailed during demonstrations and efforts appealing for equal rights, as he described the conditions and relationships between races that he hoped to see in the future - at each point, "I have a dream" emphasized that he honored the past but was spending the present dreaming of better days to come. His thesis was, simply, that he was dreaming of a world in which racial relations would be marked with equality for all, in every sense and in every place.

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