What is the thesis of I have a dream speech by martin luther king?

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stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

jerseygyrl1983 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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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"I Have a Dream" speech

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