In which line does Dr. King state his purpose? What other seminal US documents does Dr. King cite in his speech?    

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King states the purpose of the March on Washington in the third paragraph of his famous speech. He says that he and the many others who've made this march to the nation's capital have come to "cash a check". What he means by this is that the civil rights movement...

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King states the purpose of the March on Washington in the third paragraph of his famous speech. He says that he and the many others who've made this march to the nation's capital have come to "cash a check". What he means by this is that the civil rights movement is now demanding the fulfillment of the promise of American freedom as set out in Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and the Declaration of Independence.

King invokes Lincoln's famous speech to remind those millions of people watching at home than the civil rights movement aren't demanding anything radical, something that might undermine the very foundations of American government. They are simply demanding what they were promised by Lincoln a century ago, a promise that was never fulfilled.

King's invocation of the Declaration of Independence has much the same purpose. He wants to show the world that the civil rights movement, far from consisting of dangerous radicals, stands firmly in the tradition of American liberty, a tradition that stretches all the way back to the Founding Fathers.

The inspiring words of the Declaration clearly state that "all men are created equal". And yet, for millions of African-Americans, those words have rung hollow ever since. Once again, a promise was made and a promise was broken. For King and the hundreds of thousands who've joined him in the nation's capital, it's high time to make good on that promise, to "cash the check" as it were.

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In August 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered a speech no less significant in American history than President Lincoln’s address at a battlefield in rural Pennsylvania one hundred years before. Dr. King understood the occasion. He said that the March on Washington would “go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.” Because of his dream, it has.

In his opening lines, Dr. King alludes to the famous introduction to the Gettysburg Address. “Five score years ago,” he says, “a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation.” Dr. King references the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence next, calling them a promissory note from the Bank of Justice, a guarantee that all men would have “unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The purpose of the speech is to demand full civil rights for every American. Dr. King speaks right away about his purpose using figurative terms, but he clarifies his intentions in the fifth and seventh paragraphs: “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy” and “There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.” Segregation, police brutality, and economic injustice have no place in a nation that promises its citizens freedom and equality. To emphasize the need for togetherness, Dr. King concludes his speech with references to the American patriotic song, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee" and the spiritual “Free at Last”:

When we allow freedom to ring—when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, "We are free at last."

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