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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Analysis of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech

Summary:

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech is a powerful call for racial equality and justice. Delivered during the 1963 March on Washington, it emphasizes King's vision of a future where people are judged by their character, not skin color. Using vivid imagery and historical references, King inspires hope and underscores the urgent need for civil rights reforms.

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What advice did Martin Luther King, Jr. give in his "I Have a Dream" speech?

Martin Luther King Jr. gave three pieces of advice to black people in his speech "I Have A Dream." He admonished them to never meet violence with violence, he encouraged them to continue to hope, and to never be satisfied as long as the status quo remained.

King encourages black people to be guiltless and blameless, never returning violence. He explained to them that undeserved suffering is redemptive, meaning that it ultimately saves them from evil. He explained that they should never be filled with bitterness or hate in their struggle to gain the freedoms guaranteed to all citizens in the Declaration of Independence. King believed strongly in nonviolent protest for two reasons: his strong faith in Jesus Christ and the example of Mahatma Gandhi's nonviolent protest which brought about change in his country.

And that is something that I must say to my people who stand on the worn threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not he guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.

Next, King encourages his people to continue to have hope that change will happen. He paints an image of what life can be when they achieve the equal status they are seeking with the section of the speech that repeats the phrase "I have a dream." King paints a picture of hope that his children will grow up in a world without racism, violence, and fear.

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."

Finally, King encourages his followers to never be satisfied until the unjust laws were eliminated. He was encouraging them to see the movement through to its natural conclusion, and not to get satisfied with just a little progress.

We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their adulthood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating "whites only." We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and the Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

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What advice did Martin Luther King, Jr. give in his "I Have a Dream" speech?

The main advice that Martin Luther King, Jr. gives to African Americans in this speech has to do with the idea of nonviolence for which King is famous.  He urges his people to make sure that they keep the moral high ground in their struggle for civil rights.

King is famous for having believed in the idea of nonviolent protest.  He thought that was the only kind of action that could actually gain African Americans the rights that they wanted and deserved.  He believed that nonviolent protest would convince white people that the people who wanted to keep blacks from having equal rights were on the wrong side of the argument.  Therefore, he urged African Americans to continue to use nonviolence. 

King tells African Americans that they “must not be guilty of wrongful deeds” in their attempt to gain their rights.  He said that they had to make sure that they did not let themselves give in to their anger over how whites had treated them. As he said:

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

Thus, we can see that King’s main advice to African Americans is that they need to continue to fight for civil rights, but that they need to adhere to the tenets of nonviolence as they do so.

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What is the thesis of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech?

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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What is the thesis of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech?

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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What is the thesis of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech?

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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What is the thesis of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech?

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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What is the thesis of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech?

Speaking during the march on Washington, D.C. in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. claims that African Americans have come to the nation's capital to cash "a promissory note," a note that must be honored or there will be no tranquility in America.

This "promissory note" is a promise written into the Constitution that all men are guaranteed the "unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." King contends that even though his people were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, they are still not afforded true freedom because there is a lack of opportunity under segregation and police brutality. King contends that "[T]here will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights."

At the same time, Dr. King urges his people not to resort to acts of hatred. He further urges them to conduct their struggle with "dignity and discipline," and to avoid all physical violence.

Dr. Martin Luther King ends his speech with his famous words "I have a dream." He speaks of a new vision for America in which the people of his race will be afforded equal opportunities and equal justice under the precept in the Constitution that "all men are created equal." With this dream and "faith" that the "promissory note" will be honored, Dr. King encourages his people to continue to pursue the changes necessary in America.

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What is the thesis of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech?

Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream” speech is essentially a persuasive speech, delivered in 1963 during the March on Washington.

People giving persuasive essays and speeches intend to convince their audiences to agree with their position on a certain issue. This “position” is often referred to as a claim. To be effective, a claim has to be well-expressed and credible. Achieving this credibility depends on several things, including the speaker's reputation and how well his or her claim is supported.

At about 16 minutes, King's speech was fairly long. To find his claim in that much text, you have to find the sentence expressing King's central message. What does he say that, if you stripped away all the rest of the text, still makes his main point?

I think the sentence that does the best job of this is the first sentence of the third paragraph:

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free.

Everything else is in the speech is used to support this claim. King goes on to use many different rhetorical and oratorical devices; he gives many different examples and cites many different facts, but all of it is intended to show how African-Americans still suffered the effects of racial prejudice in 1963.

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What is the thesis of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech?

King's main message in the "I Have A Dream" speech is that African Americans have not yet received the rights to which they, as Americans, are entitled. He essentially summarizes this point early in the speech when he says:

One hundred years later [after the Emancipation Proclamation] the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

King emphasizes that this "appalling condition" is made worse by the fact that the United States promised its people certain rights and liberties. In the United States, all men are supposedly equal. King dramatizes this point by referring to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as a "promissory note" on which the United States has thus far defaulted. In other words, the nation had failed to live up to its promises, and King and the marchers were gathered in Washington to push them to do so. This was more or less the extent of King's prepared remarks. The most famous portion of the speech, though, was extemporaneous, occasioned by Mahalia Jackson's famous entreaty to King to "tell them about your dream." This was really as statement of King's vision for the future, one in which the color of one's skin was no longer a reason for discrimination, and in which racism, systemic and otherwise, was purged from society.

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What is the thesis of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech?

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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Briefly outline what Martin Luther King said in his speech, "I Have a Dream."

I assume that you are asking about King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech delivered in August of 1963.  The main point that King is making in this speech is that he believes that America can live up to its ideals by creating a society in which people of all races are equal.

King starts out by saying that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution make promises that are not being fulfilled.  He says that blacks in America have not had the freedoms that those documents promise.  He says that their movement is pushing for those freedoms but that it must do so nonviolently and it must have both whites and blacks working together.

He then goes on to talk about the aims of the movement, about what will satisfy the movement.  This is where the most famous parts of the speech come in.  He says that he will only be satisfied when his dream is fulfilled and there is equality.  He will only be satisfied, for example,

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!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

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What is Martin Luther King's view of the "American Dream" in his "I Have a Dream" speech?

In his famous and frequently quoted "I Have a Dream" speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. makes his view of the "American Dream" clear. To him, the American dream is one of equality for all people. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word equality as "the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities."

By equality, Dr. King means that all citizens—including both black citizens and white citizens—are treated justly. For Dr. King, the American dream is a dream of justice. It is a dream of equal, fair, and equitable treatment for all peoples living in the US. It is also a dream of peaceful coexistence, and it is important to remember that, despite the number of people gathered in protest and the simmering racial tensions in the country (particularly in the south), the marchers demonstrated peacefully. In his speech, he refers to "the state of Mississippi" as "a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression." His dream is that it "will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice."

This speech was given at the historic March on Washington. An estimated 250,000 protesters had assembled in front of the iconic Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Their choice of location was intentional, as the march came some one hundred years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation granting freedom to American slaves. Their goal was to protest the unfair treatment and continuing challenges and inequalities that African Americans faced on a daily basis, even a century after Lincoln’s action. Their objective was to make the nation take notice.

In his moving “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr. begins by referencing Lincoln's Gettsyburg Address. He says,

Five score years ago a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous cleared is a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice… But 100 years later the Negro still is not free.

The beginning of Dr. King’s speech parallels Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which started with “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” In this use of parallel text, Dr. King drives home his hope for equality and emphasizes the fact that “all men” are created equal.

The “I Have a Dream" speech was to be the declaration of Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and African Americans across the US that injustice will not stand. He says, “There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.” He outlines his dream, or his view of the American dream:

I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

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What is Martin Luther King's view of the "American Dream" in his "I Have a Dream" speech?

The American Dream is that anyone from any walk of life can make it big and find happiness so long as they work hard. This dream assumes that society allows people to achieve this success, regardless of class, race, gender, or any other such demographic classification.

Martin Luther King Jr. believed in the American Dream (he even says his specific dream is embedded within the American Dream itself), but he also knew that it was not a reality for everyone, especially black Americans. Even after slavery was abolished in the United States, black Americans were still repeatedly denied human rights and opportunities that white Americans enjoyed.

In the "I Have a Dream" speech, King believes that the American Dream can only become a reality when all people in the United States view one another as brothers and equals, regardless of racial differences. In this way, King does not deny the validity of the ideals behind the American Dream; however, he does criticize the United States's inability to follow those ideals to their logical conclusion by offering black Americans the same opportunities.

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What is Martin Luther King's view of the "American Dream" in his "I Have a Dream" speech?

King sees a direct connection between his dream of racial equality and the American dream. He argues that the assertion from the Declaration of Independance that "all men are created equal" is the "true meaning" of the American dream. King goes on to describe his dream, imagining black and white people in Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama living in harmony.

It's clear that King embraces the ideals of the American Dream, but feels that American society has not lived up to this dream as far as black people are concerned. His rhetoric contextualizes the American Dream; by including in it his dream of black and white people sitting "down together at the table of brotherhood" he is, in effect, laying claim to the principle of equality and pointing out the hypocrisy of those that would keep the races unequal. His conclusion of this section of the speech, in which he invokes the Bible ("I have a dream that every valley shall be exalted...") transforms the American dream into a vision of the Kingdom of God. This move explicitly connects the American dream to Christian ideals, but more significantly, suggests that racial equality is less a matter of American politics than it is a kind of divine imperative.

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What is Martin Luther King's view of the "American Dream" in his "I Have a Dream" speech?

Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream was for all people to be free and treated equally. In August 1963, King delivered his famous speech in which he called upon America to do what it promised. The promise, according to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, was that all men would be treated equally. King said, "In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check." Since this promise had not yet been fulfilled, he stated that the check was marked as having "insufficient funds."

While King was criticized by some for his tone, he hoped that his dream of freedom and equality could be achieved peacefully. He stated, "In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds." King recognized the "marvelous new militancy" of the community, but cautioned that the America he dreamed of could be achieved by African Americans and whites working together.

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What is Martin Luther King's view of the "American Dream" in his "I Have a Dream" speech?

The phrase "American dream" can be used in a variety of contexts.  King is clearly using it to mean racial equality.  He is saying that a country and society without discrimination or prejudice would fulfill the American dream.

King does not actually say "the American dream is..."  Instead, he says 

... I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

He then goes on to tell what his dream is.  It is his famous dream of a country in which there is racial harmony and equality.  It is a country where people are not

judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

King's dream is a dream of racial harmony.  Since he says that it is rooted in the American dream, we can infer that the American dream is also one of harmony and equality.

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