Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Assignment on Rhetoric - Nadhiya, N, II BA English

Nadhiya, N, writes:

Famous Speech of Martin Luther King:

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C

“I Have a Dream” is the popular name given to the historic public speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., when he spoke of his desire for a future where blacks and whites among others would coexist harmoniously as equals. King’s delivery of the speech on August 28, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement. Delivered to over 2,50,000 civil rights supporters, the speech is often considered to be one of the greatest and most notable speeches in history and was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century by a 1999 poll of scholars of public address. According to U.S Representative John Lewis, who also spoke that day as the President of the student Non-violent coordinating committee. “Dr.King had the power, the ability and the Lincoln Memorial into a modern day pulpit. By speaking the way he did, he educated, he inspired, he informed not just the people there, but people throughout America and unborn generations.

At the end of the speech, King departed from his prepared text for a partly improvised peroration on the theme of “I Have a Dream”, possibly prompted by Mahalia Jackson’s cry, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” He had delivered a speech incorporating some of the same sections in Detroit in June 1963, when he marched on Woodward Avenue with Walter Reuther and the Reverend C.L. Franklin, and rehearsed other parts.

In this historic speech, King said he had a dream that white and black children would one day walk hand in hand and that one day sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners would be able to agree to live together.

The 1950s, 1960s and 1970s were tremendously difficult times for African-Americans. They were not treated like white Americans simply because of their skin colour. And the laws protected the bad treatment they got. Laws requiring “separate” hotels, restaurants, schools and even drinking fountains were common in many states.

Martin Luther King was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, a drive to get more equal treatment for all Americans, not just white Americans.

This speech was important in several ways:

It brought even greater attention to the Civil Rights Movement, which had been going on for many years. King’s speech was part of the March on Washington, a gathering of more than 250,000 people in the nation’s capital. African-Americans still were not treated as equals. Marches like this one and ones earlier in Detroit and other cities called attention to this fact.

The speech was given in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, the monument honouring President Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the Southern States. By giving his speech there, King was wanting to call attention to how things were terrible a century before (during the Civil War) and how some things hadn’t changed so very much in 100 years.

It brought Martin Luther King and his message of non-violence to a nationwide (and worldwide) audience. The speech was carried on radio and was reprinted in newspapers and magazines all over the United States and all over the world. After this speech, the name Martin Luther King was known to many more people than before.

It made Congress move faster in passing the Civil Rights Act. This set of laws was finally passed the next year, in 1964. Many of these laws gave African-Americans more equal treatment than they ever had before.
Martin Luther King continued to speak out for Civil rights and for non-violence. Sadly, he was killed in 1968. But the memory of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and the message it continues to live on.

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