Topic

Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “I Have a Dream” is constructed around the topic of African-American civil rights. This broad topic is explored by focusing on themes like racial discrimination, equality, and freed…

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African-American civil rights

The speech can be divided into two main parts. The first part focuses on the circumstances of African Americans in 1963. The second part focuses on the speaker’s vision for equality and the future of African Americans in the US.

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Racial discrimination and repression

The first part of the speech focuses on racial discrimination and repression. The speaker explores these aspects by referring to the Emancipation Proclamation and the ideals expressed by the Declaration of Independence, and comparing them to the reality for African Americans living under a government that promotes segregation and discrimination: “One hundred years later, the l…

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Equality and freedom

The themes of equality and freedom are linked to that of racial discrimination and frequently appear throughout the speech.

MLK first focuses on the fact that freedom and equality should be rights everyone enjoys, as stated in the Christian religion and US founding documents: “…a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” (ll. 36-37) “ ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ ” (ll. 115-116).

As the second part of his speech unfolds, describing King’s vision for the future of America, the speaker gives specific e…

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Argumentation

Martin Luther King’s speech is mainly constructed on direct argumentation, meaning that the speaker presents his views and ideas directly.

MLK is very clear when he describes the discrimination and oppression African Americans are subjected to, even though American founding documents supposedly guarantee equal rights for all citizens: “One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.” (ll. 11-14); “…guaranteed the ‘unalienable Rights’ of…

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