Take 17 minutes to watch this in honor of the thousands of blacks who suffered and died to get to where we are now, and the brave men and women whose blood and toil finally dismantled official segregation in the U.S.
Martin Luther King’s famous speech on civil rights took place on August 28, 1963 in Washington D.C. He spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He had given snippets of the speech before, but that doesn’t detract from its power, enhanced by the cadences of Southern preaching. I was in junior high school then, living only a few miles from where this speech was given, and I well remember how it galvanized the country.
I defy you to watch the last five minutes—the crescendo—without a tear in your eye, or at least a lump in your throat. (Note: a reader below says that my embedded video isn’t viewable in the UK. If you can’t see it, this one should work.)
Widely hailed as a masterpiece of rhetoric, King’s speech invokes the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the United States Constitution. Early in his speech, King alludes to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address by saying “Five score years ago…” King says in reference to the abolition of slavery articulated in the Emancipation Proclamation, “It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.” Anaphora, the repetition of a phrase at the beginning of sentences, is a rhetorical tool employed throughout the speech. An example of anaphora is found early as King urges his audience to seize the moment: “Now is the time…” is repeated four times in the sixth paragraph. The most widely cited example of anaphora is found in the often quoted phrase “I have a dream…” which is repeated eight times as King paints a picture of an integrated and unified America for his audience. Other occasions when King used anaphora include “One hundred years later,” “We can never be satisfied,” “With this faith,” “Let freedom ring,” and “free at last.”
Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.