Rhetorical Analysis Of John F. Kennedy's Civil Rights Address

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1963 was a pivotal year for the civil rights movements during the 1960s. Contrary to President Kennedy’s idea of the integration of African-Americans, Dixiecrats had reacted aggressively to the Birmingham Campaign. Democratic Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, in an attempt to prevent two black students from enrolling in the University of Alabama, was confronted by the federalized Alabama National Guard on June 11, 1963. This incident compelled John F. Kennedy to officially address the issue of civil rights for African-Americans on the very same day. In his “Civil Rights Address”, John F. Kennedy frequently appeals to history to warn white Americans of the danger of ignoring African-Americans’ right to equal treatment, motivates the nation…show more content…
His message is delivered in an ironic way through a series of rhetorical questions, asking white Americans whether they truly believe the United States of America to be “the land of the free” (para. 9) that has “no class or caste system, no ghettos, no master race except with respect to Negroes” (para. 9). In fact, the whole paragraph presents the irony of Americans “preach[ing] freedom around the world” (para. 9) while not committing to achieve freedom in their own country. Kennedy refers to the longstanding Indian practice of the caste system, which people are ranked based on their birth, the upper caste feels a sense of superiority to exploit and suppresses the lower caste. This sense of superiority only creates tension among social groups, destroys…show more content…
In the second paragraph, Kennedy reminds his audience that the nation was “founded on the principle that all men are created equal” (para. 2). In fact, unjust taxation that Great Britain imposed on American colonists infringed upon the colonists’ rights as Englishmen, and gave rise to the American Revolutionary War. “The Declaration of Independence” was then signed, and the United States of America was created. It was created to resist the oppression from Great Britain; it was created because Americans believe that the right to freedom and equality is innate and universal. With that in mind, Kennedy argues that they have no reason not to give African-Americans the same freedom and equality that every American deserves. Equal rights, at least equal right to education should be granted to African-Americans according to “the Supreme Court’s decision nine years ago” (para. 16), which declared segregated schools to be unconstitutional (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka). Nine years after, an “unequivocal order of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama” (para. 1) again “called for the admission of two clearly qualified young Alabama residents who happened to have been born Negro” (para. 1). Kennedy appeals to white Americans’ sense of justice by making

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