Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the central figures of the twentieth century. Born into an educated black family in Atlanta in 1929, his childhood was strongly influenced by religion and the racial inequality of the South. He got a doctorate from Boston University on the topic of man’s relationship with God in 1955 before which he graduated from seminary in 1951 (Peake). “I Have a Dream” is one of the defining speeches of the twentieth century and is at the heart of Civil Rights literature. While other writings from the era brought up the same issues that afflicted the black community, this speech came to be a rallying cry for the movement. “I Have a Dream” is more than a speech, it is a piece of American history in its own right and as such is a necessary part in any study of American literature.
King covered many themes in the speech, but the central theme is that a nation divided by inequality and oppression fails all of its citizens. The common tenet of all his speeches, nonviolent resistance, in present as well but not the central point. The first half of the speech pushes this central theme into the minds of the listener and reader, while the second half, the “I have a dream” and “let freedom ring” portion, presents an idea of what a nation free from segregation and discrimination would look like.
The speech begins with metaphors that speak to that point. The founding fathers in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence wrote a letter of credit to all Americans in which they “guaranteed the "unalienable rights" of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."”(King 2710). The nation’s failure to pay up on that promise is the central theme of the second through fourth passages. This is expressed with lines l...
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King, Martin L., Jr. "I Have a Dream." 1963. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. 6th ed. Vol. E. Boston, Mass.: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010. 2710-713. Print. Contemporary Period: 1945 to the Present.
"Marxist Criticism." Columbia Dictionary Of Modern Literary & Cultural Criticism (1995): 175-179. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 11 May 2014.
Peake, Thomas R. "Martin Luther King, Jr." World Philosophers & Their Works (2000): 1-3. Literary Reference Center Plus. Web. 11 May 2014.
Watkins Harper, Frances E. "Aunt Chloe's Politics." 1872. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. By Paul Lauter. 6th ed. Vol. C. Boston, Mass.: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010. 645. Print. Late Nineteenth Century: 1865-1910.
Weinman, Jaime J. "What Was Lost In The Dream." Maclean's 126.34 (2013): 1. Academic Search Complete. Web. 07 May 2014.
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