This analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “I Have a Dream” is based on the rhetorical pentagram model. Here we present a short overview of our analysis of the speech.

We take you through the topics that the speech explores, namely racial discrimination, freedom, and equality. We then discuss the speaker, looking at his background, his role in the Civil Rights Movement, and the image he conveys of himself through the speech.

We continue by looking at the audience – formed by both black and white civil rights activists present at the speech and by the larger audience who saw the speech televised. We also consider which segments of the audience the speaker addresses and why.

We analyze the language used by the speaker, including rhetorical devices like metaphors, repetitions, and modes of persuasion. We discuss how these devices relate to the speaker’s intention of promoting equal rights in American society and encouraging the audience to continue the use of peaceful means to further their fight for civil rights and the end of segregation.

Finally, we outline the circumstances of the speech focusing on the March on Washington in the context of the Civil Rights Movement in the US in the 1960s.

Read the full analysis in the following pages.


Below, you can read an excerpt from the analysis:

"The speech was delivered at the end of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a milestone in the Civil Rights Movement. The protesters – an estimated 250,000 people— demanded civil and economic rights for African Americans. The march is today viewed as one of the largest rallies for human rights in the US.

Following the march and MLK’s speech, the US Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which banned discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and prohibited segregation. Consequently, the march and King’s speech can be viewed as milestones in the fight for equal Civil Rights in the US. At that time King’s speech received a lot of media attention, being described as a great and well-delivered speech, and many credited it with pushing the US government to change some of its discriminatory laws."

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