Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is one of the most recognized speeches in United States history. The Baptist minister was a non-violent social activist. King was an influential individual in ending segregation and supporting civil rights for African Americans. The activist skipped his first and last year of high school and immediately went to college, at the age of fifteen. “In 1948 Martin Luther graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Morehouse College” (“MLK”). King desired to inspire African Americans to advocate for their civil rights without violence, and to demonstrate African American civility to non-blacks.
King intended to encourage African-Americans to continue pursuing civil rights regardless of persecution. He reminded his followers they were fighting for their children’s rights as well. The speech challenged non-colored people to look beyond skin color, and focus on character and morals. Martin Luther wanted to change the way African-American perceived themselves and for the rest of the world to treat them with equality. In the spring of 1963, the activist was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama for a traffic ticket and sent to jail. After the events in Birmingham, Martin Luther King Junior and his followers began to plan a peaceful mass demonstration. The dream speech was spoken on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial during the time of Jim Crow Segregation Laws. The activist wanted a change for his people. He did not want his four children to grow up in a segregated society. ‘I Have a Dream’ was written to gain support for equal rights laws to be passed.
The spoken words were eloquently written to influence people and the government. Many analogies were used to illustrate ideas, such as “black civil rights being a check marked insufficient funds and justice being a bank” (King par. 4). The minister assumes listeners are familiar with the bible, God, and the Declaration of Independence when quoting the creed from the Declaration of Independence. Martin Luther’ words were not only recorded and transcribed, but also filmed. There is no denying this speech happened. Anyone with access to a computer, phone, or tablet can hear, see, or read the inspirational words of this activist. The 1960s was the longest period of economic expansion. Even though the economy was booming colored and immigrant people did not get equal wages. There were little opportunities for blacks to receive a raise or get a promotion. On a political note, President John F. Kennedy proposed and then wrote the Civil Rights Act. ‘I Have a Dream’ was spoken in front of the Lincoln Memorial because President Lincoln ordered the Emancipation Proclamation. King quoted the Declaration of Independence in his speech as support for equal rights for everyone. Religion played a big role in Martin Luther’s life, because his father was a Baptist minister and Martin Luther King Junior later became a Baptist minister himself. The gospel poured into the activist’s speech as he addressed listeners as his brothers and mentioned they were all God’s children. The leader preached, “…all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual” (“Top 100”). Colored people were oppressed by society because of Jim Crow Laws. African-Americans had to go to lesser schools, work for lower wages, drink from different water fountains, enter building from back entrances, and accept por treatment. Equal rights activists were sometimes persecuted and unlawfully imprisoned for protesting, even if it was peacefully.
‘I Have a Dream’ sheds light on an unjust, hypocritical, ignorant, and shameful point in United States history. The words made many Americans revaluate how they treated colored people. If it were not for Martin Luther King Junior and his speech the Civil Rights Act would not have been passed for years. King challenged people to look past skin color and called for everyone to realize freedom must be equal for all. The land of the free must be free for all, not just one ethnicity. I believe in Martin Luther’s dream; we should see fellow Americans as brothers and sisters. People should be judged by their heart, character, morals, and effort. Today society still struggles to treat every individual equally, and for people who believe in freedom like I do it is shameful and frustrating for the country to promise equal freedom for everyone, and not deliver. I believe one day our country will be able to look past people’s differences, but until then everyone can learn something valuable from ‘I Have a Dream’. To truly hear ‘I Have a Dream’ is to take something out of the speech and apply it to your life.
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