Martin Luther King's Speech Tone

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At the 1963 March on Washington, American Baptist minister and activist Martin Luther King Jr. delivered one of his most famous speeches in history on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the height of the African American civil rights movement. King maintains an overall passionate tone throughout the speech, but in the beginning, he projected a more urgent, cautionary, earnest, and reverent tone to set the audience up for his message. Towards the end, his tone becomes more hopeful, optimistic, and uplifting to inspire his audience to listen to his message: take action against racial segregation and discrimination in a peaceful manner. Targeting black and white Americans with Christian beliefs, King exposes the American public to the injustice…show more content…
This reference in particular evokes the strongest emotional response from black people because many African Americans revered Lincoln for his decision to sign the revolutionary Emancipation Proclamation, and how the document symbolized a free future for slaves--the ancestors of the blacks in the crowd. But the next few lines following this allusion also persuades those ignorant of how little things have changed by highlighting the “manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination” that blacks still suffer from despite the hundred year gap. Here, he uses the connotations of “manacles” and “chains” to evoke a negative emotional response from the audience, especially from those unaware of the need to change, causing their opinion to match the speaker’s: against segregation. Additionally, King weaves biblical allusions into his speech to appeal to the Christians within the crowd. He uses the “dark and desolate valley of segregation” to illustrate the injustice African Americans have endured for centuries and juxtapositions it with the “sunlit path of racial justice” to exemplify a future where true freedom exists for…show more content…
To achieve this, he used rhetorical strategies such as appeal to pathos and repetition. His passionate tone flowed through these strategies, increasing their persuasive power on the people and encouraging them to follow/listen to his message on racial injustice. While pathos elicits an emotional response from the audience to make them more accepting of King’s ideas, repetition structures the speech and emphasizes key ideas for the audience to take away from listening. These two techniques played a crucial role in furthering his purpose and in provoking a powerful response from the audience that made this speech memorable and awe-inspiring. To this day, King’s speech remains one of the most famous and influential speeches in
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