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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Speech Versatility

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is noted as one of the greatest public speakers in history. He was a preeminent civil rights leader and Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia.

In the 1960s Dr. King spoke at a Civil Rights Rally in Crawfordville, Georgia. His motivation was to touch the hearts of the people and move them to action. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed a crowd which mainly consisted of African Americans with a similar background to his own. It was apparent that his purpose was to have an immediate effect on his crowd.

He rallied his audience with language and style, appealing to their emotions rather than to merely their intellect. He spoke a language which they and their ancestors were familiar with. He referenced the bible speaking a varied pitch common to a Baptist preacher. Repeatedly he would mention slavery while using metaphors such as "chains of oppression." King kept his audience focused and energized by reminding them of the vitality and optimism of the African American people.

Dr. King involved his audience by using the informal call and response approach asking, "How long?" He waited for their response before continuing with his speech. His vibrant projection, directness, vocal variety and control were effective in evoking reactions from the crowd.

Although Martin Luther King, Jr. stood only 5'6" tall, his confident stance, precise body movements and gestures gave the illusion of being a much larger man. His natural facial expressions were appropriate to his messages. He was able to use direct eye contact as speech was spontaneous and not transfixed on note cards.

The passionate delivery of his speech and his lively body language evoked the excitement that he sought from his audience. It appears that his goal to touch the hearts of the people and move them to action was accomplished.

Following the Crawfordville speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed a crowd of predominately white business men at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council in the 1960s. This speech demonstrates why Dr. King is noted as one of the best public speakers in history.

Dr. King addressed this rally in a manner and tone completely opposite of his speech he gave in Crawfordville, Georgia. There may be different reasons why he approached this crowd as he did. When he spoke in front of the World Affairs Council, it was his first time in California since receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. He was under heavy security as Malcolm X had recently been assassinated. Racial tensions were high and groups opposing Civil Rights were extremely violent.

His demeanor was businesslike and his approach was formal. His word choices exhibited his intentions of an intellectual approach versus purely emotional. Dr. King referred to the Declaration of Independence rather than quoting from the bible. He repeatedly used words such as democracy



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