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Rhetorical Analysis of Martin Luther King Jr. Speech--"i've Been to the Mountaintop"

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Journey to the Promised Land

Rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King Jr. speech--"I've been to the Mountaintop"

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most charismatic speakers of his day. The occasion of this speech was to address the black community in Memphis, TN in regards of the Human Rights Movement and the refusal of fair and honest dealings with the sanitation workers.

The ultimate purpose of this speech was to encourage the people for peaceful and continued support for those who were being treated unfairly and unjustly. He wanted to put the issue where others can see the injustice of this community.

The intended audience is the black community who were struggling for equality. However, there was a broader audience that of a nation that was forced to deal with the injustice that society had turned away from.

Some of the historical context surrounding the speech was the ongoing struggle of human rights like Brown vs. Board of Education, desegregation of the schools in the south. Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

In this speech there are many examples of rhetoric devices. At the beginning of his speech, King describes past events while using anaphora, epistrophe and antithesis, such as: the fight to save God's children from Egypt and bring them to the promise land. Martin Luther is inspired by this miraculous effort, yet says, "in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn't stop there." (King, 1968) Furthermore, he talks of the Parthenon where "Plato, Aristotle, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled" (King, 1968) and says again, "I wouldn't stop there. I would go on" to the Roman Empire where the start of democracy and one of the first well-rounded cultures occurred, but he "wouldn't stop there". King "would even" go back to the Renaissance where new ideas and cultures were being sprung up, but he "wouldn't stop there."

Martin Luther King Jr. used logos which appealed to them when he told them what they have to do collectively. How strong they were together and how they could wield their power. "Always anchor our external and direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Now, we are poor people. Individually, we are poor when you compare us with white society in America. We are poor. Never stop and forget that collectively --that means all of us together--collectively we are richer an all the nations in the world. Did you ever think about that? .....the American Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of thirty billion dollars a year, which I more than all of the exports of the United States, more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That's power right there, if we know how to pool it."

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