In no other place were the overall dreams of African Americans better stated than in the speech delivered by Martin Luther Jr. on August 28, 1963. Martin Luther aptly stated what had been the silent hope of many African Americans who had suffered segregation, slavery and unfair treatment from their Caucasian masters. Martin Luther however, spoke not from a victim standpoint, but from the standpoint of a person who knew that what America was witnessing that day was just a pointer to better things to come.
His speech was full of hope, yet he agreed that a hundred years after the signing of the emancipation proclamation, the black people were not yet free, they were still poor in a country that glowed in prosperity and they were not yet accepted as part of the greater American society. This however, did not deter him from being hopeful. He still believed that there was hope in the promissory note depicted by the words of the American constitution as well as the Declaration of Independence that the right to life, liberty and happiness would be available to everyone regardless of their skin color.
Though he knew that the black people had been denied many things, he refused to believe that the situation would be like that forever. He chose dialogue over strife as evidenced by his speech and though many blacks may have been overjoyed by his advocacy for them, the weight of the words must have touched a nerve with the white majority. Martin Luther propagated the real meaning of democracy in his speech, which would include eliminating social injustices and embracing brotherhood (Demetrice, A. &Perry, J. Jr).
Being a straight talker, he spoke plainly about what the African Americans would do if they were not granted citizenship rights. “The whirlwinds of revolt will shake the foundations of this country until justice is done” he said. He told the Caucasians that their destiny was tied to the African American’s. In this speech, Martin Luther King Jr. did what many slave revolts had been unable to do; convince the white community that America needed to have equality among all the races present if the country was to develop. The Nat Turner Confession
Nat Turner on the other hand, started the slave rebellion in Antebellum South by organizing black men to slaughter white men. In the jail where he was incarcerated after the rebellion, Turner confessed about his life and what had led him to stage the rebellion. In the confession, it was evident that Turner too felt the pinch of slavery and deep within, just like Martin Luther , had the dream that one day, the black people would be free. His approach was different from Martin Luther’s as he utilized violence in a bid to air the slave’s grievances. Turner believed that he had been divinely elected to set the black community free.
This was the same reason he had given for returning to his master after running away. He claimed that he had received divine revelation and that he must serve his earthly master. His time in slavery however, allowed him to prepare for what he termed as his great mission, which was to execute the white people. Respected among his peers for his great insight, Turner was able to convince them easily to take part in the insurrection. Evidently, the black community was fed up with the ill treatment, but had no channels through which they could vent their frustrations.
When Turner suggested the insurrection, they were all too willing to follow him (Gray, T. R, 1831). Overall, Nat Turner and Martin Luther King Jr. were two people with common goals of emancipating the black community from slavery. Their approaches were different in that one choose diplomacy, while the other choose a revolution. Reflection of the African American History in the Speeches Both the Turner confession and the Martin Luther King dream speech portray a part of African-American history that revolved around slavery and the denial of basic freedoms and rights by the white community.
In his speech, Martin Luther portrays his dreams well about what he hoped America would become. As such, we get the picture that for each dream that he put forth, the opposite was exactly true in real life. Racism was at its worst, with the blacks suffering the blunt of it. This is evident when he says that the “whites only” signs rob their children off their dignity. A striking difference between the blacks is evident when Martin Luther says that whereas the Negroes in Mississippi are denied the right to vote, those in New York believe they have no reason to vote
The two speeches further reveal that not all white people were opposed to the emancipation of the black people and that indeed a significant number of Caucasian Americans respected and admired the black people. In Martin Luther’s speech, he says that the presence of white people during his speech delivery was evidence enough that not all white people are to be distrusted. This however suffices the norm during those days that blacks would always view the white people suspiciously. Nat Turner also acknowledges that his master realized his great potential and remarked that he would not be of any useful service as a servant.
It is also revealed by Turner that slavery was a deeply committing work, such that he could only pray when his slavery duties allowed. He also reveals that it was not uncommon for the slaves to run away from their master’s farms and seek refuge in some of the states that had declared freedom for the slaves. The difference between the two speeches is that the Martin Luther speech was read 100 years after the signing of the emancipation proclamation, while the Turner confession was given when blacks were still under slavery in many states.
The two therefore have different aspects of African American history with Turner’s giving some insight in to what life was during the slavery era, while Martin Luther’s gives snippets on the slow progress that the white society made before accepting the free black community as part of the larger American society. According to the Martin Luther speech, despite the signing of the emancipation agreement in 1862, the black people were still crippled by ties of segregation and discrimination. As such, the black could not access basic services with as much ease as the whites did.
Poverty was also widely spread among the black community especially because they worked for little wages and did not own property like their masters. Martin Luther says that the black community was still in an island of poverty, while their country was an ocean of prosperity. In addition, he compares the Negroes to people who find that they are actually in exile in their own land. Martin Luther also reflected the hopeful nature of the black community who with each new day hoped that something better and more promising would come their way.
He said, and in a way captured the belief of many black people, that the vaults of American opportunities had not run dry and that more opportunities would open up for the black people. A part of the heritage that has been associated with the slavery era is the Negro spirituals as stated in the Martin Luther speech. Reflections of the speeches on the Contemporary African American culture Through the daring and courageous acts of Nat Turner, many African Americans were able to know that slavery is a thing that they did not have to put up with.
As a result, many of them started clamoring for freedom, calls that eventually led to their emancipation. The white slave owners were also more aware of the brewing insurrection among the slaves and as opposed to earlier times when they could boss the slaves around, they started giving them some level of democratic space. This was done in order to avoid mass revolts. The fact that the whites and blacks learnt to respect each other and even appreciate each other’s contributions may have an indirect impact on the relation between whites and blacks in contemporary society.
Martin Luther on the other hand advocated for human rights, a common characteristic in today’s society. Although not a preserve of the black community alone, human right violations are always met by protests that seek to let the ruling class know that the masses are not comfortable with the negative social developments. As such, Martin Luther advocated for the proper collection of facts, determination of whether justice exists, negotiating with the parties concerned and if this fails, then direct action would be the next best thing (africanamericans. com).
Today, the black community is among the minority groups who shout the loudest whenever their rights are infringed upon. The Speeches also teach the contemporary society that oppressed people cannot remain in that position forever and that eventually their yearning for freedom will supersede the forces that try to keep them down. With the African-American, the oppression awakened them to the fact that freedom is real and that it can also be gained through persistence. In a contemporary setting, the speech reflects the fact that discontent if channeled into the right and creative outlets can bear desirable results.
Advocacy is such one combination which always provides an alternative to confrontations. The words of Martin Luther resonate well in the contemporary world. For example, one of his famous quotes is “Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere”. No black leader can vouch for this statement better than the world leaders of all races, colors or creeds who have witnessed injustice sprout and eventually become a wide spread catastrophe that attracts protestors to the streets.
The strong belief that Turner and Martin Luther fought for the cause as well as the rights and freedoms of the black community have led to what has been branded the African-American communism. Understandably, having faced the same fate of segregation and discrimination based on their skin color, African Americans were inclined to social groupings that would advance their cause in the social, economic and political circles. Maybe not the kind of brotherhood that Martin Luther had referred to in his dream speech, but still a form of brotherhood that shares the same history.
The fact that Martin Luther fought with words, marches and sermons is a clear indication that words are more powerful as a means of getting a truce. One stands a better chance of getting more people to support his or her arguments. At one point in his speech, he urged the black people to refrain from physical confrontation and instead use soul strength to fight against physical force used against them. He also asked them to avoid guilt for things they had done in their struggle towards seeking freedom Conclusion
The fact that American is revered as the world’s largest democracy is no small fete. Knowing the history of the country, it is right to say that the country has made enormous steps into ensuring that each of its citizens is well protected by the law and that personal liberties are upheld at all times. Issues relating to racism keep on emerging and it would be wishful thinking to imagine that they will easily disappear. The fact is that as long as there are color differences between the different people in America, the racial question will always arise.
Today however, an emerging trend has seen to the branding of the black culture as a fashionable thing and no longer is the black community seen as the underdogs. The evolving of the society to embrace a more inclusive culture where people are judged by their merits and not by their skin color is a true realization of Martin Luther’s dream that one day America will embrace brotherhood. The Martin Luther King dream though told at the height of uncertainty about the future of the black community has proven true as today, people from all races get to live and work in America without much racism.
Even in the mild cases of racism, general respect between the people is still maintained in the full knowledge that there is no difference between individuals except maybe their skin color, which does not count for anything. Today the rights of the black worker are respected just as much as those of his white counterpart. In the likely incident that there is oppression in the work place, both suffer the same fate. The social divide today has more to do with economic groupings and social classes as opposed to racism.
Through self-determination and utilizing the opportunities provided to them by government institutions, the black community has successfully managed to bridge the economic gap that existed between the white community and them. The journey for the black community in the US has been most dramatic. It has seen the rise and fall of heroes who will forever remain in the memories of the community on whose behalf whom they struggled so much. Martin Luther King Jr. will for example, remain as a civil rights hero who was not afraid to stand up and defend what he believed was right. Under the same ideals, he did not shy away from being put in jail as he upheld the same beliefs.
Luther, M. Jr. Beyond Vietnam: 1987 www. africanamericans. com/MLKjrBeyondVietnam retrieved 4th December 2007 Demetrice A. W &Perry J, Jr. African American Literature an Anthology Second Edition. Topeka Blvd: Topeka Bindery (2001) Gray, T. R. The Confessions of Nat Turner: Leader of the late Insurrection in the Southampton, VA. (1831) www. wfu. edu/~zulick/340/natturner. html retrieved 4th December 2008
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