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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an American activist who became a spokesperson during the civil rights movement. King fought for equality for African Americans, the socioeconomic disadvantaged, and others who had experienced injustice. He was most famous for his peaceful protesting, his influence of the American people, and the speeches he delivered. Some of his speeches were “I have been to the mountaintop”, “I have a dream”, “Our god is marching on” and,“The other America.”
“I have been to the mountaintop” was Dr.
King’s last speech before he was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis Tennessee. He was shot at his hotel on April fourth and pronounced dead the same day. He was shot by an escaped convict who later spent life in prison. Three-hundred-thousand attended his funeral including the Vice President.
“I have been to the mountaintop” is about human rights and equality. The purpose for writing this speech was so King could speak on the injustice of the Memphis sanitation strike.
These sanitation workers had poor pay, dangerous working conditions, and were provoked. The workers grew tired and protested for change. As they marched, they faced police brutality, some protesters were even killed.
Throughout his speech, King urged his audience to refrain from violence and demand respect. This strategy to fight for equality was one of the most influential because their actions spoke on their character and deemed the nation to adjust. If the protesters had fought back and used violence, it would only hurt their arguments for equality and result in injury or death.
King and his audience gained the respect of people of all races and classes.
Dr. King told his followers that everyone needed to be involved. He sought for people to treat each other with respect. People should speak out against those not doing god’s work. People should be protesting and marching for justice. He believed that change was going to happen and needed to but everyone should be on the same side of history.
King seen himself as a citizen just like those in his audience. He didn’t see himself as The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. the powerful activist but rather just like the people listening to him. During his speeches he regarded himself and his audience as a we and us instead of you or I. King said “we just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, ‘God sent us by here, to say to you that you’re not treating his children right. And we’ve come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda– fair treatment, where God’s children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you.’
Throughout his speech Dr. King used different rhetorical appeals; ethos, pathos, and logos which were used effectively. These appeals were used to gain the attention of his audience. His audience was mostly made up of the sanitation workers of Memphis, civil rights activist, and America in general. His purpose was to end corruption and speak on the injustice of the sanitation workers.
King used ethos to establish credibility with his audience. He did this by citing authority, being considerate, and using his knowledge to be believable. For example, each time he addressed himself, or his audience he regarded himself as one of them. He used words like we and us. “Now we’ve got to go on to Memphis just like that. I call upon you to be with us Monday. Now about injunctions: We have an injunction and we’re going into court tomorrow morning to fight this illegal, unconstitutional injunction(3)”. By doing this he is establishing his credibility because he is seen as equals to his audience. However by using this appeal he could also be less credible because the audience most likely do not see themselves as knowledgeable people and if they are equal than he is seen as someone with little expertise.
King used logos to build his case. He did this by making logical arguments, and using valid examples and evidence to support his arguments. For example, he brought up the bill of rights to say that Americans had the freedom of speech, and the right to protest and that no matter their race they were Americans. “If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press(3)”. By using this example he is building his case because he is using a basic fundamental right that all Americans are promised to say that they are trying to take these basic rights from us. However you could argue that the law enforcement didn’t take their rights away until they became violent because some people did become violent and fight back but, most of the protesters were peaceful and nonviolent and still were treated with disrespect. For example
Dr. King used pathos to provoke the emotions of his audience. He did this by using imagery, real people’s experiences, his experiences, and his emotional word choice. For example he told a real story from a struggle in Birmingham where people were blasted with water for peacefully protesting. “I remember in Birmingham, Alabama, when we were in that majestic struggle there we would move out of the 16th Street Baptist Church day after day; by the hundreds we would move out. And Bull Connor would tell them to send the dogs forth and they did come(3)”. This was an effective example because he used a real life example and tone to express that if they could overcome what happened in Birmingham they could overcome this too. He made his audience feel frustrated and hopeful to make them push for equality and not to take what poor treatment had been dealt because they didn’t have to live that way, and they shouldn’t have had to. On the other hand using this example could make his audience feel frustrated that they still have to deal with the same issues and make them not want to put in the effort or risk their lives for justice.
In conclusion, King’s rhetorical appeals were used effectively and actively enhanced the attention of his audience. His appeals were effective because the sanitation workers and civil rights activist comprised most of his audience. Also he was there to speak on the injustice they had faced and what needed to be done to end the corruption so his audience agreed with what he was saying and what he was trying to accomplish.
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