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Figurative Language in King's I Have a Dream Speech

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  • 0:03 Overview of the Speech
  • 0:28 Figurative Language in…
  • 2:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech is a well-known civil rights message that is filled with figurative language. In this lesson, we'll learn about some of the literary devices that are used in this speech.

Overview of the Speech

During a protest in August of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. presented a speech in Washington, D.C., that has become one of the most recognized speeches in American history. Dr. King's message about civil rights uses figurative language to emphasize his great mission. Let's learn more about the figurative language that is used in Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech.

Figurative Language in the Speech

This section presents some examples of figurative language from Dr. King's speech. Figurative language uses expressions and colorful word choices to provide enhanced descriptions that offer more detail than literal word choices.

Alliteration uses the repetition of beginning phonemes to capture the audience's attention and help them remember key points. During one of the most memorable lines, Dr. King says, ''I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.'' The repetition of the 'c' in color, content, and character bring emphasis to his message.

Allusion is when a moment in history or a creative work is vaguely referenced. Dr. King alludes to an old Negro spiritual that was written during the Civil War when he says, ''Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'' This allusion sends the message that although the Civil War started the movement towards civil rights, 100 years later, there was still a way to go.

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