Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “I Have a Dream” is constructed around the topic of African-American civil rights. This broad topic is explored by focusing on themes like racial discrimination, equality, and freedom.
African-American civil rights
The speech can be divided into two main parts. The first part focuses on the circumstances of African Americans in 1963. The second part focuses on the speaker’s vision for equality and the future of African Americans in the US.
The speech is ultimately about the Civil Rights Movement (1954-1968) – a series of social and civil initiatives whose aims were to end segregation and discrimination against African Americans. As a result, there are many references in the speech to the efforts African Americans made to fight for equal rights, or to how the Civil Rights Movement should unfold: “And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” (ll. 55-59).
Racial discrimination and repression
The first part of the speech focuses on racial discrimination and repression. The speaker explores these aspects by referring to the Emancipation Proclamation and the ideals expressed by the Declaration of Independence, and comparing them to the reality for African Americans living under a government that promotes segregation and discrimination: “One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains ...