Reading & Literacy

Close Reading and the ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

By Anthony Rebora — August 28, 2013 1 min read
Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

This could be a helpful—or at least inspiring—resource for language arts and social studies teachers looking to combine interest in the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington this week with the instructional emphasis on close-reading and persuasive-argument skills. (Also, it’s just kind of cool.)

In the video clip below, presentation expert and graphic designer Nancy Duarte uses a visual-display tool to analyze the shape and rhetorical patterns of Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” speech. She notes that, broken down visually, the speech looks “more like poetry or short pieces of prose than what you’d expect a speech to look like.” She then maps out and explores King’s heavy use of repetition, metaphor, songs and scripture, and references to political documents. (Mere slides, she notes, wouldn’t have had nearly the same visual effect as King’s powerful use of metaphor.)

On King’s allusions to spirituals and scripture (including in the famous “Free at Last” coda), Duarte observes:

What Dr. King did [was] reach into the heart of his audience. He identified things that were already there and resonated deeply with those things. And he utilized them throughout his speach to persuade the audience to work for equality for all men.


HT: The Daily Dish, Brain Pickings.

More teaching resources on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom are here.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.