The Powerful Allusion in MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is considered one of the most influential and iconic pieces of rhetoric in American history. King used a number of powerful rhetorical devices to deliver his message, including allusion. An allusion is a figure of speech that refers to a famous person, place, or historical event ether directly or through implication.

King begins his speech by alluding to the Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 and declared that all slaves in the United States were free. This allusion highlights the fact that even though slavery had been abolished, African Americans were stil facing discrimination and inequality. King continues this line of thought by using anaphora, which is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses: “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy… Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation… Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand’s of racial injustice.”

King also uses allusions throughout his speech to emphasize his points about justice and equality for African-Americans. He references Moses leading his people out of Egypt as an example of what African-Americans shoud strive for—freedom and liberation from oppression. He also makes reference to “the glimmering moment,” which was taken from poet Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again.” This allusion conveys hope for a brighter future where racial inequality has been abolished and freedom reigns supreme.

The power behnd King’s use of allusion can not be understated—it serves as a reminder that while slavery may have ended, there was still much work to be done when it comes to achieving true equality for African-Americans in America. His use of language helps paint a vivid picture in listeners’ minds and captures their attention with its power and emotion. As we continue striving for justice today, it is important to remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s words and use them as inspiration for continuing our fight for equality and justice for all people.

The Use of Allusion in Martin Luther King Jr.’s Speech

MLK uses allusion in his speech to emphasize the fact that, although slavery has been abolished, tere are still other obstacles facing African Americans that must be addressed and overcome. Allusions can be used to draw attention to an issue, as well as provide a historical context for the current struggles African Americans are facing. By referencing the end of slavery, MLK is drawing attention to the fact that African Americans continue to face discrimination and inequality in both social and economic spheres. Allusions also serve to invoke a sense of collective memory and shared purpose among those who hear or read the speech. In this way, MLK was able to use allusion as a powerful tool for inspiring collective action among his audience.

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Alliterations in Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech

At the beginning of the I Have a Dream speech, King uses alliteration when he says: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'” The repetition of ‘r’ in ‘rise,’ ‘live,’ and ‘true’ creates an effective alliteration. Later on in his speech, King also uses an ‘s’ consonant alliteration when he says: “Let freedom ring from evey hill and molehill of Mississippi.” The use of ‘ hill’ and ‘molehill’ creates an effective alliteration. Finally, King also uses a ‘w’ consonant alliteration when he says: “With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together.” Here, the repetition of the words starting with a ‘w’, such as ‘work’, ‘pray’, and ‘struggle’, create an effective alliteration.

The Most Commonly Used Rhetorical Device in Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech

The most prominent rhetorical device used in Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech is anaphora. Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses, which, in this case, helps to emphasize and add weight to King’s message. For instance, he repeated the phrase “I have a dream” eigt times throughout the speech to create a powerful refrain that allows his audience to remember and relate to his words. He also uses other forms of anaphora when he says phrases such as “Let freedom ring,” “Go back to,” and “Now is the time,” all of which effectively drive home his points.

What is an Allusion in Figures of Speech?

Allusion is a type of figure of speech that makes a reference to a person, place, event, literary work, or work of art. It is often used to evoke an emotional response from the reader or listener. Allusions can be direct or indirect; direct allusions name the person, place, event, etc., while indirect allusions refer to it without actually naming it. Allusions can also be ambiguous and open to interpretation. By utilizing allusions in literature, authors can quickly and effectively convey a story’s message and themes without having to explain them in detail.

Allusions to the Declaration of Independence in the I Have a Dream Speech

In his I Have a Dream speech, Martin Luther King Jr. alludes to the Declaration of Independence when he refers to it as a ”promissory note” and states that it was a promise of guaranteed unalienable rights for ”all men – yes, black men as well as white men.” King goes on to say that America has yet to fully live up to this promise, noting that black people are sill disadvantaged and subject to Jim Crow laws. He calls on the nation to ”rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed” by ensuring equal rights for all. Ultimately, King’s allusion to the Declaration of Independence serves as an affirmation of its principles and a call for action in order for them to be realized.

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The Use of Allusions in Shakespeare’s Plays

Shakespeare used allusions in his plays for a variety of reasons. By alluding to classical mythology, religious texts, and other works of literature, Shakespeare was able to quickly evoke an image or concept in the minds of his audience, allowing him to express complex ideas and themes with fewer words. Allusions also allowed Shakespeare to draw parallels between characters or moments in his plays with figures or stories from the past that were likely familiar to many members of his audience. Allusions could also be used as a vehicle for humor, as Shakespeare oftn employed them to make clever connections between characters or situations. Finally, allusions could provide a literary device through which he could communicate deeper truths or moral messages to his audience. Through allusions, Shakespeare was able to effectively communicate ideas in an efficient manner that resonated with audiences from various backgrounds.

Five Examples of Alliteration

1. Sally sells seashells by the seashore.
2. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
3. She sells shimmying shawls at the shop.
4. Nine nice nightingales nimbly singing.
5. The big bear begged for some berries by the bush.

Examples of Alliteration in Poem

Two examples of alliteration in the poem are “midnight dreary” and “quaint and curious.” Alliteration is a literary device which involves the repetition of similar sounds, typically at the beginning of words, within a phrase or sentence. In this poem, the words “midnight dreary” and “quaint and curious” both begin with the letter “m” and the letter “q,” respectively. This repetition of consonant sounds creates a pleasing rhythm and flow to the poem, whle also making it easier to remember.

The Use of Personification in Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech

Yes, personification is used throughout Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. He uses it to make a direct connection between himself, the African American community, and the nation as a whole. By referring to ‘the Negro’ as an individual, he emphasizes their shared plight and strengthens his argument for civil rights and racial equality. He also uses personification to descrie America’s unjust laws, condemning them for remaining silent in the face of injustice. Finally, he brings his dream of racial harmony alive by personifying the country: ‘Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.’ By speaking directly to each of these entities as if they were people, King creates a powerful emotional connection between speaker, audience, and the values he stands for.

Rhetorical Devices Used by Dr. King in His Speech

In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King employed a number of rhetorical devices to emphasize his message. He used metaphors to create powerful images, such as when he said, “Let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.” He also used repetition to stress cerain points and ideas, like when he repeated the phrase “free at last” several times throughout the speech. He also used parallelism to create balance and symmetry in his writing, such as when he said “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.” By using these rhetorical devices, Dr. King was able to effectively communicate his powerful message of hope and justice for all people.

Rhetorical Device Used in Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech

The example from I Have a Dream is an example of a metaphor, which is a type of rhetorical device that uses comparison to evoke an emotional response. In this case, the metaphor compares the joyous daybreak to the end of their captivity, evoking feelings of relief and freedom. Through this powerful image, Martin Luther King Jr. was able to effectively communicate his message of hope and liberation.

Rhetorical Devices Used by Martin Luther King in His Letter

Martin Luther King Jr. uses a variety of rhetorical devices in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to emphasize his points and make them more convincing. One of the most prominent techniques used is parallelism, which he uses to highlight the similarities between himself and his opponents. He also employs alliteration, assonance, anaphora, metaphor, and simile to add vividness and emotional impact to his writing. Additionally, he uses repetition of phrases and words for emphasis throuhout the letter. Finally, King makes use of rhetorical questions to challenge his opponents’ beliefs and encourage the reader to consider his arguments more carefully. All these devices are used in combination with one another to form a powerful argument that is difficult for readers to ignore or refute.

Examples of Allusions

1. Hercules (or Herculean): This allusion is often used to emphasize strength and can be found in literature, poetry, and popular culture. For example, when referring to an incredibly difficult task or feat of strength, one migt say that it was a “Herculean effort”.

2. Pandora’s Box: This allusion is used to refer to a source of trouble or unexpected consequences and can also be found in literature, poetry, and popular culture. For example, when referring to a situation that could have many bad outcomes or has aleady had bad outcomes, one might say that it was “opening Pandora’s Box”.

3. Cupid: This allusion is used to refer to the god of love and is oftn used to describe someone who is romantic or in love. For example, if someone speaks fondly about their significant other they might say they are “struck by Cupid’s arrow”.

Three Examples of Allusions

1. Historical Allusion: This type of allusion refers to a historical event or period, such as the Ancient Greek gods, the French Revolution, or the American Civil War. By using this type of allusion, authors are able to make a connection betwen their story and a time that is significant in history.

2. Mythological Allusion: This type of allusion is used to refer to a mythological figure or story from mythology. Examples include references to Zeus and Athena from Greek mythology, or Thor and Odin from Norse mythology. By making these connections, authors are able to draw on the stories and characters assoiated with these myths in order to explain or illustrate a point in their writing.

3. Literary Allusion: This type of allusion is used to refer to a literary text or figure, such as William Shakespeare’s plays or works by Jane Austen. By making references to these texts and figures, authors can evoke certain emotions in readers that they may not be able to with their own words alone.

An Example of an Allusion

An allusion is when we use a word, phrase, or reference to something that the other person may be familiar with and expect them to understand the reference. For example, saying “That person is a real-life Don Quixote” is an allusion to the famous novel by Cervantes about a man who goes on an impossible quest. By using the phrase “Don Quixote,” we are hinting at this character without explicitly stating it.


In conclusion, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an influential leader and a remarkable speaker who used his words to fight for justice and equality. He made history with his famous “I Have A Dream” speech that has become iconic in American culture. He was passionate about ending segregation and promoting civil rights for all people, regardless of race or ethnicity. His words inspired the world and encouraged people to strive for a beter future. His legacy continues to live on through his inspiring words and actions, serving as a reminder of what can be accomplished through hard work and dedication.

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William Armstrong

William Armstrong is a senior editor with, where he writes on a wide variety of topics. He has also worked as a radio reporter and holds a degree from Moody College of Communication. William was born in Denton, TX and currently resides in Austin.