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I've Been to the Mountaintop

This study guide will help you analyze the speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on summary, analysis, topic, speaker, audience, language, modes of persuasion, circumstances, and intention.

Presentation of the speech

Title: “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”
Speaker: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Where: Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, during the Memphis sanitation strike.
When: 3rd of April, 1968

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was a Baptist Minister and a campaigner for African-American rights during the Civil Rights Movement. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for promoting non-violent activism. He was killed the day after he delivered the speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” by a man who supported segregation and who held racist views against African Americans.

You can listen to the speech here.

Excerpt

Below, you can read an excerpt from our study guide: 

Ethos

The speaker appeals to trust and authority in various ways. Firstly, he appeals to the authority of US legislation to argue that the Memphis protests are legitimate: “…maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges…”

In another instance, he mentions US founding documents to argue for equal rights: “…back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”

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I've Been to the Mountaintop

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