Composition

Lyndon B. Johnson begins his “We Shall Overcome” speech by addressing members of Congress: “Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Members of the Congress”. This way, he acknowledges his audience. Johnson’s speech is meant to offer information about his voting rights legislation and to offer arguments why members of Congress should pass the law as soon as possible. The title of the speech was initially “The American Promise”, but it later came to be known as the “We Shall Overcome” speech, after a phrase inspired by a civil rights folk anthem.

The composition of Johnson’s speech can be split into different parts, according to the issues he addresses. In the first part, Johnson presents the context of his speech, the violent incident in Selma, Alabama, where prote...

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