Free at Last is the third book of the Self-Evident Truth series by Michael Clay Thompson, which continues his study of the language used in important statements of equality in American history. Free at Last examines Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, looking at the poetry, grammar, and vocabulary of the most important modern statement of America’s commitment to the equality of its citizens.
Free at Last examines how powerful emotion is enhanced by repeated ideas and words. King’s vision of the future and great call to freedom were further achieved by carefully chosen vocabulary conjured by metaphor; by the poetics of meter, alliteration, and assonance; and by other carefully selected grammatical devices. The speech is a masterpiece, and this book explores its construction in depth.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place on August 28, 1963. Its purpose was to draw attention to the injustice of segregation and to push for jobs and economic equality. The statue of Lincoln was chosen as the backdrop for the speeches, and Dr. King began with the words that echoed the beginning of the Gettysburg Address: “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation…but one hundred years later, the Negro is still not free.”