In Martin Luther King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”, he uses the speech as an empowering sermon technique to encourage the audience to continue the fight for social and economic justice. The speech mainly focused on the Memphis sanitation workers strike which occurred in April 1968, a strike that promoted the advancement of colored and African American people in a time where they were unequally treated and discriminated against, bringing attention to the problems that have been affecting the people of color for many years. Mr. King constructed the speech in such a way so that the audience could listen, understand, relate and respect his speech. “As a seasoned orator, King soaks in the sighs and sounds of his audience. He lets the listeners ratchet up the emotional pitch of his rhetoric in the verbal exchange that makes the best black preaching an electrifying experience”(Michael). The speech is also filled with religious allusions that are meant to show the audience how religious teaching can guide their actions for the protest. Mr. King relies upon his audience’s deep biblical literacy and its keen sense of implied meaning to get the connection and to flesh out his prophetic message (Michael). In his nonviolent approach in the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, Mr. King offered his audience the choice of whether to accept his powerful message, while using his rhetorical discourse to eliminate division among the audience and convince them to go in the direction of nonviolent demonstration for civil and economic rights.
As Mr. King’s general intention is to convince as many people possible to support the Memphis sanitation strike, he frequently uses pathos which is an appeal to emotion so that the audience can relate to and empathize with the situation the workers are in and the injustice they are subjected to “and force everybody to see that there are thirteen hundred of Gods children suffering, sometimes going hungry, going through dark and dreary nights wondering how this is going to come out” (King). It seems to feel like Mr. King is trying to encourage the people to march for the thirteen hundred workers who suffer unjust treatment. Mr. King claims protesters are not going to be scared or stopped by police dogs or fire hoses. He gives the example of the protests in Birmingham, Alabama, when the authorities tried to prevent them from marching, but the protesters stayed united and believed in their goal.