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Zachary LeBlanc
English 2000
Professor Tougas
Rhetorical Analysis
Reverend Alfred Sharpton Jr.March on Washington
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August 28, 1963, Washington, D.C., home of The March on Washington. This

event was a peacefully protested rally for the United States to make meaningful Civil
Rights legislation. They requested the elimination of segregation in public schools, fair
labor and employment laws. It is estimated that over a quarter of a million people were
in attendance for the event when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have A
Dream” speech atop the stair at the Lincoln Memorial. This Speech alone opened
peoples eyes to the depravation that the country subjected African American people to.
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Two years ago on August, 28, 2013, marked the 50th anniversary of The March

on Washington. Hundreds of thousands of people were in attendance in front of the
Lincoln Memorial to listen to what people had to say about Civil Rights just as they did
fifty years ago. Speakers included political figures such as the President and various
mayors, Ministers, celebrities such as Jamie Foxx and Opera Winfrey, Doctors, Lawyers
etc... the list goes on and on. The majority of the speakers gave thanks to the “Big Six”,
who were the one who cleared the original path through Civil Rights. Most of the
speakers seemed humbled by the experience of speaking and were proud of what had
been accomplished with respect to Civil Rights except for one man.
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Reverend Alfred Sharpton Jr, or Al’ Sharpton. He is a 60 year old black male,

born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. His father left his mother who was a clerical
worker at the time. The loss of income forced the Sharpton family to relocate to the
projects. Sharpton always had a close relationship with community growing up and kept
that relationship through adulthood. He holds the titles of Baptist Minister, Civil Rights
Activist, Television and Radio host, White House Advisor, and lastly President and CEO
of The National Action Network. There should be no question why Sharpton is held in

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such high regards by his following. I chose to write about Sharpton because he is a
diverse man with a big following and a lot to say. With that being said, here it goes!
Sharpton starts off his 50th anniversary speech by giving the audience a brief
description of the sacrafices of those who made up the original March on Washington in
1963. Sharpton says that, “50 years ago, when they came to Washington it was not for
an event, it was in the middle of struggles, it was in the middle of battles to break down
the walls of apartheid in America.”. Sharpton is catching the audiences interest and
getting them to think about why they had to march and what the the sacrifices that led to
the gathering in August 1963 were. He is trying to paint an image in the audiences mind.
What do you see when you read, “...in the middle of battles to break down the walls of
apartheid..” how does that make you feel? Im not a psychologist but It probably paints a
fairly grim picture in your mind, maybe the deconstruction of the Berlin Wall or
something similar. Surely his word choice had some sort of an effect on the target
audience. This was his way of setting up for for the next part of his speech, as he
references the Jim Crow Laws. These laws were enacted by the Southern United States
in the late 1800’s all the way up to 1965. They promoted strict voting laws, racial
discrimination and the infamous “separate but equal” policy. Sharpton says, “We are
going to have to face Jim Crows children.,” “James Crow Jr. Esquire writes voting
suppression laws and puts it in language that looks different but the results are the
same..”. Sharpton does not elaborate on the law but he makes an interesting statement
about voter suppression. What Sharpton is referring to are the new laws and regulations
that a voting citizen must abide by when trying to vote. The new state-by-state law
requires the voter to present a new form of state issued identification called a voters
card before they can vote. In states where the law is enforced the identification cards
can be applied for at the local Department of Motor Vehicles for a twenty dollar fee.
The idea of the card is that it will lower the risk of voter fraud and prevent an
illegal immigrant from casting a vote. It seems like a decent enough idea at first but it
proposes problems for some low income families. Sharpton feels that the law is
predominantly targeting low income African American families making them less likely to

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vote on election day. He believes that the people who wrote the law still embody the
traditions and views of a Jim Crowesque society. He couples the Voter I.D. law written
by James Crow with the “Stop and Frisk” law of New York and the “Stand Your Ground”
law in Florida. Both have been under scrutiny due to racial implications and controversy.
The Stand Your Ground law received a great deal of heat by Civil Rights groups when
the Treyvon Martin case hit the fan. It involved a Florida who resident shot and killed a
black teenager armed with a bag of Skittles candy was charged with no wrong doing.
The news of the verdict made national headlines and raised awareness for the cause
that Al Sharpton fights for. The verdict was seen as a loss in the fight to achieve equally
and a man getting away with murder by many of the Civil Right organizations around
the country. Sharpton, the president of The National Action Network (NAN), was
amongst the group in disapproval of the verdict. After the news spread Sharpton took
every chance that he could to motivate people to fight for the rights they deserved. This
is what makes him such a valuable leader to African Americans.
Sharpton continues his speech using colorful metaphors and strong imagery to
describe the remaining work that needs to be done in the country. Nearing the end of
the end of his two minute speech, Sharpton looks into his inner reverend to explain the
extraordinary work of Dr. King and what is needed to be done by the current generation.
Reverend Sharpton talks about the story of Moses and Joseph from the Old Testament
of the Bible. Moses played the role of parting the Red Sea so that Gods followers could
continue their journey to a life free from slavery but not the entire way home. Dr. King, of
course being Moses because of his role in leading the Civil Rights movement and
pressing onward through doubt. After the people cross the Red Sea withe the help of
Moses/Dr. King, Josephs job was to lead the people home but first they had to cross the
Nile River. Joseph ran into trouble multiple times but kept fighting and eventually
returned to the promise land. If Dr. King is Moses in this story then that should make
President Obama, Joseph. Obviously people who Civil Rights affect are the followers in
this story. Reverend Sharpton drove his point home with this metaphor because the
early fight for Civil Rights was much like crossing a sea, years of discrimination,

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apartheid and segregation were finally nearing an end. of the unknown. Even the
religious can follow the theme.
With that being said, I think that Sharpton has a good strategy for gaining the
publics approval and is a great motivator with a lot of energy. Though I do not always
think that he is jumping in front of the camera every chance he get to promote Civil
Rights legislation. At times it seems that Sharpton likes to separate people and watch
their views collide with each other but I can not say that there is any truth in that
statement. Whatever the case may be, Sharpton is on the front lines of controversial
topics. They say he gives voice to the voiceless and hope to the hopeless. All that i can
say for sure is that the man knows how to excite a crowd.