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Origins of the DreamHughes's Poetry and King's Rhetoric$
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W. Jason Miller

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813060446

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813060446.001.0001

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“Mother to Son”

“Mother to Son”

The Rise, Removal, and Return of Hughes

(p.15) 1 “Mother to Son”
Origins of the Dream

W. Jason Miller

University Press of Florida

This chapter provides an overview to the entire book by tracing King’s engagements with Hughes’s poem “Mother to Son” during the years 1956–1967. In addition to quoting Hughes’s poem from memory, King also riffed on Hughes’s poem as well by changing its words to meet specific contexts. As a result of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, King regularly conflated the speaker in Hughes’s poem with figures such as Sister Pollard and Rosa Parks as he expanded on ideas from the poem. Beyond simply engaging in what Keith Miller defines as “voice merging,” Hughes’s subversive reputation demanded that King sub-merge Hughes’s ideas within his own rhetoric from 1960 to 1965. Lyndon Johnson’s national address on March 15, 1965, signalled the end of the era where overt references to Hughes had to be intentionally omitted from King’s rhetoric, and Hughes’s poem reappeared in King’s addresses soon after.

Keywords:   Lyndon Johnson, Montgomery Bus Boycott, “Mother to Son”, Rosa Parks, Sister Pollard, voice merging

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