Rhetorical Analysis of “The Drum Major Instinct”: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Leadership

  • Matthew Morris Furman University


Academics have long studied the rhetoric and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because of his role in the Civil Rights Movement and the impact his words have had in defining American civil religion. His strong example of leadership in the face of injustice has been studied in many fields from many different perspectives. This rhetorical analysis looks at “The Drum Major Instinct,” one of King’s more well-known sermons that has largely been ignored as a subject matter for academic critical analysis. This paper highlights both the rhetorical techniques of persuasion and the overall message of King’s piece, both in the context of its delivery and today. This analysis will hopefully add to previous scholarly conversations about King’s style and source material. In addition, this paper will explore King’s thoughts in “The Drum Major Instinct” regarding leadership in the modern world and what it means to be successful.