Jesse Williams Speech Analysis

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About this sample


Words: 703 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2024

Words: 703|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Context
  3. Opening and Rhetorical Question
  4. Rhetorical Devices
  5. Inspiring Action
  6. Conclusion


Imagine standing in front of a large auditorium, the weight of the world on your shoulders, and a message burning inside you. You have a story to tell, a truth to convey, and a call to action that could potentially change the course of history. This was the position Jesse Williams found himself in when he delivered his powerful speech at the 2016 BET Awards. In this essay, we will embark on an analysis of Jesse Williams' speech, unpacking its significance, rhetorical devices, and its impact on the audience.

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Before we delve into the speech itself, let us first understand the context in which it was delivered. The 2016 BET Awards, a platform that celebrates achievements in the African American community, provided Jesse Williams with an opportunity to address the pressing issues of racial inequality, police brutality, and systemic oppression. As an actor, activist, and educator, Williams had already established himself as a prominent voice in the fight for social justice. However, his speech at the BET Awards catapulted him into the realm of cultural icon.

Opening and Rhetorical Question

From the very beginning of his speech, Williams captivates his audience with his eloquence and unwavering conviction. He opens with a rhetorical question, asking, "What is this award?". This question immediately draws the audience in, compelling them to question the very foundation of the ceremony they are attending. Through this simple yet profound question, Williams challenges the status quo and forces the audience to confront their own complicity in perpetuating inequality.

Rhetorical Devices

Throughout his speech, Williams employs a variety of rhetorical devices to drive his message home. One such device is the use of vivid imagery. He paints a picture of a world plagued by injustice when he says, "We've been floating this country on credit for centuries, yo, and we're done watching and waiting while this invention called whiteness uses and abuses us". By juxtaposing the concept of "floating on credit" with the notion of "whiteness", Williams creates a powerful metaphor that exposes the historical exploitation of black lives for the benefit of white privilege.

Another notable rhetorical device employed by Williams is the use of repetition. He repeatedly emphasizes the importance of black lives by stating, "Just because we're magic doesn't mean we're not real". This repetition serves to reinforce his central message, challenging the dehumanization of black individuals and asserting their inherent worth and value. Williams' use of repetition creates a rhythmic cadence that resonates with the audience, leaving a lasting impact on their hearts and minds.

In addition to his rhetorical devices, Williams masterfully incorporates personal anecdotes and historical references to strengthen his argument. He shares the story of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was fatally shot by police while playing with a toy gun. By humanizing Tamir and recounting the tragic details of his death, Williams reminds the audience of the real-life consequences of systemic racism. He also invokes the names of historical figures such as Nat Turner and Harriet Tubman, drawing parallels between the struggles of the past and the ongoing fight for justice in the present.

Inspiring Action

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of Jesse Williams' speech is its ability to inspire action. Through his words, he not only raises awareness but also ignites a fire within the hearts of his listeners. He implores the audience to "get woke and stay woke", urging them to actively engage in the fight against injustice. By using the term "woke", a term popularized by the Black Lives Matter movement, Williams encourages his audience to awaken to the realities of racism and take a stand for what is right.

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In conclusion, Jesse Williams' speech at the 2016 BET Awards is a testament to the power of words. Through his eloquence, passion, and strategic use of rhetorical devices, Williams effectively communicates his message of social justice and equality. His speech serves as a rallying cry, inspiring individuals from all walks of life to join the fight for a more just and inclusive society. As we reflect on the impact of Jesse Williams' speech, let us remember that our words have the power to shape the world we live in. Let us use them wisely and courageously, just as Jesse Williams did that fateful night on the BET Awards stage.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

Jesse Williams Speech Analysis. (2024, March 19). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 19, 2024, from
“Jesse Williams Speech Analysis.” GradesFixer, 19 Mar. 2024,
Jesse Williams Speech Analysis. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 Jul. 2024].
Jesse Williams Speech Analysis [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 19 [cited 2024 Jul 19]. Available from:
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