Title of Chapter 10 of MLK book From Civil Rights to Human Rights. Egyptland is the name of chapter 10, and I was wondering why this might be and what it is referring to.

Thanks for your help!

1 Answer 1


King made frequent reference to the book of Exodus in order to draw parallels between the ancient Israelites (enslaved in Egypt) and African-Americans (not enslaved anymore, but still not granted the full set of rights that come with being truly free).

You can read entire essays on King's rhetorical use of Exodus. King used the exact phrase Egypt-land at least once, writing that black migrants had gone north only to find:

...not a Promised Land but rather another Egypt-land of denial, discrimination, and dismay.

Also note that the particular phrase "Egypt-land" has a longer history than just King. For example, a similar phrase can be found in the old Negro spiritual "Go Down Moses":

When Israel was in Egypt's land/ Let my people go / Oppress'd so hard they could not stand / Let my People go / Go down, Moses, Way down in Egypt's land / Tell old Pharaoh, Let my people go.

So King (and other Civil Rights Leaders) are Moses, leading African-Americans/Israelites out of Egypt/oppression.

  • Note both the rhyme and rhythmic pattern in "... not a Promised Land but rather another Egypt-land ...." and how it emphasizes his rhetoric. This is one of the techniques of great oratory, also used by Churchill in his "We shall never surrender" speech. Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 12:17
  • Not just King. Exodus was the metaphor for the underground resistance to American slavery for centuries (as it likely was for the Jews enslaved in Babylon when they wrote it). For instance that song Go Down Moses was first recorded as being sung by seized "contraband" slaves during the Civil War. Presumably they'd been singing it on the plantations for quite a while.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 14:50

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