A Letter from Birmingham Jail

8 August 2016

Martin Luther King Jr. ’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was written in April 1963, during the African Americans fight for equality. Martin Luther King Jr. ’s claim was not just to reply to the eight clergyman who had called his demonstrations “untimely and unwise”, but also aim his justifications at a bigger audience of religious and secular beliefs. An audience that is black and white; therefore King is able to justify his reasons and tactics of beginning immediate action using nonviolent protest to everyone.

Throughout his letter Martin Luther King Jr. demonstrates the use of ethos, pathos, and logos to help support his claim while also consistently referring to well-known philosophers and religious figures words to help support his reasoning. King was very precise with how he used his rhetorical strategies that is why he is so successful in arguing his claim. Dr. King was set on demonstrating in Birmingham because the amount of injustice that took place over the last few years there. Between 1957-1962 seventeen African American churches and homes were bombed in Birmingham a city whose population is 40 percent African American.

A Letter from Birmingham Jail Essay Example

King refers to these events in his letter “There have been more unsolved bombings of negro homes and churches in Birmingham than any other city in the nation. ” King creates ethos throughout his letter to help strengthen his claim. “Just as the prophets of the eighth century b. c. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond his home town.

 King is explaining why he left his home town and came to Birmingham because there is injustice there and where ever there is injustice he should go there to help. King is using ethos when connecting himself to Apostle Paul. King gains credibility by referring to the bible a book admired by most and a book full of credible figures which he compares his actions too. This also helps King to justify his actions by showing his audience did very similar actions. Incorporating scenes from the bible, such as Paul leaving his village and carrying the gospel to the Greco-Roman empire Dr. King is able to tie in important historical evidence.

Along with using ethos, Martin Luther King Jr. uses logos to help support his argument that “they had no alternative except to prepare for direct action. ” King supports his claim using several logical examples, but also proves his points using historical evidence throughout his letter. When responding to being called an extremist in paragraph 30, King makes a logical appeal while citing many historical figures.

“Was not Jesus an extremist for love:” “Love your enemies bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. ” Dr. King continues on naming historical figures such as Apostle Paul, Abraham Lincoln, John Bunyan, and Martin Luther who could be considered so called extremist. All of these men are considered honorable men in our history books, so by using such reason to appeal to his audience King is able to support his argument. Dr.

King is brilliant in how he cites such honorable figures to show that if he is considered an extremist for campaigning equal rights then so should of they for all of their extreme ground breaking campaigns for things such as love, justice, and the Christian gospel. Martin Luther King Jr. does use some logical fallacies in his letter. King appeals to authority when he writes “Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” By citing words from one of our founding fathers King is appealing to authority because Thomas Jefferson was one of the most famous and respected Americans of all time.

King establishes pathos throughout his letter to help strengthen his argument by appealing to the emotions of the reader. King mentions in paragraph seven how promises have been broken “we were victims of broken promises. ” King is describing the black population of Birmingham as we in his quote and he aims at their emotions by using such passionate diction by calling them victims of broken promises. Martin Luther King Jr. continues with major uses of pathos throughout paragraph 13. Dr. King really grabs his reader’s emotions by using powerful diction such as vicious, lynch, and drown.

“But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your brothers and sisters at whim;” He later uses pathos again in this paragraph and is able put a human face on the emotion by allowing the reader to imagine having a similar conversation explaining to their son or daughter how they can’t go have fun in an amusement park just because of the color of their skin. “When you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the amusement park that has just been advertised on television.

In 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail” help give the African American race a better idea of the civil rights movement and gave them a voice to follow. Martin Luther King Jr. was a man with wonderful ideas of nonviolent campaign. Through his ideas and examples in his letter the African American race was able to learn his reasoning for nonviolent campaigning and actually how to demonstrate as a nonviolent campaigner. His audience can demonstrate the right way while knowing the purpose of their actions and justifying their cause by remembering many of King’s words and ideas

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