Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” | Online Homework Help

Name:
Instructor:
Course title:
Date:
Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
As a civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led various peaceful and non-violent protests in an effort to fight racial discrimination. During one of his protests, Luther was arrested and confined in Birmingham jail from where he wrote A letter from Birmingham Jail as a response to a published statement written by clergymen to caution him and his followers against further protests, and to commend the police for their ‘good’ job in containing the civil unrest created by his activisms. In the letter, Luther uses strong rhetorical appeals to convince the clergymen of the right to his actions, or rather to justify why the minorities were entitled to equal treatment from the society. In an effort to change the opinion of the clergymen and the public in general, Luther used three strong rhetorical appeals: ethos, logos, and pathos. The following discussion analyses the rhetorical appeals used in the Letter from Birmingham Jail and their effectiveness in convincing the audience to adopt or support the author’s disposition in regard to equality.
One of the strongest and most prevalent rhetorical appeals employed by Luther in his letter is logos. By definition, logos is the use of logical arguments and evidence to support one’s opinion. In his letter, Luther uses facts the audience could relate to and examples to back his arguments. For example, towards the start of the letter, Luther explains the reasons behind his travelling to Birmingham to protest and consequently end up in jail. He states that
“…Just as the eight–century prophets left their little villages and carried their ‘thus saith the Lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, [he] too [was] compelled to carry the gospel of the freedom beyond [his] particular hometown.” (King 1)
With a touch of humor, Luther compares his decision to visit Birmingham and organize civil protests with the evangelistic journey by biblical apostles to preach the word of God- “…their ‘thus saith the lord’…” (King 1). Evidently, Luther is conscious of his audience and hence his use of biblical examples. By appealing to their religious beliefs and knowledge of biblical characters, Luther effectively persuades his audience to understand why he visited Birmingham in the first place. Still in the second paragraph of the letter, it explicitly states: “…here because I was invited, am here because I have organizational ties…” (King 1). Here, Luther confidently and authoritatively justifies the reason as to why he visited Birmingham as well as his right to be there.
In yet another instance, Luther explains why he preferred demonstrations and street marches as opposed to negotiation, which he concurs offers a better approach to finding a solution. Whilst recognizing the power of negotiation, he explains that it was impossible to negotiate, given that authorities had chosen to ignore the issue as a whole (Newell 129). He argues that his actions seek “…to create a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate [would be] forced to confront [the] issue” (King 1). By bringing to the attention of the audience that the authorities had shunned the issue instead of negotiating, he is trying to convince them that his adopted method, non-violent protests, presented the next viable approach to the problem.
Another rhetorical appeal used by the author in convincing his audience is ethos. Ethos in this regard refers to the credibility of the author and whether the audience can trust him or her. One of the main characteristic of Luther’s audience is that they regard him and his supporters as societal outsiders out to create disharmony and chaos. In their mindset, Luther poses a threat to the peaceful continuation of the society, which they find inconsistent with their definition of equity. To this, Luther challenges their belief by asserting that he is the “…president of Southern Christian Leadership Conference” (King 2), and hence one of their members given that they had operations in every Southern State. By showing that he is a religious leader, Luther demonstrates to his audience that he has the authority to challenge their common belief. He goes further to tell his audience that they share resources and staff, thus creating a reliable reason for justifying his actions not to mention a challenge to the audience in regard to supporting his course (Parnell para 3). In aIDition, Luther challenges the audience in regard to their belief in his willingness to break the laws. He contends that it was a legitimate concern and states “…we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools” (King 2). He goes further to challenge them on the circumstances under which one would obey some laws and break others. He argues that “…one may well ask…how can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others? The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust…” (King 2). He not only told them that he supports just laws, but also explicitly justifies his reason for disobeying ‘unjust’ laws, like it is the right of every other citizen. He goes further to quote St. Augustine in his disregard for unjust law.
Finally, Luther uses pathos, an emotional appeal to convince and get the attention of his audience. In the start of his letter, he re-states his tendency to ignore criticism but argues that since the clergymen were “…men of genuine good and [their] criticisms are sincerely set forth, [he] would like to answer [their] statement in what [he] hope will be patient and reasonable terms” (King 2). Besides capturing the attention of his audience, this opening statement act to compliment and recognize the audience, making them feel important. The statement also sets a friendly environment through which he could comfortably relay his thoughts and feelings. Instead of seeing the author as an outsider, because of that statement, the audience can see him as a friend, thus making them more open to the content of the letter (Parnell para 4).
In conclusion, throughout the letter, Luther has successfully avoided generalizations and bandwagon appeals. Luther successfully uses three rhetoric appeals to convince the audience of his course and to justify his actions. By using logos, he was able to instill logic into the mindset of the audience. Further, Luther used ethos to show some authority and build his credibility in regard to the information contained in the letter. Finally, the author used pathos, emotional appeal, to capture the feelings of the audience and to instill some sense in them in regard to offering support to the oppressive system, which ran the society. By using these three rhetoric appeals, Luther’s arguments are effective and powerful in regard to convincing the audience and to reaffirm his right as a member of the society rather than an outsider.

Works Cited
King, Martin Luther. Letter from Birmingham jail. The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 212: 78-88, August, 1963. Web. 17 October 2013.


Newell, Terry. Statesmanship, Character, and Leadership in America. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print.

Parnell, Jonathan. (2012). Martin Luther King’s “Letters from Birmingham Jail”, 2012. Web. October 16, 2013.

Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” | Online Homework Help
This is a Snippet Preview Access a Complete Custom Written Paper Done by Our Expert Writers
Order Essay
My Academic Papers | Homework Papers
Calculate your paper price
Pages (550 words)
Approximate price: -

Why Work with Us

Top Quality and Well-Researched Papers

We always make sure that writers follow all your instructions precisely. You can choose your academic level: high school, college/university or professional, and we will assign a writer who has a respective degree.

Professional and Experienced Academic Writers

We have a team of professional writers with experience in academic and business writing. Many are native speakers and able to perform any task for which you need help.

Free Unlimited Revisions

If you think we missed something, send your order for a free revision. You have 10 days to submit the order for review after you have received the final document. You can do this yourself after logging into your personal account or by contacting our support.

Prompt Delivery and 100% Money-Back-Guarantee

All papers are always delivered on time. In case we need more time to master your paper, we may contact you regarding the deadline extension. In case you cannot provide us with more time, a 100% refund is guaranteed.

Original & Confidential

We use several writing tools checks to ensure that all documents you receive are free from plagiarism. Our editors carefully review all quotations in the text. We also promise maximum confidentiality in all of our services.

24/7 Customer Support

Our support agents are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week and committed to providing you with the best customer experience. Get in touch whenever you need any assistance.

Try it now!

Calculate the price of your order

Total price:
$0.00

How it works?

Follow these simple steps to get your paper done

Place your order

Fill in the order form and provide all details of your assignment.

Proceed with the payment

Choose the payment system that suits you most.

Receive the final file

Once your paper is ready, we will email it to you.

Our Services

No need to work on your paper at night. Sleep tight, we will cover your back. We offer all kinds of writing services.

Essays

Essay Writing Service

No matter what kind of academic paper you need and how urgent you need it, you are welcome to choose your academic level and the type of your paper at an affordable price. We take care of all your paper needs and give a 24/7 customer care support system.

Admissions

Admission Essays & Business Writing Help

An admission essay is an essay or other written statement by a candidate, often a potential student enrolling in a college, university, or graduate school. You can be rest assurred that through our service we will write the best admission essay for you.

Reviews

Editing Support

Our academic writers and editors make the necessary changes to your paper so that it is polished. We also format your document by correctly quoting the sources and creating reference lists in the formats APA, Harvard, MLA, Chicago / Turabian.

Reviews

Revision Support

If you think your paper could be improved, you can request a review. In this case, your paper will be checked by the writer or assigned to an editor. You can use this option as many times as you see fit. This is free because we want you to be completely satisfied with the service offered.