Rhetorical Analysis: "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

In: English and Literature

Submitted By gurlgothandles30
Words 714
Pages 3
Rhetorical Analysis: “Letter from Birmingham Jail” On April 12, 1963 eight clergymen wrote a letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that showed their disapproval of the demonstrations that were going on in Birmingham, Alabama. The clergymen were complaining that the demonstrations led by Dr. King and his affiliates went against Birmingham Laws and “incited hatred and violence.” A few days later Dr. King wrote a response letter while temporarily confined in a Birmingham jail. The letter demonstrated the intellectual power that Dr. King had of rhetorically appealing to his audiences. He effectively used the ethos, pathos, and logos appeals to explain the reasons why the demonstrations were necessary in order to make a change in Birmingham. Dr. King establishes his credibility, or uses the ethos appeal, effectively when he writes that “I have the honor of serving President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. We have eighty-five affiliated organizations…” He listed these organizations so he can gain trust from the clergymen and also to make his argument stronger. He named his supreme position because this means that somebody or a group of people most likely appointed him to the position. This shows that somebody had to trust him to be responsibility for such a large organization. Dr. King also used allusions to appeal to his audience with more authority, or ethos. He establishes more credibility when he alluded to the Apostle Paul by writing “…just as the Apostle Paul left his village and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ…, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town.” He feels that he is at the same position to lead the movement and gain freedom for all that has suffered long enough. He also alludes to the Greek philosopher, Socrates, when he states, “Just as Socrates felt it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so…...

Similar Documents

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

...Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham jail” is a mix of emotional passion and logical precision that seeks to achieve meaningful cause. The letter was a response to white clergy who were critical of his intention in Birmingham naming him an “outsider”. King’s response to critics through a letter explains his arguments vividly and effectively. King wrote the letter in a way that he agreed with his critics, nonetheless still using their words against them in logic harmony. King’s letter illustrates the three artistic proofs used to convince an audience. This paper will discuss the ethos, pathos, and logos modes of persuasion as well as writing structure as seen in King’s “The letter from Birmingham jail”. King’s letter demonstrates his clear logic, empathetic prose, sense of self, as maintained by high moral ground. His letter evokes ethical appeal for two main reasons; the language used is ethical and suits the topic, and the words come from a credible source. King is to be forgiven for saying, “Right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant” because this word may seem provocative (Jnr, 2012). However, these words are persuasive and used in the right context. According to Aristotle, ethos is developed when one chooses to use language that is suitable for the audience, and when the same words makes the person sound fair or unbiased (Aristotle, 2012). He uses historical facts to justify the reason why injustice prevails, and not his own opinion. He says,......

Words: 770 - Pages: 4

Critical Analysis: Letter from Birmingham Jail

...Critical Analysis Essay “Letter from Birmingham Jail” In arguing, writers use different techniques to effectively convey their message to their intended audience. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail" was a response to "A Call for Unity" by eight white clergymen in which King’s presence in Birmingham and his methods of public demonstration were questioned. King’s letter was not only a response to his presence in Birmingham, but he also used the opportunity to address the unjust proposals by the clergymen that Negroes wait for the legal system to abolish segregation and unjust laws. King uses rhetorical modes of persuasion such as ethos, pathos and logos to meticulously address and discredit the claims made by the eight white clergymen. Throughout his letter, King also makes many comparisons to effectively illustrate how the Negro pursuit of freedom was timely. To answer the question of his presence in Birmingham, King uses both ethos and pathos to explain why he is qualified to be present leading the demonstrations. To argue the perception of him being “an outsider coming in”, King first states that because he has organizational ties in Birmingham, he has an obligation to be available whenever he is needed. This statement discredits the notion that he is an outsider. To lay the foundation of his argument, King states, “But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.” This statement is used to make King’s presence seem less personal...

Words: 1198 - Pages: 5

Letters from Birmingham Jail

...T’ona Jones Professor Michael Stowell EH 101-2BA February 21, 2013 A Word from Dr. King             On April 16, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote “Letters from Birmingham Jail” while incarcerated for his participation in the civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama. The letter was a response to “A Call for Unity,” published by the Birmingham clergymen in the Birmingham News, which attempted to end all nonviolent civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham. In the letter, Dr. King described his reasons for having been in Birmingham and his opinions and reasons for protesting. He also explained what actions could have been taken for the demonstrations to cease. By using historical quotes, emotional appeals, an assertive tone, and common sense, Dr. King thoroughly and effectively stated his point on the protest that would get positive feedback, which in turn he had hoped to receive from the audience of strict officials that resisted change. As Dr. King began and ended his letter, he did so with respect to the audience. He acknowledged them as “men of genuine good will” (King 263), and at the end he also stated that he had hoped to meet them one day as Christian equals (King 279); doing this, Dr. King hoped to show that he accepted their criticisms. In return, he hoped that the clergymen would hear what he had to say and give it genuine thought. Had he been disrespectful the clergyman would not have taken what he had to say into consideration. Dr. King used......

Words: 763 - Pages: 4

“Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

...orator and passionate organizer of social movements. (D.L. Chandler, 2012). His letter from a Birmingham jail written in 1963 explained his ethical, emotional and logical appeal. Martin Luther King was a clergyman and a prominent leader in the civil rights movement. He was an activist and an advocate for the rights of the oppressed African American people and used nonviolent methods in his fight for equality. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is a truly emotionally charged, but particularly logical letter. Martin Luther King appeals to the reader in an effort to make them understand what he and the oppressed people were doing was a necessary step and that it was in love, not hate for those that oppressed them. His emotions in the letter do not come across as hateful but more as frustration in an effort to appeal to the reader. He appeals to the emotions of the reader on several occasions by talking about how the “Negros” were treated but perhaps the emotional appeal that stands out is at the end of his letter. He apologizes for the letter being long and assures the reader that it “would have been much shorter” had he been “writing from a comfortable desk”. He states, “What else can one do when alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?” He only had his own thoughts to listen to and his own emotions to deal with while in jail. This complete solitude gave him nothing else other than to fuel his emotions......

Words: 819 - Pages: 4

Rhetorical Analysis "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

...13 September 2013 Rhetorical Analysis Rhetorical Analysis of “Letter from Birmingham Jail” “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” by Martin Luther King, Jr., is a letter in which King is writing to his “fellow clergymen” in a response to their recent criticism of the actions he was leading in Birmingham at the time. The letter was written in April of 1963, a time when segregation was essentially at a peak in the south. Birmingham, in particular, is described by King as “probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States” (King 7). King goes on to inform the clergymen of the reality of the situation where he is and how waiting isn’t an option anymore. In the letter, King uses a variety of rhetorical strategies to accomplish the task of appealing to the readers from a logical standpoint. King first establishes his credibility to answer the clergymen by naming his personal title and comparing himself to such a higher historical authority as the apostle Paul. King uses repetition of his personal experiences in Birmingham to describe the situation from an emotional standpoint. By stating his credibility and giving his personal experiences, King gives the readers no choice but to listen to what his reasoning is behind his actions taken in Birmingham. He does so by describing how he has dealt with the situation in Birmingham appropriately using the four basic steps of any nonviolent campaign, and defining what those are. By coordinating the rhetorical strategies of......

Words: 1507 - Pages: 7

Letter from the Birmingham Jail

...8/20/2012 “Letter From Birmingham Jail” 1. Why was Martin Luther King, Jr., in Birmingham? Martin Luther King, Jr., was in Birmingham, because of the injustice to the American Negro. He felt compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond his own home town. 2. What is a law? A law, as defined by dictionary.com, is the principles and regulations established in a community by some authority and applicable to its people, whether in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognized and enforced by judicial decision. I other words, laws govern or enforce the quality of life of the citizens in a community or locale. They are usually put into effect by the form of the majority vote. 3. What is a “just/unjust” law? A just law, according to Martin, is a law that is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. So in other words, just laws are typically for the betterment of all people and unjust laws seeks to oppress a minority group. These unjust laws do not bind to the makers of such laws. 4. What does Martin Luther King, Jr., use to build the contents of the “letter?” Dr. King effectively uses The Bible, former demonstrations, the white church, white supporters, Muslim theories, constitutional rights and past experiences that reflected inhumane treatment by the oppressor. These were the primary contents that appeared throughout his letter. 5. Is......

Words: 325 - Pages: 2

Letter from Birmingham Jail

... March 17th, 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. Question 6 on page 177 Have you ever thought about integrity? We all have at some point in our lives. The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines integrity as “the quality of being honest or fair and the state of being complete or whole.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Stephen L. Carter spoke about this and defined it in their own ways. Stephen L. Carter wrote in “The Rules about the Rules” that “integrity requires 3 steps: (1) discerning what is right and what is wrong; (2) acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and (3) saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong.” During a major protest of unfair business practices in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. King was arrested and put into jail for his actions. In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” he gave evidence of Stephen L. Carter’s definition of integrity. “Discerning what is right and what is wrong.” In 1954, the Supreme Court came to the decision to outlaw segregation in public schools. Even though this was Federal Law, the community still chose to obey the city ordinances of segregation. Dr. King stated that for the African-American people there was “grossly unjust treatment in the courts, and there were more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than any other city in the nation.” Despite strong efforts made from the leaders in the African-American community, the city...

Words: 522 - Pages: 3

A Letter from a Birmingham Jail

...October 2013 A Letter From a Birmingham Jail Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15 in the year 1929. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia. Martin Luther King Jr. had a tremendous impact on the desegregation of the United States, primarily the South, in the ‘60's. Many people believe that he in fact had one of if not the greatest and most influential impact of any civil rights leader in history. King Jr. began his civil rights activities in 1955 when he protested in Montgomery, Alabama against their horribly segregated public bus system. The protest was started after an African American lady on a bus by the name of Rosa Parks was arrested after she decided not to give up her seat to a white male passenger longing for a place to sit. After the arrest, African Americans gathered and encouraged others to boycott the Montgomery bus system. An underground society called the Montgomery Improvement Association was formed and with no surprise Martin Luther King Jr. was elected the president. The group’s methods were efficient and most importantly non violent. The group’s protests had success and soon after, the bus lines abandoned their segregated rules and African Americans no longer had to boycott the bus system. King dedicated his life to being a civil rights activist. Today he is most famously remembered for his non-violent protests in working toward racial equality. King was such an important figure and served as inspiration in so many people’s lives. The Birmingham......

Words: 1489 - Pages: 6

Letter from a Birmingham Jail Analysis

...“A Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr. was written in the margins of a letter posted by the clergymen of Alabama at this time that sparked his interest and while he inhabited the jail cell for parading around without a permit. This time allowed him the ability to respond wholeheartedly to this cynical oppressing. King’s letter addresses specific points presented in the Clergymen’s and this direct response distinguishes King’s strong points through his powerful writing.  Unethical and immoral mentions came to the attention of the Minister through the letter, and he expressed his differing views and defended his ideals and actions through Aristotle’s three rhetorical devices, ethos, logos, and pathos. First and foremost, King establishes his credibility to spark off his strong defense.  Introducing himself as “The President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. … [with] eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights” (“Letter from Birmingham Jail” 2). This credential not only puts King into a position of power but also proves that he has seen enough of the south and the problems within it to create a strong argument against his opposition.   Another point that establishes this is on page seven of “Letter From Birmingham Jail” where King states that he’s traveled through the “length and...

Words: 1012 - Pages: 5

Letter from Birmingham Jail

...Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail--a rhetorical analysis In the following text, here is the color key: Purple: the opposition's arguments Red: use of an emotional appeal or pathos Green: use of appeal to authority or reputation or ethos Blue: use of an appeal to logic or logos AUTHOR'S NOTE: This response to a published statement by eight fellow clergymen from Alabama (Bishop C. C. J. Carpenter, Bishop Joseph A. Durick, Rabbi Hilton L. Grafman, Bishop Paul Hardin, Bishop Holan B. Harmon, the Reverend George M. Murray. the Reverend Edward V. Ramage and the Reverend Earl Stallings) was composed under somewhat constricting circumstance. Begun on the margins of the newspaper in which the statement appeared while I was in jail, the letter was continued on scraps of writing paper supplied by a friendly Negro trusty, and concluded on a pad my attorneys were eventually permitted to leave me. Although the text remains in substance unaltered, I have indulged in the author's prerogative of polishing it for publication. April 16, 1963 MY DEAR FELLOW CLERGYMEN: While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive......

Words: 7122 - Pages: 29

Rhetorical Analysis of Letter from Birmingham Jail W/ Focus on Ethos

...MLK Letter From Birmingham Jail Rhetorical Analysis- w/ focus on Ethos “...we are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders…” In this quote, from the third paragraph of the letter written by eight Alabama clergymen, the term outsiders is used. Early on, this creates a label for Martin Luther King, outsider. Throughout his Letter From Birmingham Jail, King is able appeal to ethos in order to refute his title of “outsider” and generate a connection with his audiences, the clergymen and the people of America. King is able to do such a thing by alluding to multiple passages from the Bible as well as the figures it contains, which is done so that he may identify with the clergymen. When not speaking in reference to the Bible, King makes allusions and references to specific points and people in American history, which allows him to connect to his larger audience, the people of America. By demonstrating his practical wisdom, through the use of allusion, King attempts to strengthen his character with a visible appeal to ethos. King alludes to the Bible multiple times throughout his Letter From Birmingham Jail. These allusions are notable in paragraph three, where king refers to the biblical figures “Jesus Christ” and “the Apostle Paul.” The context in which these two are used is to reiterate the story of Paul leaving Tarsus, which King also mentions, to spread the word of Christ. In paragraph...

Words: 1579 - Pages: 7

Analysis of Letter from of Birmingham Jail

...A Little Jail-Bird Told Me The pen is mightier than the sword. This saying emphasizes that words are stronger than violent actions. Martin Luther King Jr. believed strongly in this saying. Being a leader of the civil rights movement, King believed in peaceful protests over violent protests. He was a kind hearted man peacefully fighting for equal rights of black and white people. At one point, his focus was Birmingham. Birmingham was thoroughly segregated and treated blacks worse than most areas. While in Birmingham, King was arrested. While in jail, King wrote a letter in response to criticism he received from white clergymen. In this letter, Martin Luther King Jr. uses a friendly, non-hostile tone mixed with a list of undisputable facts to calmly, yet assertively point out his issues with racial dilemmas. Right in the intro of the letter, King starts with a friendly and hospitable tone. He respectfully states, “…since I feel you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.” (King 1). Here, he keeps a calm tone, but his use of the word “hope” can be inferred to show that his letter may at some points become stern and serious, showing that he isn’t going to easily budge on his stance on the civil rights movement. Right away he makes it clear he is not hostile at all. He speaks respectably in order to be respected, which is not exactly common for a......

Words: 1134 - Pages: 5

Letter from Birmingham Jail

...Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” is a poignant look into the reality of racial inequality in 1960s America. King writes this letter to fellow clergy men and aims to address their concerns regarding the wisdom and timing of the nonviolent direct-action demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama that King and other leaders orchestrated and carried out in 1963. King employs all three types of appeals; however, I find I am particularly moved by pathos and ethos in this work. So much that, I must admit, I was initially confused by my own emotions. Dr. King’s letter evokes in me strong feelings of empathy, indignation, and even pride. One of my first reactions to this reading was a sense of guilt by the mere virtue of being part of what King describes as the “oppressor race” (par 31). But after allowing myself some time to inventory and analyze my reaction, I came to the realization that I can no more take responsibility for the actions of the white segregationists King describes than I can place the responsibility for crimes perpetrated by African Americans of previous generations on the African Americans that I know. The accurate description of what I felt is not guilt, but rather empathy and Dr. King creates several opportunities for his audience place themselves in his role, as in the following passage: “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 pubic...

Words: 1053 - Pages: 5

Letter from Birmingham Jail

...Nick Genaris Professor Ngoh Protest Literature 21th October 2015 Letter from Birmingham Jail-Rhetorical Analysis Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in order to address the biggest issue in Birmingham and the United States at the time (racism) and to also address the critics he received from the clergymen. The letter discusses the great injustices happening toward the Black community in Birmingham and although it is primarily aimed at the clergymen King writes the letter for all to read. In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. uses logos, alliteration/repetition, and ethos to back up his belief that nonviolent protesting and disobedience is the most effective means to protest anything that needs to be changed, in this case segregation. After reading King’s letter I, and almost anyone, would come to the conclusion that King is deeply motivated to help against any injustice in the US. Who else would go to such lengths if they didn’t? He knows how persuasive he can be by using his knowledge of the English language, and he uses this to speak out against people who doubt him (clergymen) and to incite a different way of thinking into the people in hopes of change. Dr. King’s letter is extremely effective because it provides an enormous amount of evidence to the reader that he and his company are being treated unjustly and also that King truly cares about making a change for the good of the city. It also re-directs......

Words: 1884 - Pages: 8

A Letter from a Birmingham Jail Analysis

...A Letter From a Birmingham Jail The Civil Rights Movement was a pivotal turning point in the battle for equal rights for African Americans. Among the many leaders and supporters of the movement, one of the most notable activists of all was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King dedicated most of his life to the fight for equal rights. He did this through the use of nonviolent direct action. Although his actions were appreciated by many, just as many people were annoyed, offended, and disagreed with his actions. Consequently, King ended up in jail numerous times. However, upon his arrest in Birmingham, Alabama for demonstrating without a permit, King decided to utilize his time in jail to write a letter to certain clergymen who criticized his actions. In this letter, King addresses his thoughts, feelings, actions, and the criticism that he was subjected to by his fellow clergymen. Through the creation of this letter, Martin Luther King Jr. has created an influential and thought provoking piece of literature. While incarcerated, Dr. King had lots of time to collect his thoughts. After thinking about everything that had happened and about all the things that have yet to happen led King to write a letter discussing all of theses things. This letter clearly states King's goal multiple times. He writes, “But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here (King 1).” He goes on to write, “Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for help (King 1).” In......

Words: 1377 - Pages: 6

Triple Tap | Watch Trailer | Talking Heads Stop Making Sense.