A Letter From Birmingham Jail Essay

1068 words - 4 pages

Jonathan KeyENG 1302.P06Dr. Gary Wilson30 October 2014Martin Luther King Jr.'s "A Letter from Birmingham Jail" was written in the margins of a letter posted by the clergymen of Alabama that sparked his interest and while he resided in the jail cell for marching without a permit. This time allowed him the ability to respond wholeheartedly to this cynical oppressing. King's letter addresses specific issues presented by the Clergymen and this direct response distinguishes King's strong points through his powerful writing. Unprincipled and immoral allusions came to the attention of Dr. King through the letter, in which he expresses his different opinions and defends his ideals and actions through Aristotle's three rhetorical devices, ethos, logos, and pathos.First and foremost, King establishes credibility to initiate his strong counter-argument 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" (King). This title not only puts King into a position of prestige but also provides proof that he is well traveled in the south and has deep understanding of the struggles within to create such a strong opposition. As King states that he's traveled through the "length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi, and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings" he defends his credibility further because not only did King travel through these states but on multiple occasions in different seasons, and even deeper in different trials than may have been presented. Furthermore, throughout the letter, King references the Bible, presidents, and writers to establish not only his educated intelligence, but also his zeal for righteousness and his platform as a man of God.The very first line of King's letter takes advantage of using an emotional appeal to get the attention of the audiences. King writes, "While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came…" (King) He draws the attention of the clergymen to the dark depths of the jail. One is forced to picture the lewd overcrowded rooms with little light or air. This is a symbol of the everyday life of the "Negro" people. The blacks were living a life which was no better than the life in the filthy rooms in the jail. King gives the audience a reason feel compassion towards him and his situation at the time, and yet, he shows a generous attitude towards the white clergymen whom he calls "men of genuine goodwill" (King). This helped King gather support from people who otherwise would not have. His tactful criticisms he uses to avoid callous words against the whites sets a soft tone that appealed to many white audiences. Many of the King's rhetoric used that convinced his credibility to the audience also demonstrated the...

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