Comparing Letter From A Birmingham Jail And Civil Disobedience

1866 words - 7 pages

Martin Luther King and Henry David Thoreau each write exemplary persuasive essays that depict social injustice and discuss civil disobedience, which is the refusal to comply with the law in order to prove a point. In his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” King speaks to a specific audience: the African Americans, and discusses why he feels they should bring an end to segregation. Thoreau on the other hand, in “Civil Disobedience,” speaks to a broader, non-addressed audience as he largely expresses his feelings towards what he feels is an unjust government. Both essays however, focus on the mutual topics of morality and justice and use these topics to inform and motivate their audience to, at times, defy the government in order to establish the necessary justice.
Although Thoreau and King both correspondingly address these topics of morality and justice throughout their essays, their essays are in no way similar in writing styles, tones, and/or goals. King speaks to his readers about the injustice that is being served to African Americans specifically. He uses an emotional appeal as he pleads his readers to take action to end segregation. This emotional appeal combined with his optimism for freedom sets him and his writing different from that of Thoreau’s. Thoreau’s essay on the other hand, is largely critical of the unfair American Government. Unlike King, Thoreau worriedly speaks to his readers in a distressed, aggravated tone as he reprimands them for following unjust laws. Thoreau’s essay is also different from King’s because he presents more than one goal. Not only does he describe the government’s unfair laws, but he also teaches his readers how and why to revolt, and tells them to bring an end to the ongoing Mexican War. Despite these differences, both Thoreau and King share strong similar beliefs of morality and justice that are clearly seen throughout the entirety of both essays.
Both authors in their respective essays tell the people why and how they should fight for justice. They explain that in order to fight for justice, we must first distinguish between the just and unjust laws. According to King, “A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God” whereas “an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law” (King, 3). Both authors specifically tell us that we must only refuse to follow unjust laws since they deny us of our natural or God-given rights. The next step in fighting for justice is to expose the injustice. King also states, “like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must [first] be exposed...before it can be cured” (King, 5). King tells us that we must identify and expose the problem in order to solve it. Without identifying the injustice and/or exposing it, justice simply will not be served. The major unjust laws that King talks about...

Find Another Essay On Comparing Letter from a Birmingham Jail and Civil Disobedience

Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau and Letter From Birmingham Jail, by Martin Luther King Jr

1036 words - 4 pages The essays, "Civil Disobedience," by Henry David Thoreau, and "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," by Martin Luther King, Jr., incorporate the authors’ opinions of justice. Each author efficiently shows their main point; Thoreau deals with justice as it relates to government, he asks for,”not at one no government, but at once a better government.”(Paragraph 3). King believed,” injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." (Paragraph 4

A Letter From Birmingham Jail Essay

731 words - 3 pages An epigram is defined as a short sentence that is pithy, and leaves a lasting affect. Epigrams are used by writers to project their message to the reader in a simplified way. In a paragraph with a conclusion epigram, instead of remembering the whole paragraph all the reader has to do is remember the epigram to understand the gist of the paragraph. In ?A Letter From Birmingham Jail,? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., uses epigrams to sum up his

A Letter From Birmingham Jail

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

Letter From Birmingham Jail

1126 words - 5 pages The Letter From Birmingham Jail In Martin Luther King?s ?Letter From Birmingham Jail?, Dr. King addresses many points made in a the public statement by the Alabama Clergymen. Dr. King explains the motives and goals of the civil rights movement. He also addresses the racial problems within Birmingham and why change was needed.First, Dr. King addresses the point made by the clergymen that outsiders were leading the demonstrations in Birmingham

Letter from Birmingham Jail

600 words - 2 pages The "Letter from Birmingham Jail" as a speech to the white Americans.Martin Luther King wrote his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" in 1963, while being arrested for non-permitted parading in a protest against racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. In the letter, the biggest amount of criticism was addressed to the fellow clergymen and the Church that did not perceive the issue as an urgent one. I believe that one of the most significant issues

Letter From Birmingham Jail

938 words - 4 pages and light of insight right and wrong. As you can see King uses allusion, ethos, and analogy in "Letter From Birmingham Jail" to successfully reveal both his optimism and disappointment and encourage others to stand up and fight for a resolution instead of staying in a quandary. He was able to give faith to others to go against the injustice.

Letter from Birmingham Jail

1111 words - 5 pages “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from a jail cell in Alabama on April 16th, 1963. The reason he was in jail is he led a non-violent protest against Jim Crow laws that separated facilities between Blacks and Whites. This letter was written to response to a letter that was published in a local newspaper from eight clergymen who criticized King’s protests “unwise and untimely.” In letter, the author explained

Letter from Birmingham Jail

610 words - 2 pages Martin Luther King J.R.'s "Letter from Birmingham  Jail", he uses references to the past and people of the past to strengthen his point. The actions in the past and present can affect the future.     In "Letter from Birmingham Jail", King uses references to Saints, philosophers of the past, and theologians to get into the minds of the clergymen to whom he is writing the letter. By using the words of white people of the past, King can use the

Letter From Birmingham Jail

891 words - 4 pages Martin Luther King Jr. wrote “Letters From Birmingham Jail” while he was in jail for going against the law enforcements and holding meetings, marches, and sit-ins. MLK states in the beginning of his letter how he is like the Apostle Paul from the bible. “Just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ… I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom…”(King) MLK knew he was suppose to make a

letter from Birmingham jail

697 words - 3 pages The “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” is a text directed to all of America in 1963, written by Martin Luther King Jr., during his stay in one of the of Birmingham’s prisons. His intention of writing an open letter was to tell the world the injustice “the white people” had done not only to him, but to all Afro-Americans. The main stimulus was a statement made by a Clergymen naming the actions and the activities of the Southern

Literary comparison between Henry Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" and Martin Luther King's "Letters from Birmingham Jail."

978 words - 4 pages Martin King and Henry Thoreau both write persuasive expositions that oppose majority ideals and justify their own causes. While this similarity is clear, the two essays, "Letters from Birmingham Jail" by King and "Civil Disobedience" by Thoreau, do have their fair share of differences. Primarily in the causes themselves, as King persuades white, southern clergy men that segregation is an evil, unjust law that should be defeated through the

Similar Essays

Comparing Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience And King's Letter From A Birmingham Jail

1066 words - 4 pages Comparing Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience and Martin Luther King's Letter From a Birmingham Jail The two essays, "Civil Disobedience," by Henry David Thoreau, and "Letter From a Birmingham Jail," by Martin Luther King, Jr., effectively illustrate the authors' opinions of justice. Each author has his main point; Thoreau, in dealing with justice as it relates to government, asks for "not at once no government, but at once a better government

Comparing Civil Disobedience By Henry David Thoreau And Martin Luther King's Letter From Birmingham Jail

727 words - 3 pages reform the government and the means of accomplishing it. In King's Letter from Birmingham Jail and Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, both agreed on injustice of majority to rule over minority, both resisted the government passively, and both wanted a better government immediately.The majority is not necessarily right, but they have always been the ones in power because they are the strongest and the most influential. Therefore, all the laws are

Exploration Of Civil Disobedience In Sophocles' Antigone, King's Letter From Birmingham Jail, And Plato's From Crito

579 words - 2 pages Exploration of Civil Disobedience in Sophocles' Antigone, King's Letter from Birmingham Jail, and Plato's From Crito Civil disobedience spawns a major and widely debated issue by many who established by well-known intelligent scholars and many examples of civil disobedience become displayed. The acts of civil disobedience can be noted in major works such as Sophocles?s Antigone, King?s ?Letter from Birmingham Jail?, or even from Plato?s

Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience And Martin Luther King's Letter From Birmingham Jail

816 words - 3 pages Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience and Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King, in “Civil Disobedience” and “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” respectively, both conjure a definitive argument on the rights of insubordination during specified epochs of societal injustice. Thoreau, in his enduring contemplation of life and its purpose, insightfully analyzes the conflicting relationship