Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail

1130 words - 5 pages

In April of 1963, locked in a Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation”. In Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail he accurately displays his distinctive ability to influence public opinion by appropriating ideas from the Bible, the Constitution, and other canonical texts (Autobiography); by establishing his credibility, appealing to the audience’s logic, and invoking the emotional aspects of the African-American plight in this era.
Within this letter, Dr. King starts out by establishing his creditability to the clergymen for whom he is writing, with statements like “I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth”, and “I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights” (King). It is in statements like these that he ultimately says to his audience, I am an equal, I stand for the same things you do.
These clergymen questioned Dr. King’s methods of protest even though they stated that they ultimately supported his cause. In order to initially obtain their already broken trust, Dr. King appeals to them as colleagues by using scripture and key people within the Bible’s text to capture their attention and regain their trust; with points like “Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire” (King)
Meanwhile, Dr. King also appeals to the logical side of the men within the letter, to lead them to the bigger picture of the injustice faced by African-Americans during this era. Dr. King uses facts and United States laws to prove that his actions were not untimely but in contrast these actions were overdue and that in fact he was not an outsider, but rather an invited guest.“So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here, I am here because I have organizational ties here. But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” (King) He goes on by saying “Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham's economic community. In the course of the negotiations,...

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