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Analysis Of 'Letter From Birmingham'

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1340 words Published: 8th May 2017

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For writers, grabbing the reader’s attention within the first few lines of the text is as important as getting the message across to the reader. A major component of writing is making sure the text persuades the reader about your thesis. Persuading the reading about one’s argument is important in order to get a message across. Persuading is extremely important in political writing because the politician’s goal is to have as many people support them, whether it’s persuading the people through writing, speech, advertisements, or even commercials. A well known hero and author that demonstrates skilled writing is Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Kings.

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In 1963, Martin Luther King marched in downtown Birmingham with the goal of ending segregation. During his protest, Dr. King makes every effort to justify the for nonviolent protests, the wrongness of unjust laws, he also wanted to lessen the chance of Black people doing extreme disorder and bloodshed, in addition to his disappointment with the Church ignoring unjust toward Black people. To reply to the criticism written in a letter written to Dr. King by eight clergymen, Dr. King writes the “Letter from Birmingham Jail”. While protesting, African Americans peacefully planned their actions to avoid nonviolence. The purpose of their protests was to have white politicians take note of the segregation going on and put an end to it, and people be treated equally. While King employs character in his text, his appeal to logic and emotion are the most useful rhetorical devices.

Immediately noticeable in this essay is the persuasiveness of the text and how Dr. King appeals to logic and emotion. As Dr. King replies to his criticizers; “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 work”. Which shows how much criticism Dr. King receives, but he specifically makes the clergymen feel important by answering them. This is one of the methods King uses to present his argument in a non-aggressive style as well as specifically points out who why he does not answer all his criticism. By calmly doing this, he helps lay the tone of the essay in an ethical, non-blaming manner. A good example of how Dr. King uses emotion and appeals to logic is when he writes about the breaking of promises made to the Negro community by the white power. Dr. King says “As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us”. This shows how throughout his letter, Dr.King restates his criticism and justifies his actions without blaming. And with the phrase “we must see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood “, this quote also shows how Dr.King uses powerful language this time as a way to persuade African American protestors and the White court against racism without using violence. Dr. King also appeals to logic when he specially answers the questions about why he is here. He says, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here” which is true because at that time, there was injustice between black and white people. He specifically refers to Socrates, and how tension is needed rather than violence so people can put an end to the injustice and the segregation happening between black and white people.

Among the many methods of that King uses to successfully appeal to the readers emotions and the use logic, his use of narration, comparison and contrast, and cause and effect add meaning to his argument. One of the most effective examples is the very beginning of the letter, when Dr. King narrates his staying in jail. He says, “While confined here in Birmingham City Jail”, immediately, and very deliberately, forms the negative image of a poor people suffering at the hands of an unjust society. This is exactly the image that King wants to begin with because right from the start the reader is involved at an emotional level with the troubles black people are facing. Analogy is also used many times to attract the reader’s emotions. One of the ways that it is used to compare his struggle with racism to the struggles of ethically renowned, historical figures like: Jesus “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hurt you, and pray for them which despiteful use you, and persecute you,” Abraham Lincoln “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” (And) Thomas Jefferson “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men our created equal”. As shown in the text Martin Luther King Jr. was very passionate about his beliefs in the same way that those he compared himself. By Quoting Jesus and Abraham Lincoln that segregation is wrong, Dr. King builds strong relationship between religious people and there beliefs about segregation because two highly respected and important people were also against discrimination. Also by showing that Kings Ideas and beliefs are similar to Jesus, he convinces people that he is fighting for the right cause, to defeat injustice.

Dr. King strongly believed that he was fighting for equality and that nonviolence is necessary to achieve results. In his letter, that states the actions that him and his people have taken to protest. Dr. King writes “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham.” This shows how Dr. King uses facts and actual events that took place to prove that nonviolence isn’t the answer. Dr. King wants to show the that White church that laws are made to protect the people not degrade and punish. As far as King is concerned, the African American will continue to do whatever is necessary, preferably non-violently, to obtain the legal and moral right that is theirs. Not only does Dr. King repeat what his actions where, but he also tells the white people the result of there careless actions. He says “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” If a person or people are ignored they will become violent and fight for their “God-given” rights. King diligently explained that “black nationalist” groups are becoming prevalent in society and he has faith that the “Negro Church” has had direct influence in keeping the violence from erupting. However, with the court ignoring, how can there be nonviolence? Dr King says “I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action.” This shows how Dr. King understood the White peoples feeling and there idea about his protesting. He wants to show that regardless of there feelings, Black people will keep fighting. By showing that Black people will fight whether white people understand or not, the court will need to take different actions, other than not caring and ignoring Martin Luther King’s actions.

King knew that the civil rights movement could achieve its goals of removing the illegal segregation practices. In his letter King goes through the list of charges made against him. King’s reply was powerfully written, made use of many methods of development and dealt with a very emotionally charged issue in a logical manner.


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