On April 16, 1963, from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a letter addressed to eight clergymen who were concerned about what King was doing for civil rights in a speech that he gave on April 12, 1963. During the time of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, a man by the name of James Meredith was attending the University of Mississippi as their first Black student. James had many difficulties graduating with all the harassments he was being face with because of his race. Eventually James did graduate in 1963.
Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his letter in response to the eight clergymen of the White Church of the South. Both the clergymen’s letter and King’s letter were published for everyone to see. In trying to persuade, Martin Luther King Jr. uses appeals to ethos, pathos and logos in his letter. First, he appeals to his reputation. Next, he works to stir up the readers’ emotions and sympathy. Lastly, he uses logical reasoning and gives evidence to prove it.
Martin Luther King Jr. appeals to his own reputation as well as the clergymen’s in his letter. “I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.” Says King. This statement tells us what he is about. He enjoys what he does and does what he can to pursue his own as well as other people dreams. He also states “I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church” which gives him credibility. Martin Luther King Jr. himself believes in what he says so therefore if he seems confident in what he is saying it makes him more of a reliable source to where others will find him credible. He also gives his reasoning behind his being in Birmingham Jail “I along with several members of my staff am here because I was invited here; I am here because I have organization ties here. But more basically I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.” “Injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere.” He was thrown in this jail for organizing and carrying out a peaceful nonviolent protest on the racial segregation going on in Birmingham. It was one of many segregation protests that he was carrying out in Alabama. He also appeals to his own reputation by stating “Seldom do I pause to answer to criticism of my work and ideas.” In this statement, it tells us that his work is never perfect but he doesn’t stop to take on every letter of criticism that crosses his desk, but took the time for theirs.
Secondly, Martin Luther King Jr. works to stir up his readers’ emotions and sympathy. King stresses the injustice in African Americans lives. He does so to give the readers a feel for the situation these people are constantly faced with. He uses the statement ” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim” to reach down deep in the clergymen’s hearts as they read this in hope that they realize and sympathize the suffering they encounter. He gives the clergymen evidence from well known philosophers as well to give him more credibility. He quotes Thomas Aquinas: “An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.” Who came to the same conclusion as King on years earlier. He also uses the Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, to show the readers why unfair laws are favored by segregationists. Martin Luther King Jr. uses another individual Paul Tillich, to give more to his point that segregation is not only frowned upon by many but it is sinful. His purpose of using important people to the religious and philosophy fields is easy to show not only does he believe in it so do these people. Working to prove that every person living in the United States shall abide by the laws set forth, he also holds his position to stress his point: morality.
In response to the clergymen, Martin Luther King Jr., tries to give reasons for the importance of him being a part of the events taking place in Alabama to show ethos to his readers. Dr. King also shows his authority as a minister and a person who stands up for African-Americans to show the similarities between the clergymen and himself to create credibiltity. He grabs the audience’s emotion in his letter to rid of oppositions and again show his belief and views of the civil rights. The main reason for him was having these protests in Alabama and other southern states is because at the time they were last people still convinced that segregation was morally acceptable. This wasn’t King’s first time being to prison. He was constantly being persecuted for his beliefs that segregation and racism is immoral.
In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” an answer to the public statement by the eight Alabama clergymen, Martin Luther King, Jr. is eager to favor the importance and especially the honor of his partaking in the wrongful things happening in Alabama to form his ethos as respectable to his audience. He must bring about authority as both a minister and a representative for African-Americans to have some kind of equality between him and the eight clergymen to be credible to his audience and erase the disagreements. He works up their emotions to avoid any competition and restate his views of civil rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s goal is to create a feeling of recognition with the civil rights’ cause in his readers minds.
Finally, his audience is in the right mind too resolve the issue and is ready to listen to his point of view. Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrates the accuracy of his part and his beliefs thanks to evidence and logic he provides. In this way, he communicates his personal ability for arguing but also the African-Americans’ reasoning for defending their positions in the discussions. Martin Luther King takes advantage of reason to create a reunion with the WASP community. He reassures the WASP community of its past fights with both the British and the Nazi’s. He attempts to draw a picture with the comparison of the fight for African Americans’ civil rights is in no way different than the WASP communities. He wipes out all of the wrong disagreements that are out of control throughout the WASP community. An important factor of this letter is that King finishes his letter with a request for some peace and harmony throughout. With those words being said, if the readers have just forgotten the disagreement, they shall keep in mind his motivation for peace.
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