In the letter, “Letter from Birmingham Jail” written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 16, 1963, Dr. King is answering criticism from white clergy men. King stumbled upon a statement in a newspaper while in jail and felt the need to write on it. He did it to explain why he was in jail. After all Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a nonviolent protestor. Kings says “I am in Birmingham because in justice is here.” Dr. King wants to see a change. This paper will examine King’s uses of rhetorical devices to appeal to his audience. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s letter “Letter from Birmingham Jail” reveals all three rhetorical appeals. It appeals to ethos, logos and pathos.
Martin Luther King Jr. is renowned as the leader of the great Civil Rights Movement. Throughout his letter from Birmingham Jail, King employs pathos, ethos, and logos to persuade his audience to join forces in order to overcome the physical and mental barriers of segregation.
For example, when King says “When you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society”, he is portraying how racial injustice is constantly sinking America and its citizens into dangerous circumstances. His main goal here is to convince the Clergymen to see into the eyes of a African American and get a real sense of oppression they felt at the time, often at the expense of white entitlement. King demonstrates his ability to inspire his fellow civil rights activists, raise empathy in the hearts of white conservatives, and create passion in the minds of the eight Clergymen to which the letter is directed. While King uses this metaphor to make one of the stronger points in his argument, it is clear that within it he is appealing to pathos or the reader’s own sensibilities. The images of black men suffering at the hands of the lynch mobs are so strong and vivid that they cannot help but provoke a sense of empathy and shock over such conditions. In addition, he does a wonderful job describing the atrocities of racism and prejudice in his description of fellow black men being smothered in an “airtight cage of poverty”. To the reader, this brings to mind the thought of being constrained within a way of life that is inescapable because of racism. Furthermore, as
Martin Luther King went to jail for protesting for blacks in Birmingham in 1963. During the early starts of the civil rights movement he wrote a letter while in jail addressing the criticism people showed towards him who should have known better to not bash him in negative ways. It is known that the Birmingham Letter was the most important letter documented in the civil rights era. The letter provided as a long road to freedom in a civil rights movement. In this letter there are three appeals shown in the text. One appeal is known as Ethos. Ethos means to convince the audience of the authors work or character. Pathos is another appeal which is intended to persuade an audience which has to relate to their emotions. The third one is logos which appeals to logic also known to convince an audience by the use of reason.
Although most of Dr. King’s speeches and works appeal to more of a emotional and inspirational in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” there is more of a pathos appeal. He paints a picture of the discrimination that is happening during the 1960’s and how the African American were segregated from everything in the United States right to which water fountain they could drink from. Martin Luther King describes the moment where he had to explain to his six year daughter why her skin color was not accept in society. He starts
King transcends both the context of present struggle and his listeners. Unlike them, he mk understands the historical situation… he instructs them in the grand strategy of the mmmp Birmingham movement, just as any kindly teacher might attempt to cure the ignorance mmm and elevate the understanding of novice students (Osborn 28). Martin Luther King, Jr. is an expert on the struggle and obviously had the best intentions of his readers in mind while writing. This makes him both reliable and personally involved in spreading the campaign. In his “Letter,” Mr. King refuses to be put in a box, despite the location of his composition. He represents himself as a moral compass; righteous without being arrogant. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s tone and expression are an extravagant part of the letter’s ‘persuasive appeal’ (Leff, Utley 39). Mr. King himself plays an impressive part in making “Letter From Birmingham Jail” extremely effective.
In 1963, the rights and the equality for African Americans was a cause constantly fought for. Protests and marches took place in order to push for a change in the society, to make a world where equality is achieved. In a Birmingham jail, sat a civil rights leader named Martin Luther King Jr.. Placed in this cell due to a protest held in Birmingham, Alabama when there was a court order stating it was not allowed, King wrote a letter that has become an influential and infamous piece of writing. This letter became known as, “The letter from a Birmingham Jail”. This letter calls out to the criticisms placed on King and confronts them all. In this letter, through rhetorical devices such as pathos, logos and ethos, and other rhetorical devices.
The Letter from Birmingham Jail is a letter that explains the events that occurred when clergymen criticized Martin Luther King Jr.’s entrancing the Birmingham. Mr. King writes this letter to the clergymen who says racial discrimination was in control by the law administrators and should not be changed by Mr. King or any other outsider that are not white race. Mr. King’s statement letter addresses that he wants to form and restore an organize community where all human race can fight and have equal rights. I will explain how Mr. King used the literal tools as ethos, logos, pathos and others to clearly show the content, mood and situation of writing the letter and to respond to the clergymen’s enquiries.
“A wise man will only be useful as a man, and will not submit to be “clay” and “stop a hole to keep the wind away”, but leave that office to his dust. (Thoreau,Para.6 ,942) Because Martin Luther King Jr. and Henry Thoreau use different tones, appeals, and imagery to show how men have the power to make change. In both “Letter from Birmingham Jail”and “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” one man took action and made a huge change in how we view different races, another man changed our beliefs on government. It all started because one man believed that it was time for a change.
King wrote a letter in 1963 while he was imprisoned in Birmingham jail to eight white religious leaders in response to a “public statement of concern and cautious issued.” The letter was for a request to put a stop on the political action march in Birmingham that King was in charge of. This letter has turned into one of the best works of argument in U.S. history. Due to the logic of this letter being unsavory reputation and usefulness is due to its expressive use of pathos, logos and ethos. King’s use of pathos in his letter not only supports the statement he is making as well as making his argument morally irrefutable.
On April 3rd, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr began the Birmingham Campaign. This was a nonviolent campaign which consisted of coordinated marches and sit-ins against racism and racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. MLK Jr was arrested because of this campaign on April 12th. On the same day that MLK was arrested he received a newspaper from an ally of his, this newspaper had an article about a statement from 8 white clergymen. The statement made by this men said that MLK and his methods were wrong which then provoked King to respond.
In “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, he emphasizes a number of rhetorical devices, a few of which are: allusions, antithesis, and syntax, to “point out” his ideas. King builds pathos with an audience of eight white clergymen in order to justify his reasons for being in Birmingham. To establish pathos to the eight clergymen of
He talks about how the clergyman would not praise police brutality if they saw it happing in person. He mentions how “old Negro women and young girls” as well as “old Negro men and young boys” get kicked and pushed around when they are simply trying to sing their grace together and pray. King says that he respectfully disagrees and is trying to have them see his point of view by telling stories to evoke emotions. He also paints a vivid picture by writing, “But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim…then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.” Even though he is writing about such horrible things that are happening, he still manages to come off in a composed and calm
King writes, “But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sister” (83). In this section King uses an anecdote to appeal to pathos to support his argument because he describes the mistreatment of the black community in such a way where the reader can feel the pain the black community felt. It triggers the emotions of the audience, allowing them to understand the urgency and desperation the black community has. This emphasizes his central claim that action needs to be taken now to protect the black community. To add on, King also uses pathos when he discusses about the unfair treatment of the black community done by the police.
In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. was thrown into jail due to participating in non-violent protests against racism and segregation in the city of Birmingham. There, he wrote the famous “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” which became one of the most important letters in history of the American civil rights movement (Colaiaco 1). The open letter covered many points to King’s arguments for why the marches, protests, and other non-violent actions were necessary and justifiable. James Colaiaco analyzes the key components to the letter and the different ways Martin Luther King, Jr. used literary devices to form a well written argument.