Rhetorical Analysis "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

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Devin Ponder
13 September 2013
Rhetorical Analysis
Rhetorical Analysis of “Letter from Birmingham Jail” “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” by Martin Luther King, Jr., is a letter in which King is writing to his “fellow clergymen” in a response to their recent criticism of the actions he was leading in Birmingham at the time. The letter was written in April of 1963, a time when segregation was essentially at a peak in the south. Birmingham, in particular, is described by King as “probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States” (King 7). King goes on to inform the clergymen of the reality of the situation where he is and how waiting isn’t an option anymore. In the letter, King uses a variety of rhetorical
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By making such a comparison, King is establishing credibility and essentially saying to the clergymen, “listen up”. Through establishing his credibility, King prepares the readers to be open as to how his actions were justified in Birmingham. He simply establishes in paragraph 6 that “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: (1) collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, (2) negotiation, (3) self-purification, and (4) direct action. He later goes on in the letter to describe how before they even left to go to Birmingham, they realized that the city was full of injustice. Secondly, King describes how they attempted to negotiate with local leaders and business owners to start implementing laws for desegregation, only to realize that it was a waste of their time since none of the leaders were actually being truthful in their promises. At this point, King states that they decided to go through a process of self-purification. They went through the self-purification process by establishing workshops on nonviolence, training themselves by asking, “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating? … Are you able to endure the ordeals of jail?” (King 8).
After going through such self-purification and nonviolence training, then King elaborates on how they planned out the timing of the action. He
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