Social Stratification in MLK’s “Letters from Birmingham Jail”

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Martin Luther King Jr. was an eloquent speaker and a powerful figure during the Civil Rights Movement. In “Letters from Birmingham Jail”, his use of the classical rhetoric engaged his audience and presented his thoughts/ideas clearly. Moreover, this particular text was initiated due to the non-violent demonstrations in Birmingham, AL, that lead to the arrest of many African-Americans. Although this was not a spoken document, the letter was targeted for several audiences; first, the clergymen who wrote “A Call for Unity”, secondly, the average white American, who was on neither extreme, but merely kept life the way that it was, and finally, to black men and women across the nation to stand up for their rights as well. Dr. Martin Luther …show more content…
The posture that is depicted here informs the viewers that there was no intent to instigate physical abuse/violence at any of the peaceful demonstrations that were organized in Birmingham. Although already established as a pacifist, Dr. King is also aggressive in stating that “Non-violent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue” (42). Through the founding of this hard-felt tension, Martin Luther is able to coerce “white moderate” (47) and the clergy that now is the time for negotiations. The long drawn out excuses and complacency for the standing social classification have come to pass and now was the time to rise to the occasion. Moreover, Dr. King was able to draw from historical references in order to formulate an educated argument against the violent, racist practices elicited in those times. Arranged in the letter, are the four steps taken for successful non-violent action; “…collection of the facts to determine where injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action” (41). At this juncture, the reader can logically follow the speaker and come to the same conclusion; that nowhere in the preparation or the delivery, is there meant to be any form of physical damage to persons or property. Moreover, Dr. King blatantly argues that their “…actions, even though
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