Summary Of Letter From Birmingham Jail

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On April 12, 1963, eight clergyman wrote an open letter, “A Call for Unity”. In this published letter, the clergyman expressed their strong disapproval of the civil rights demonstrations taking place in Birmingham, Alabama. Consequently, that same day, civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for protesting without a permit. In his short eleven day jail sentence, Dr. King directly responded to the clergymen with a letter of his own. In his letter, Dr. King informed his readers about the protests in Birmingham. He explained why the protesters were civilly infringing racist laws and city ordinances; why the protesters had truth and justice; and how he was thwarted with the clergyman and white moderates in the South who said they supported his cause. In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, Dr. King incorporates biblical and historical allusions to defend the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism. Dr. King’s allusions gave him credibility with his target audience, the clergymen. Additionally, Dr. King subtly asks rhetorical questions and logical conclusions to force his audience to consider his purpose.

Throughout his piece, Dr. King uses many strong connections to biblical theologians and philosophers that strengthen his appeal and credibility to ethos. These biblical theologians and philosophers include St. Augustine, a convert and a father to Christianity. In the passage, St. Augustine states that ‘“an unjust law is no law at all”’(King, 432). Dr.
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