“Letter from Birmingham Jail” is an essay that clearly explains the motives and techniques of nonviolent civil disobedience, as well as King’s disappointment with those who are typically supportive of equal rights for African-Americans. Martin Luther King, more than any other individual, influenced American society throughout the mid-50s through the late 60s. During this period, when large numbers of Americans were barely considered legitimate by official power, they dared to believe in what the country might be capable of at its finest under adversity.
In December 1955, after Montgomery civil rights leader Rosa Parks defied the city’s segregation rules on buses and was arrested, a bus boycott was organized and King was elected president of the newly-formed Montgomery Improvement Association. As a result of his outstanding oratory abilities and personal bravery, King rose to prominence throughout 1956 as an effect of the protest.
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In December 1956, after the United States Supreme Court ruled Alabama’s segregation regulations unconstitutional, Montgomery buses were desegregated. During the most turbulent era in American history, King’s leadership was essential. In only a few short years, he inspired his followers to achieve the unimaginable objective of eradicating federal and state-sponsored segregation and prejudice.
King’s method is meant to persuade his opponents to his cause through appealing to their consciences. King utilizes a rhetorical tradition not only because it works, but also because it corresponds with the most essential aspect of his mission: the gospel of brotherhood and justice (152).
These excellent applications are comprehensive tools for taking brave action in even the most difficult of circumstances, from his peaceful persuasion to innovative solutions in changing times to the power of hope, optimism, nonviolence method, and finally, the need for a great dream. King’s reasoning is meticulous and he is certain that his ideas will persuade his audience (153).
King was requested by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to assist with the battle for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama. As a result, he was there because racism existed (154). He was not satisfied with a system that regarded his people or anybody of another race as second-class citizens. He sought to provide equal rights for everyone everywhere.
They’ve been disappointed so many times (155). As a result, he was resolved to build an unstoppable organization, redefine a conflict, and devise a plan that would take losses and turn them into victories with his stated vision. Despite the fact that other priests urged him not to come to Birmingham, he could not just sit back while innocent people were being persecuted.
King, however, quickly recognized that the most effective approach to liberate African-Americans and win them rights was through nonviolent resistance. He wanted to eliminate the use of force as a means of regulating and establishing cooperative ways of interacting. “Any sort of wrongness in anyplace is a danger to justice everywhere” (154). After all, he understood that any violence committed by his civil rights workers would be reciprocated with violent racist retribution. He knew this would only lead to bloodshed among his followers.
Nonviolent tactics, according to King, “opened the door to negotiation” (156) and allowed his followers to take the moral high ground. Nonviolence allowed many supporters and helped him obtain passage of the civil rights bills of 1964 and 1965.
In order to liberate African-Americans, King stressed the importance of non-violence and that his message should be meaningful to all people regardless on race or social status. This might explain why he was frustrated with white moderates for their dedication to order rather than justice (161).
King had hoped that the white moderate would understand that desegregation merely removes legal and social inhibitions. He knew that group thinking was more innovative and profound. King wanted to jolt the white moderates out of their slumber, which had grown deeper. He wished them to see the necessity for democracy’s continuation into the future. In other words, he was disgusted by the silence of good people. People with bad intent have used time far more effectively than those working in his name (162).
I think Martin Luther King was one of the most significant people in the 20th century, and his life was one of its most remarkable. He personified a major challenge: a monument to the many people and situations encountered along the road to securing basic civil rights. Most significantly, King was a Christian minister who lived by the philosophy of turning the other cheek.
Though he died too soon, his actions and words continue to inspire, challenge, educate, and comfort us. He defied segregation and proved to be a committed young minister who constantly reflected the heights of his religion and understanding. Though we lost him far too soon, his words and deeds continue to inspire, irritate, educate, and soothe us.
Example #2 – Ethos, Logos, and Pathos in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”
On April 16, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. published “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in response to a statement by some clergymen printed in the newspaper. Dr. King was writing the letter to prove that his organization’s nonviolent methods were correct. In “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” King employs the three rhetorical principles (ethos, pathos, and logos) to defend his organization effectively.
The aforementioned sentences exemplify ethos in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which is written in the second person. Because he was known as a well-educated and prominent African American figure, King has some natural ethos. He was also known as a priest, and priests are generally recognized for their honesty. Nonetheless, King still establishes credibility for himself by employing this technique.
He starts by writing about events that he and the people he is writing to participated in. The mayoral election was one of the activities they shared. “Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoral election was approaching in March, and we swiftly decided to postpone action until after election day,” King stated (59). He was using this as an excuse for his organization’s timing of action around the mayoral race because the clergymen kept arguing that their timings were poor.
Another reason why King’s essay is so much more powerful than Strickland’s is that it supports his belief. The claimant begins by stating, “I am not saying I’m perfect or flawless!” He goes on to explain how he discovered the defendant had committed identity theft. -> Another advantage of speaking in public is that you do not have to worry about your content being misinterpreted because people will be able to see what you are actually trying to say rather than just looking at your words. You can also use this tool for impromptu presentations and get feedback from their reactions since they will be live instead of creating notes after the meeting. This way, you will know if anything was said wrong before moving on with your presentation/discussion.
On page five, King employs pathos in order to support his organization’s pacifist views. He accomplishes this by depicting what the South would be like if it reverted to violent actions and how African Americans would endure under a strict regime of segregation. “I am certain that many streets of the south would now be flowing with blood if this ideology [of nonviolence] had not emerged,” he adds after describing how peaceful they are.
He is attempting to persuade readers that nonviolence is the greatest way of dealing with the problem by using a vivid and emotional image. He claims that organizing marches and pilgrimages to city hall are the greatest, nonviolent methods for his organization, as well as all other African Americans, to express their underlying resentments and latent frustrations. King also believes that those who have “adapted to segregation” are “so depleted of self-respect.”
King, yet again, is emphasizing the importance of nonviolent direct action and defending his group’s use of nonviolent direct action. He does not want them to become compliant or violent, and he thinks being a pacifist in the face of this cannot help but work.
Finally, King utilizes logos on his website’s second page to emphasize his group’s non-violent methods. He uses his examples to demonstrate how a community is forced to face an issue when it engages in nonviolent direct action. “Nonviolent direct action strives for a situation where a society…is compelled to address the problem,” King begins. The aim of nonviolent direct action is defined here.
White supremacy is a system in which white people are superior to others. King used violence to defend his position because he knew it was wrong, and bloodshed would result from it. He also claims that “[nonviolence] tries so hard to make the problem absurdly apparent that it can no longer be ignored.” This, too, is a rational statement that endorses King’s concept of nonviolence.
Throughout the letter, Martin Luther King Jr. employs ethos, pathos, and logos. He defends his viewpoint on nonviolent direct action as the best method to effect change in Birmingham. King has used a variety of historical instances of racial problems, logical and evidentiary arguments, and allusions to Christianity to convey his point.
The “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while he was imprisoned in 1963, was very convincing to a wide range of readers. Not only did he respond directly to the writers of the newspaper article, but also incorporated other African Americans with their struggle for acceptance. The number of examples and situations described by Martin Luther King Jr. is what makes this letter convincing; King also builds credibility by citing these references without using a history book to demonstrate that he is not just another guy.
In a response to an article in the white clergymen of Birmingham’s newspaper, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote this letter to them. In the opening of his essay, Martin Luther King explains that he is in Birmingham for three reasons. I am in Birmingham, together with several members of my staff, because I was invited here. Because injustice exists in Birmingham, I am here.
“And I’m with you. I’m bringing the message of liberty with me, just as the prophets of the eighth century BC left their villages and carried their “thus saith the LORD” across far-reaching boundaries of their home towns.”(King, Pg.2) With this statement, King is attempting to appeal to the religious beliefs of his listeners by suggesting that he is just like ancient prophets who built their ethos through mass communication.
In Paragraph 16, Dr. Martin Luther King makes his case using historical instances that every intellectual can identify with, and then presents real-world examples to appeal to any African American. In Paragraph 16, King alludes to St. Thomas Aquinas’ description of an unjust law and his definition of a depraved personality. “Any unjust law degrades human personality,” he states in this statement. On the basis of a higher moral standard being at stake (King pg.4)
He mentions Nebuchadnezzar and how, like he did in Birmingham, people in his time did not obey his rules because they were unjust. Socrates, the Boston tea party, early Christians who gave their lives for their faith are all examples of historical events that aided King’s persuasiveness. He isn’t just someone who has broken the law; he’s now comparable to other famous ancient historical figures.
However, as we saw in the previous section, he also refers to his “Negro brothers” in paragraph 14, when he talks about telling your children that they can’t go somewhere or do anything because they’re black, and watching your family beaten or lynched in front of your eyes. He’s addressing the black community of Birmingham by informing them that he understands the injustice taking place and urging white people to comprehend how wrong it is to be kept from somewhere simply because of their race.
His capacity to recall historical events and his ability to connect with the average person give his work a persuasiveness that no one can ignore. He’s an intelligent African American who has yet to hold a grudge against society.
Demi uses historical facts and spiritual allusions as logos and pathos to attack the white clergy, using his pathos of being a black man in an unjust world to appeal to Black America’s sense of injustice. This is a very convincing letter since it can engage with two very distinct audiences while still making a legitimate point.
In 1963, when African Americans were fighting for civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letters from Birmingham Jail” was published. The words used in this letter hint at a different decade. When composing this letter, King was attempting to appeal to a higher authority in order to demonstrate that King and his people’s actions were required. King uses ethos, pathos, and logos to support his argument and behavior throughout his essay.
King’s letter is rife with ethos. He demonstrates that he is reasonable, knowledgeable, and moral by utilizing the term. King knows Socrates, “Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal” (802).
He also demonstrates his expertise by comparing the events to those of Adolf Hitler, “…never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything that the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal” to help and comfort a Jew in Nazi Germany” (805). He demonstrates his moral character by bringing attention to himself as “a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings.
Finally, he demonstrates that he is reasonable when he points out that while being who he is, he is not perfect himself! “I am the son, the grandson, and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I perceive Christ’s church as a whole. But oh! How we have marred and scarred that body through social neglect and fear of nonconformity” (809).
King uses pathos as well. For example, when King states, “I feel compelled to bring up one more issue in your statement that has disturbed me greatly,” (811). This is an excellent example of pathos, as it appeals to emotions and has enough power behind it to work someone’s nerve. King’s primary term for this letter is to persuade the reader to consider his perspective on the whites’ wrongdoing. Within his correspondence, King employs imagery in order to make the pathos stronger for the reader.
On April 12th, 1963, eight Alabama clergymen issued a statement declaring that Dr. Martin Luther King’s demonstrations in the streets should cease since they encouraged “hatred and violence.” The clerics condemn Birmingham blacks using nonviolent disobedience to gain civil rights for their people and believe that if white and black residents come together to discuss it, everyone will benefit.
The clergymen also felt that Dr. King was just an “outsider” who intended to cause commotion in Birmingham (par. 3). Dr. Martin Luther King was imprisoned in Birmingham at the time the priests published their statement; he had been arrested for demonstrating. In his cell, Dr. King composed “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” to show the ministers that he had a right to be in Birmingham and that there were moral, justified, and deserving reasons behind his actions.
Dr. King employs rhetoric to persuade not only his audience, but also the rest of the American people through ethos ( trustworthiness), pathos (emotions), and logos (logic). Dr. King is able to effectively communicate his letter to his readers by using these various tools.
During the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King served as the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The SCLC was established to aid in the downfall of segregation and the mistreatment of blacks through non-violent means.
The Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) is a Christian organization with over one hundred affiliated organizations in the South. One of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). When an ACMHR member inquired whether the SCLC would participate in nonviolent direct action training if necessary, Dr. King and the rest of the SCLC decided to come to Birmingham. Birmingham needed a call to action because there was a significant concentration of KKK members as well as police brutality from other law enforcement officers.
As the grandson of a sharecropper, Dr. King saw himself as an American hero who could bring justice and peace to Alabama’s population, not just for the state but also for the rest of America. To strengthen his argument and enhance his trustworthiness, Dr. King employs various types of rhetorical techniques in his letter.
When he states, “But when you have seen bloodthirsty mobs hang your mothers and fathers at whim and drown your sisters and brothers at pleasure; …when you must invent an answer for a five-year-old son who asks: ”Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so badly?” (383), he emphasizes the many forms of racism that blacks have experienced.
The application of parallelism penetrates the audience’s mind with the notion of seemingly never-ending problems that blacks face, and the repetition serves to make it appear like a routine experience. Dr. King also employs images in his letter, such as when he describes seeing “twenty million Negro brothers suffocating in an airtight cage of poverty amid a wealthy civilization.” (383). This image evokes a mental picture for the audience of their own oppression, which appears to have no exit.
They’re forced to compare the advantages and freedoms that the white people in their neighborhood enjoy to achieve anything. Also, calling them trapped in an airtight cage degrades blacks and subjects them to animals with no rights.
The audience considers Dr. King’s argument more credible since he has personal experience with racism and injustice, as expressed by his usage of parallelism and imagery. The audience gains a better understanding of Dr. King’s argument thanks to his employment of parallelism and metaphors, allowing them to sympathize with him and support his ultimate objective.
Dr. King’s style is also effective in that it allows the reader to sympathize with what black people have suffered throughout America by utilizing pathos. The audience can better comprehend the problem at hand and will be more inclined to side with Dr. King’s viewpoints and actions rather than religious leaders’ when Dr. King vividly describes the violence, injustice, and brutality he has witnessed or experienced.
In response to the clergymen’s statement that the Birmingham police were maintaining order and preventing violence, Dr. King says, “I doubt you would have praised the cops as warmly if you had seen their dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes.” It clearly projects the image in the reader’s mind (391). The phrase “sinking their teeth,” “unarmed,” and “nonviolent” causes the audience to really visualize the vicious savagery of police action against people engaged in peaceful protest.
People are able to recognize that while law enforcement claims to be safeguarding the community, they are actually endangering it. Dr. King also informs his audience that prejudice and segregation harm everyone when he says, “Everywhere there is injustice, I am sure it endangers all of us.”
“All things are connected; everything affects everything,” says Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (338). This emphasizes that every person is impacted by an injustice, especially because it was experienced at such a young age. If a group of people is oppressed, the rest of the population will be prevented from progressing or succeeding. As a result, viewers would be more willing to support social change.
Dr. King puts the impact of segregation and racism on society as a whole into perspective, allowing the reader to see this barrier that prevents human progress. The reader is better able to agree with Dr. King’s position through his use of pathos, which allows him to better empathize with Dr. King and the millions of other people who are subjected to this wrongness.
Dr. King didn’t just write his speeches with a message that would appeal to the audience’s emotions in mind, but he also utilized phrases and sentences that appealed to them. As a result, when everyone else was doing nothing, Dr. King received tremendous support and understanding for his activities, as well as for people like him during the Civil Rights Movement. The audience was therefore more inclined to sympathize with blacks and the bad treatment they had received than clergymen or government officials.
Dr. King must have facts and logic in order to persuade the clergymen and the rest of the American people that he is correct. In order to do so, Dr. King employs logos when he states, “In Birmingham, Alabama, there have been more unsolved bomb attacks on Negro homes and churches than in any other city in this nation.” (381). By supplying indisputable evidence of the high level of violence in Birmingham, Dr Fillmore not only built his credibility and trust but also aided his entire argument.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was an extremely well-known and significant figure in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. He was able to effectively illustrate to the American people the wrongs that the black community suffered, why non-violent demonstrations were crucial to the cause, and what needed to be changed in order for America to achieve equality and tranquility.
His use of rhetorical devices made his audience able to genuinely comprehend the argument he was delivering, thus the Civil Rights Movement would not have been as effective and significant as it ultimately turned out to be. His letter’s credibility, logic, and accessibility all improved thanks to its usage of ethos, pathos, and logos. Dr. King’s powerful and successful letter might not have had the same impact if he did not employ such strong and efficient rhetoric in it.
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