Letter From Birmingham Jail Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

Martin Luther King Jr.'s letter from Birmingham Jail, which was written in April 16, 1963, is a passionate letter that addresses and responds to the issue and criticism that a group of white clergymen had thrown at him and his pro- black American organization about his and his organization's non- violent demonstrative actions against racial prejudice and injustice among black Americans in Birmingham. King writes the letter to defend his organization's actions and the letter is also an appeal to the people, both the white and black American society, the social, political, and religious community, and the whole of American society to encourage desegregation and encourage solidarity and equality among all Americans, with no stratifications according to racial differences.

King's letter from Birmingham Jail addresses the American society, particularly the political and religious community of the American society. Specifically, King's letter addresses three important groups in the American society: the white American political community, white American religious community, and the black American society. King addressed these communities as the primary groups wherein racial segregation is continuously proliferated (the white American political and religious community) and points much of his arguments to and for his fellow black Americans in the society. King's main thesis in writing the Birmingham letter is that, racial segregation, or injustice to the black American society, is due to the continuous encouragement of the white American society, particularly the powerful communities in politics and religions. King defends his primary thesis all throughout the length of his letter, and the arguments that he has made to prove that his thesis is true and valid will be the focus of this rhetorical analysis.

In addressing and confronting the problem of injustices among the black Americans in the American society, particularly the violence that had happened in Birmingham, and generally, the inequality and racial prejudice happening in his American society, King argues his position by using both moral, social, and political references and logic for his arguments to be considered valid and agreeable. The response desired in his letter is agreement and appeal for the part of the white American society to abolish segregation and discontinue the injustices happening to his fellow black Americans, while King appeals to his black American fellowmen for unity and solidarity, which is an essential factor for their cause to be achieved (that is, the prevention and eventual abolishment of racial prejudice, inequality, and injustice.

King initially started out his letter by confronting the issue that had happened in Birmingham. He defended his organization's (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) actions as a just and right action, wherein he defended non-violent action/demonstration as an essential method of trying to eradicate the strong racial stratification and injustice that is happening in Birmingham. In arguing his position, King uses authority in his tone (in the letter), which gives the readers (his audience) the idea that he is a man of position to say something and defend himself, his organization, and the black American community against the accusations of "proliferating violence" made by the group of white Alabama clergymen. The first part of his letter attains a tone of authority, while his arguments are defended using moral and political statements. An example of the moral arguments King had mentioned in his letter about racial stratification and injustice is this statement: "... I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns... I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom..." Logical arguments are also presented to show the high degree of injustice that is happening in Birmingham, particularly the black American community there: "Birmingham is probably the most segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of…

Sources Used in Document:

references to famous philosophers and well-known individuals in the world give a strong argument to his positions in the letter.

In conclusion, it is apparent that the elements of pathos and ethos were used in King's letter to argue and defend his position about the black American segregation in America. At the initial part of his letter, King uses ethos, or appeals based on King's character and validity as a defender of the black American cause. This is evident in his use of his position and the name is organization and his use of his position as a political and religious activist to effectively argue and make his point to his three main audience: the white American political and religious community, and the black American society. Pathos, or appeals based on emotions, are used to his argument addressed to his fellow black Americans, and also accompanies his logical arguments (logos) about the black American individual rights, freedom, and the equality of every man/individual. Through these three important elements of rhetoric, King was able to make a passionate, and very argumentative position and refutation against the criticisms thrown at him and his organization regarding their demonstrations admonishing the practice of racial prejudice, segregation, and slavery. Thus, the primary purpose of King's letter, which is to advocate for the abolishment of racial segregation and pushing for the freedom of black Americans in his white American- dominated society, is achieved through his broad knowledge and authority over issues of racial segregation, through his effective emotional appeals to the people regarding inequality and injustices to the black American society, and the presentation of "hard, brutal, unbelievable facts" to support his statements regarding the serious and dangerous effects of racial prejudice in the American society. In effect, King's position/stance against racial segregation is a strong one, because of the balanced and effective use of these primary rhetoric elements, which is dominantly present in his rhetorical letter from the Birmingham Jail.

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