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C.Custance Engl 1102 Prof.

Germain 9/18/13

Rhetorical WA MLK: Letter from Birmingham Jail

In Dr. Martin Luther King’s letter from Birmingham jail, he utilizes a wide array of information and data to express his purpose, overall goal, and point of view on the issues of the time and why he was imprisoned at the time. This paper will examine the three main points of rhetoric; the purpose; the speaker; and the audience. The purpose of the letter was to explain to the white members of the church community in Birmingham why he was ordering the execution of the marches and demonstrations after there had already been so much tension in the city thus forth. The white church members had urged and asked Dr. King and other members of the movement to postpone and ultimately dismantle the demonstrations completely as they saw the marches and sit-ins as only bother the little peace that they had left in the city of Birmingham. Dr. King sought to explain to the gentleman through a series of analogies and metaphors for what he reason he could not and would not stop. The main part of the letter is based upon the difference and comparisons of just and un-just laws in the nation of that time. Dr. King goes on to give examples of periods in the past of just and un-just laws and their overall consequences and default actions. He then further goes on to explain why it would be against so many moral and Christian value to subjugate themselves to these laws, and therefore leading to the purposeful non-conformation to the so called “just” and “un-just” laws in the city at the time. Dr. King was able to display many examples of these laws throughout history along with their modern counterparts and prediction and actual outcomes. This is established by the usage of logos and pathos by Dr. King in his letter. The logos part comes from the logical offering of possible outcomes for the demonstration and marches and also the continual display of how the movement “held back” and “waited” for the appropriate time to spring their cause on the city of Birmingham. After the Commissioner of public safety Mr. Connor was gone, after the racially biased voter registration laws had taken their sever tolls, and finally after the moderates in the community had failed to act responsibly on behalf of the minority and majority. The Pathos part of the letter anchors themselves in the racial violence and multiple examples of segregation throughout the nation. Dr. King emphasizes this strongly in the first part of the paper, but remains to do so throughout the remainder of the letter with the drop ins of other examples of other races throughout the world gaining their freedom and equality through hard fought and hard won victories and demonstrative non-violent and violent actions. Dr. king also uses examples from his past to get his points across, including the tactful implementation of children through the letter as their parents struggle to explain to them the un-justified racial world in which the live in. Overall the letter was excellently crafted and used many more examples by Dr. King to get his point to the clergy men of Birmingham about why he mustn’t stop in his push towards racial equality and the dis-mantling of un-just laws in the United States.