Mlk Jr. Letter From Birmingham Jail Essay, Research Paper
Martin Luther King Jr.
Letter From Birmingham Jail
Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” was very persuasive to a wide variety of audiences. Not only did he directly address the writers of the newspaper article, but included fellow African Americans with their struggle to gain acceptance. What makes this letter persuasive, is the amount of examples and situations described by Martin Luther King Jr. King also gains credibility by citing these sources without a history book, using only his own intellect that shows that he is not just your average man.
Martin Luther King Jr. directed his letter to the white clergymen of Birmingham, in a response to their newspaper article criticizing him for his actions. At the beginning Martin Luther King Jr. states that he is in Birmingham for three reasons.
I along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here. But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.(King, Pg.2)
King has gone to where injustice is, and he is carrying the word of freedom with him, “Just as the prophets of the eighth century BC left their villages and carried their ‘thus saith the lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their home towns.”(King, Pg.2) With that statement he is reaching to the religious part of the clergymen, stating that he is just like the ancient prophets, building his ethos with his audience.
Martin Luther King uses historical examples to prove his point, using logos which most intellectuals can understand, and then uses examples for any African American can understand. In paragraph 16, King talks about St. Thomas Aquinas and his definition of an unjust law. “Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.“(King, Pg.3) In Paragraph 21, “In the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake.”(King, Pg.4) He discusses Nebuchadnezzar and how people in that time refused to obey his laws because they were unjust, just as he did in Birmingham. Socrates, the Boston tea party, early Christians who gave their lives for their religion. These historical events gave King an edge in his persuasiveness. Now he isn’t just someone who has broken laws, now he is now just like all other famous ancient historical figures. However he also addresses his “Negro brothers” in paragraph 14, when he describes what its like to have to tell your children that they cant go somewhere or do something because they are black, or what it is like to watch as your family is beaten or lynched in front of your eyes. He is directing this at the black community of Birmingham by letting them know that he understands the injustice that is occurring and also letting the white people partially understand how wrong it is to be kept from somewhere just because of your color.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s ability to recall historical events and his ability to relate to the common person give his writing a persuasiveness that no one person can ignore. He is an intelligent African American who has been jailed unjustly and still holds no grudges. He uses historical facts and religious references as logos and pathos towards the white clergy and uses his pathos of being a black man in an unjust world to appeal to the black society being unfairly treated. Being able to direct at two significantly different audiences and still make a legitimate point makes this a very persuasive letter.