On April 16, 1963, from the jail in Birmingham, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a letter to the eight leaders of the white Church of the South. They had attacked his civil rights work in a public statement released on April 12, 1963. To persuade his readers, King mainly uses three types of persuasion that are appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos. First, King appeals to his own reputation and wisdom. Second, he tries to arouse emotions or sympathy in the readers. Finally, he appeals to logic, supported with evidence and citations from influential thinkers. He generates strong emotional appeals that are powerful at influencing what people think and believe. King establishes ethos by reaching different audiences based on his character. He also uses inartistic and artistic appeals at his attempt to persuade his readers in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. intends to create a feeling of closeness and compassion for the civil rights cause. His purpose is to stir up emotion in his readers. One example that illustrates his use of this strategy is present in paragraph seven of his letter: “As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us.” Another example of pathos is in paragraph twelve of his letter: “when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an...
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