Letter from Birmingham Jail

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Argumentative Essay on “Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr. and “A More Perfect Union” by President Barack Obama

Colette Eubanks

November 21, 2011

ENG 101 Christopher Brunt

On April 16, 1963, from the jail in Birmingham, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a letter to the eight, white Alabama clergymen. 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. The comparison and contrast, ethos, and pathos in King’s letter help convince his audience that racial segregation is unjust. A rhetorical mode King applies several times is comparison and contrast, an effective device he uses to make association between modern day and the past. King compares himself to historical figures several times throughout the letter, but the most important comparison appears in a paragraph in which King relates himself to past prophets of Christianity. He expresses the obligation he feels “…to carry the gospel of freedom…” beyond his home town, “Just as the prophets of the eighteenth century B.C. left their villages and carried their ‘thus saith the Lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his...
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