Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

Topics: Letter from Birmingham Jail, African American, Martin Luther King, Jr. Pages: 8 (2996 words) Published: May 15, 2011
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Martin Luther king Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
1. Introduction
i) Argument about “Justice and injustice”
ii) Religious appeals in King’s latter
iii) Paragraph fourteen of King’s latter
2. Discussion
3. Conclusion

The pressure of racial segregation was reaching a boiling point in 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. After being arrested for his part in the Birmingham Campaign, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote an open letter in response to “A Call for Unity”, written by eight white clergymen from Birmingham. King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" is a true call for unity, as he clearly states and points out facts that the clergymen have omitted from their letter. King is clearly not looking to stoke the fire of segregation; he was merely looking to solve the situation at hand and trying to peacefully end racial segregation in the United States. “A Call for Unity”, written in early April 1963 (Jonathan, 12-18).

After years of segregation and inequality, one man stood up and fought for what was right. This man spoke of dreams and for what he felt as morally right, ethically right, lawfully right and emotionally right. This man spoke of freedom, brotherhood and equality among all people, no matter what race they were. He brought forth facts and emotions to America that was being felt by the black community, which was being treated so badly. This man was Martin Luther King Jr., a clergyman and civil rights leader, who later was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work. King opened the eyes of America to a broader sense of understanding, to a wider view of the inequality and hate that almost every black person had to live through at that time. After several peaceful protests King was arrested for demonstrating in defiance of a court order, by participating in a parade, he was then taken to Birmingham jail (Leff & Utley, 8-9). There in the jail, King wrote a letter to 8 fellow clergymen in response to a letter they published in a newspaper. King explained in the letter why he did the things he did, and why that had to be done the way that they were. King’s “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” was written on April 16, 1963. Eight Alabama clergyman wrote an open letter that questioned King’s methods and suggested that he use the court system as a means for change. King’s letter was a reply that was meant to respond to the clergymen and spread his beliefs (KaaVonia, 10-15). In his letter, he responds to some of his criticisms, such as his demonstrations, direct action, and his timing. He, then, explains his motives for acting, and why they were justified.

Argument about “Justice and injustice”
His attitude in the letter changes, at the beginning he is submissive to the clergy’s criticism; at the end he begins to criticize the clergy. This letter was symbolic of a movement, and all the injustices it faced. King uses rhetoric by manipulating language and appealing to the emotions of the reader. In Martin Luther King Jr’s “A Letter from Birmingham Jail” addresses eight white clergymen from Birmingham, Alabama, clearly states eight arguments. King uses epigrams as a device to make sure the reader still comprehends his message. In the beginning paragraphs, King states what brought him to Birmingham and why he is justified in being there. In his argument he alludes to Apostle Paul, and provides dull factual operational information about the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Even if the reader does not know who Paul is or care about the SCLC, he can still understand King’s message because of the epigrams he uses (Baldwin & Burrow, 111-118). In summing up what brought him here King says, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. In answering why he is justified in being in Birmingham, King says, “Anyone who lives in the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere in the...
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