Rhetorical Anaylisis on "Letter from Birmingham"

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2 June 2011
Eng 121-128

Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the greatest civil rights activists this nation has ever seen. The ability he had to seize an opportune moment in time was phenomenal. A true example of this ability was a time he had been jailed for not having the proper permits during a civil rights parade in Birmingham, Alabama. While he was in jail, eight clergymen criticized him, calling his activities “unwise and untimely” (112). He responded to their criticism with amazing rhetoric, grasping at their hearts and minds with syntax, diction, examples, and allusions in his now famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Dr. King established ethos effectively in regards to his letter. In the beginning of the letter, he clearly states his equal authority by saying, “My Dear Fellow Clergymen” (112). This makes him equal in eyes of his peers and establishes creditability. King’s reference to the clergymen creates an immediate relationship exposing the bonds that people of similar character share. Further, he compares himself to the Apostle Paul when he states, “like Paul I must respond to the Macedonian call for aid” (113). This comparison gives Reverend King creditability since he is writing to men of pious belief and gives religious grounds for the injustice being done which requires his aid. These injustices are acts of segregation, unfair treatment, and degrading the human personality of blacks. Dr. King can relate to these injustices and has moral ground and strong creditability to act against these injustices. He makes this apparent by quoting Saint Augustine: “That an unjust law is no law at all” (116). As seen, he has established ethos with the clergy on a religious and educated level. He also displays ethos with the African American community because of his own personal experience, being a black man. King’s ethos is extremely charismatic in hopes that his letter will explain his passion for equal rights. Dr. Martin Luther King’s...
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