Summary and Rhetorical Analysis of “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

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Summary and Rhetorical Analysis of “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

By | April 2013
Page 1 of 4
Summary and Rhetorical Analysis of “Letter from Birmingham Jail” Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested on April 12, 1963, in Birmingham, for protesting without a permit. The same day that King was arrested, a letter was written and signed by eight clergymen from Birmingham and titled “A Call for Unity”. The letter called for ending demonstrations and civil activities and indicated King as an “outsider”. On April 16, 1963, King responded to their letter with his own call, which has come to be known as his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” King justified the nonviolent measures that sent him to jail and explained why the segregation laws against blacks in the south must be changed (356-371). At the beginning of this letter, King gives us the reason why he was in Birmingham. Not only was he invited there as president of the SCLC to launch and support the protests but also because injustice was in Birmingham. It was probably the most thoroughly segregated city (356). Then, King continues to refute that he was an "outsides" since they are all American and they are all “carry the gospel of freedom”(357). For instance, King tells of the failure in negotiation with the government. He describes the serious injustice facts among the black people to prove that there is no better timing for something that has been at conflict and “waiting” for 340 years (360). Furthermore, King explains why direct action is breaking the laws since it is an unjust law. He also justifies his nonviolent actions by comparing "just" and "unjust" laws with one example of Hitler (361). Continually, King addresses charges that the civil rights movement was "extreme" by quoting from the Bible. Then he points out the negative aspects of the white moderates. King states that they are not creating tension but only bringing hidden tension to the surface to protect themselves or isolate themselves within the bigger issue (363-365). Finally, he states that he is sad with the church because of the...