Summary and Rhetorical Analysis of “Letter from Birmingham Jail”

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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 white churches and black churches do not get along even through they have the same ideas for equality. In conclusion, King’s letter is to hopefully get the backup from powerful religious leaders and to end segregation by offering those facts and allusions. It is obvious that we can figure out the purpose of writing this letter, which is appealing to end segregation in the United States and convincing the eight white clergymen to support efforts for justice. However, is this letter just written for the eight clergymen or a small group of religious leaders? Superficially, this is King’s major audience. However, this letter is an open letter that was published. So his audience is not limited in to these few people, but rather the larger community. This includes white moderates, white churches, and even all Americans. King conveys his message to appeal to his audiences who are not only confined to the eight clergymen but also all American. King successfully uses emotional appeals to gain sympathies and imagination by applying a rhetorical approach of pathos. King appeals to the emotions of the clergymen by relating his argument to them on a human level. One prime example of King’ using pathos to appeal his audiences’ emotions is in the following, “ when you suddenly find your tongue-twisted and you cannot find any excuse to prevaricate to your six-year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that she is willing to go, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that This park is closed to colored children” (360). Based on the quotation above, King uses an empathetic appeal through narrating a story, which was a realistic story that happened in his own life. This image is described from a perspective of a little innocent girl. Unfortunately, her desire was not possible because of segregation. Whomever read this paragraph must feel sadness and guilt for doing nothing to help them out. The purpose of this kind of technique...
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