The Letter from Birmingham Jail

Topics: Rhetoric, United States, Law Pages: 2 (727 words) Published: May 3, 2011
“Letter from Birmingham Jail”
“Letter from Birmingham Jail” was written on April 16, 1963 by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was written in response to the objections of white southern men. This letter explains Martin Luther Kings’ actions and tries to clarify and explain his protest for desegregation was necessary and definitely not untimely. The letter explains why he was in jail, the wrongful acts against African Americans during the civil rights era, and the use of direct action to make a difference. Dr Kings’ letter stands as a modern classic of argumentation partially due to his use of Aristotle’s three rhetorical appeals: ethos, logos, and pathos.

First of Aristotle’s three rhetorical appeals is ethos. Ethos is an appeal to the writer’s credibility. In Dr. Kings’ essay he used this appeal in this quote, “But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.” (p. 212). King felt it was necessary for non-violent approach to be taken sp that communication could open between the two races. Through non-violent action, crisis is formed and communities are forced to confront the issue. King strongly believed the situation needed to be discussed rather than left as it was.

Aristotle’s second appeal is logos. Logos is the appeal to logic. Martin Luther King was an excellent speaker and appealed to the logical side of most people. His essay took his knowledge and his talent of persuasion and summed up what he was working for and what he believed in. In Kings speech he wrote this, “How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A law is a manmade code that squares with the moral law or law of god. An unjust law is a code out of harmony with the moral law.” (p. 215-216). He shows the difference between just and unjust appealing to the reader’s logical side. King believes that justice too long is justice denied....
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