Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Topics: Martin Luther King, Jr., African American, Rhetoric Pages: 4 (1193 words) Published: July 28, 2013
Jonathan Wu
Professor Davis
English 1A

Martin Luther King Jr., reverend and civil rights leader, was jailed after leading a major protest against unfair hiring practices in Birmingham, Alabama. King was serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was requested by a fellow affiliate, The Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, to participate and "engage in [what they called] a nonviolent direct-action program"(164). As King and his affiliates joined together to organize a non-violent protest against racial segregation, King and his fellow brothers and sisters were soon jailed by the white conservative community of Birmingham. While King and his members were locked up in jail, a group of local white clergymen from Birmingham published a statement criticizing the actions of King and his supporters. The local white clergymen attempted to force the African American community to withdraw their support from the civil rights movement. In response, King replies with a letter aimed towards the clergymen as well as the white conservatives of Birmingham. In King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" (1963), King attempts to explain his purpose for being in Birmingham and the reasons behind the civil rights movement. Through King's language and rhetorical strategies, he attempts to convince these white clergymen; and the white conservatives, why equal rights should be granted to all African Americans. Moreover, King utilizes the rhetorical devices logos and ethos to appeal to the clergymen's logic, authority, reputation and ethics. As King progresses throughout his letter, his audience will notice that he gradually lessens his use of logos and ethos and effectively stengthens his use of pathos in order to appeal to the white clergymen and the white conservative community.

King begins his letter by first addressing the clergymen as "My Dear Fellow Clergymen" (163) and acknowledges that they have criticized his actions as "unwise and...
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