Analysis: Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
In April of 1963 Martin Luther King was arrested during a nonviolent demonstration in Birmingham, Alabama. While incarcerated, he came across a public statement, “A Call for Unity” made by eight white clergymen in attempt to criticize his work and ideas. It was then that Martin Luther King wrote his rebuttal “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, using rhetorical appeals to not only under mind the clergymen’s statement, but their moral sense and obligation in the eyes of God. Upon doing so; Dr. King quotes St. Augustine when he said, “I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal, but moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust law.”( Bloom, Smith 499)
As we analyze Dr. Kings letter we observe the way he conveyed his message by using what the clergymen said to present his counter argument. In the clergymen’s statement, they distinguished Martin Luther King as an outsider and called his actions unwise and untimely. Dr. King then sets the foundation of his letter and identifies what was said by saying,” I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely”, and I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against outsider coming in.”(Bloom, Smith 495) By using an ethical appeal Dr. King begins to justify his presence by assuring the clergymen that he was invited because of his organizational ties with the Southern Christian Leadership, in which he serves as president. He also goes on to say,” but more basically, I am here in Birmingham because injustice is here.” (Bloom, Smith 495) It was important for Marti Luther King to say this because it supported the fact that he was not an outsider coming in at the wrong time, but he was welcomed in where he felt it was time. Dr. King also argues with one of their...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document