Written by Martin Luther King Jr., the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is a paragon of persuasive writing that takes advantage of ethos, pathos, and logos in order to convince its readers to take MLK’s side during the American civil rights movement. The use of ethos defines MLK as a credible writer; the use of pathos appeals to his audience on a personal level; and the use of logos layers his arguments and claims with irrefutable reasoning and logic. By using all three techniques, MLK is able to hold the attention of his readers and persuade them to take his side in the battle against segregation.
The speaker of this letter is MLK, who was “confined” physically, but not mentally, in a jail cell at the time of writing this letter. MLK takes advantage of the fact that he is in a jail cell to establish himself as a much more credible writer in many ways. First, he writes this entire letter impromptu and does not edit it in any ways that will make it superficial for the readers. Since the letter is not veneered in any way, it is more believable to its readers because all the words in the letter are honest and sincere. Secondly, MLK quotes from many famous “extremists”, such as Jesus Christ, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, off the top of his head to justify how he truly is enthusiastic and devoted to his cause. It is not an easy feat to come up with the quotes of famous “extremists” in a jail cell. On another note, MLK also characterizes himself as a credible author by listing out his credentials. He starts by stating that “[he has] the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference” (King 204), then takes great efforts in describing the headquarters of the SCLC and its many affiliated organizations across the South. His care in describing the size of the SCLC infers that he has the invaluable experience and leadership needed to fuel the civil rights movement. This