In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a letter to the eight Alabama clergymen under the confines of a jail cell in a Birmingham, Alabama prison. The letter stated his thoughts and opinions on the racial tension between the white and the black communities of Alabama. Martin Luther King’s letter was written as a rebuttal to the letter he received from the Alabama clergymen that stated the demonstrations, protests, and acts of civil disobedience of the Negro community were unlawful and should be put to a stop immediately. Martin Luther King replied by indicating that the blacks had a right to peaceful protests; they were simply trying to educate the community about the prejudices present in Alabama and to motivate a change. King incorporated the tree rhetorical strategies of ethos, logos, and pathos throughout his letter. In Martin Luther King’s letter to the eight Alabama clergymen he used a valuable balance of ethos, logos and pathos, which allowed him to convey his message of the need for racial equality.
Martin Luther King established himself with the audience and effectively portrayed his opinions through his numerous uses of the rhetorical strategy ethos. The ethos appeal is used to determine or demonstrate a character’s trustworthiness and credibility. One way that Martin Luther King portrayed his dependability was when he established a connection with the audience and associated himself with the people of the black community. He writes, “As weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise.” (King 47-48) King created the feelings of unity and equality through his multiple uses of words such as “we”, “us” and “our.” Martin Luther King also utilized the ethos appeal in his letter when he referenced a famous person or event; this positively informed the reader of King’s intelligence on worldly subjects. King does this when he says, “Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that...
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