Rhetorical Analysis of Martin Luther King's "Letter From Birmingham Jail"

Topics: Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail Pages: 3 (766 words) Published: September 11, 2014
Rhetorical Analysis of “A Letter From Birmingham Jail”

Amelia Machia


On April 3rd, 1963, various sit-ins and marches began in Birmingham, Alabama to protest racism and racial segregation. These protests were led by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. On April 10th, King and other marchers were unfairly arrested for marching without a permit. While in jail, King saw a letter in the local newspaper from eight clergymen that expressed their concerns over having King and his protestors in Birmingham in the first place. “A Letter from Birmingham Jail” is King's response to those clergymen, in which he explains to them why he has come to their city and how an unjust law is no law at all.


King wants to make these men understand the struggle of his people. He writes to give them a new awareness of the unjust way in which they willingly live. He spends an entire paragraph explaining the horrors of segregation, including lynchings, police brutality, poverty, and daily public humiliation. The purpose of the letter is to try and instill a conscience in these unfair and unlawful people.

Claims (Major)
Thesis- It was hard for me to find a clear-cut thesis. Professor Langley always says “What I want to say about *thing* is...” and that wasn't made really apparent to me. When matched up with the topic sentences, though, I would have to say that the thesis and major claim of the letter is, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.” The entire letter is about the stigma King faces when he enters Birmingham and the measures he tried to take to make some positive changes.

Claims (Minor)

“I think I should indicate why I am here in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against 'outsiders coming in.'” This ties directly to the thesis to set up why he's come to Birmingham.

“Then it occurred to us that Birmingham's mayoralty election was coming up in March, and we...
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