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Published: 03-09-2019

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Letter from a Birmingham Jail: the Rhetorical Analysis

At the peak of the Civil War Movement in America on April 12th, 1963, eight Alabama clergymen produced a public statement announcing that Dr. Martin Luther King’s protests in the streets ought to end due to the fact they market “hatred and violence” (par. 5). The clergymen condemn making use of nonviolent disobedience to receive civil rights for the black men and women in Birmingham and think that if whites and blacks come collectively to go over this problem, there will be a greater outcome for absolutely everyone. They also believed that Dr. King was just an “outsider” who wanted to stir up difficulty in Birmingham (par. three). During the time that the clergymen released their statement, Dr. Martin Luther King was in a Birmingham jail arrested for protesting. Although in his cell, Dr. King wrote “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” to inform the clergymen that he had a right to be in Birmingham and there are moral, just, and deserving factors behind his actions. He makes use of rhetorical devices to persuade not only them, but the rest of the American people through the use of ethos (credibility), pathos (feelings), and logos (purpose). By utilizing these a variety of devices, Dr. King is capable to efficiently convey his letter to his audience and acquire the assistance necessary for the Civil War Movement.

Throughout the 1960s in America, Dr. King served as the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The SCLC, which operates in each and every southern state with its headquarters residing in Atlanta, Georgia, was formed to aid push the abolishment of segregation and to end the oppression of blacks utilizing nonviolent techniques. There are 85 affiliated organizations across the south and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). Dr. King along with the rest of the SCLC decided to come to Birmingham and assist ACMHR once a group member asked them to aid engage in a nonviolent direct action system if essential. Birmingham especially necessary a call to action for the duration of this time considering that there was a powerful prevalence of the KKK and brutality from the police officers and other law officials. Dr. King referred to Birmingham as “America’s worst city for racism” and made it his purpose to bring justice and peace to all of its folks, not only for the state but for the rest of the nation.

In order to strengthen his argument and boost his credibility, Dr. King utilizes various types of rhetorical devices in his letter. He uses parallelism when he says, “But when you have observed vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim …when you have to concoct an answer for a 5 year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white men and women treat colored individuals so mean?” (383). The repeated use of “when you” emphasizes the countless approaches blacks have been mistreated. The use of parallelism genuinely etches into the audience’s mind the seemingly by no means-ending hardships blacks face and the repetition tends to make it seem like a normal routine they endure. Dr. King also consists of metaphors in his letter such as when he says he sees “twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society.” (383). This metaphor paints a visual picture in the audience’s mind of the oppression they go through that seems to have no door to escape. They are forced to appear at the privileges and freedoms that the white men and women in their neighborhood have, and there is no way for them to achieve it. Also, by saying they are confined in an airtight cage, it dehumanizes the blacks and subjects them to animals with no any rights. Since Dr. King used numerous rhetorical devices in his letter, the audience views his argument as a lot more credible since he has private experience with seeing the injustice blacks endure. By his use of parallelism and metaphors, the audience has a better understanding of Dr. King’s argument and consequently can sympathize with him and assistance his ultimate aim.

Dr. King is also in a position to grasp the reader’s interest and allow them to sympathize with what black individuals have endured all through America with the use of pathos. By vividly describing the violence, injustice, and brutality Dr. King has witnessed or experienced, the audience is able to greater understand the concern at hand and for that reason will more probably side with his standpoints and actions as opposed to the clergymen. In response to the clergymen’s opinion that the Birmingham police are maintaining order and stopping violence, Dr. King says, “I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the policemen if you had noticed its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes.” it clearly broadcasts the image in the reader’s mind (391). Utilizing the words “sinking their teeth”, “unarmed”, and “nonviolent” causes the audience to really see the inhumane brutality behind the police’s actions towards people who are peacefully protesting. The folks are in a position to see that although the police claim they are delivering protection for the community, they are in fact only undertaking harm. Dr. King also tells his audience that discrimination and segregation impacts everyone when he says, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever impacts one particular straight, impacts all indirectly” (380). This shows that every person, regardless of race, is affected by the injustice occurring in the 1960s. If a group of men and women is oppressed, the rest of the population can't progress or succeed. Realizing this, the audience will be a lot more inclined to contribute to the social modify. Dr. King puts the effect of segregation and racism on society as a whole into perspective and the readers are now able to see this barrier that keeps society from advancing as well. From his use of pathos, the reader is able to far better agree with the point becoming created and greater capable to sympathize with Dr. King and the millions of other individuals that knowledge this injustice. If Dr. King hadn’t selected phrases and sentences that appeal to the reader’s feelings, he wouldn’t have received such strong support and understanding behind his actions and absolutely everyone else’s during the Civil Rights Movement. The audience was consequently a lot more inclined to sympathize with the blacks and the remedy they have received than the clergymen and the government officials.

To efficiently have the clergymen and the rest of the American people believe and side with his arguments, Dr. King must have adequate information and reason. In order to do this, he utilizes logos when he says, “There have been far more unsolved bombings of Negro residences and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in this nation. These are the tough, brutal, and unbelievable information.” (381). By supplying his audience with unarguable details that supply evidence of the excessive violence in Birmingham, Dr. King not only improves his credibility and trust, but enhances his general argument.

Dr. Martin Luther King was an really prominent and influential member of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. He was capable to successfully show the American individuals the injustices the black neighborhood faced, why nonviolent protests had been vital to the movement, and what needed to be changed to bring equality and peace to America. With no his use of rhetorical devices, his audience would not be able to genuinely grasp the argument he was conveying, hence the Civil Rights Movement wouldn’t be as effective and monumental as it ended up being. Using ethos, pathos, and logos made his letter a lot more credible, logical, and better to recognize and sympathize with. If Dr. King had not written such a strong and efficient letter from the use of rhetorical devices, the strength of the Civil Rights Movement uproar and momentum that it is remembered nowadays would be diminished.
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