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Rhetorical Analysis on The Letter From Birmingham Jail

Melissa Trevizo

University of Texas At El Paso


Rhetorical Analysis on The Letter From Birmingham Jail

The Letter from Birmingham Jail, by Martin Luther King Jr., is a letter aimed at

the clergymen of the Christian and Jewish Movements. Who requested Dr. King to be

jailed for reasons of peaceful protests about the Civils Rights Movement and how he was

incarcerated for peacefully protesting about equality and liberty. To be more specific,

Martin Luther King Jr., seeking the end of segregation through speech, and demonstrates

how he not only convinces and persuades the masses on this milestone letter. Presents

evident reliability in his letter by justifying the use of Ethos, Pathos, Logos (appealing the

use of Ethics, Passion, and Logic to demonstrate the Mala En Se meaning Bad in itself)

addressing the clergymen that are closely more in common to him than they think.

Demonstrating how Martin Luther King Jr. appeals to the audience using ethos by

relating his mission to Gods authority and his devotion by being a very religious person,

Dr. King Jr. Describes to be coworkers with God, thus meaning to be in the same path

as God. He proceeds onto explaining why he was placed in jail by the authorities of

Birmingham, Alabama; saying, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.

Therefore he argues that what was being done in Birmingham was not only wrong but

should be addressed in order to provide a solution. In order for the agree comply that

oppressed African American people to end, with injustice, every person, according to Dr.

King Jr., must not with what the racist clergy think is right. Are actually right and the

silence of good people in this case African American, needs to end and started to speak

up. I have the honor of serving as president of the Sothern Christian Leadership

Conference were the words of Martin Luther King Jr. He was trying to confirm that he

was not an outsider but someone who fought for his leadership because he earned his

position among the Christian African American society. The obstacles he had to pass to

were not an impediment for him.

The use of pathos appeal is the biggest one because this letter contains a lot of

emotions by Martin Luther King Jr. He explains the mistreatment of family, and he also

describes the pain he felt by seeing injustice everywhere. That injustice included white

people African American people and how they lynched and drowned the innocent. When

you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to

explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park

that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes

with these example we can understand his emotions. Readers can sense the tone of both

anger also fear at hearing to explain to his daughter the injustice and that the park is not

for colored people how can a little girl understand the discrimination.

In the other hand, for the use of logos, Dr. King Jr. uses logic to support his

evidence. The appeal of logos is found in the quote from the letter: One may well ask,

How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others? The answer is found in

the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws

meaning that you either follow the rules or assume the consequences. Just or unjust, laws

are laws. Regarded less of whether they are logic dictates that a person has to follow

them because of the fact that laws go in hand with power. This is a very powerful quote to

emphasize the importance of rules and procedures. He describes more than logical

essence, saying, In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the

facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification, and direct

action. We have gone through all of these steps in Birmingham. This step-by-step action

he uses to addresses injustices in Birmingham by exposing the situation in the city, the

jail, and its subjects. Then he addresses those same situations by exercising his rights of

speech and protest assembly in a peaceful but tactful manner.

Concluding the letter by Martin Luther King using ethos, pathos and logos we can

see and understand the methods of Dr. King Jr. Ethos demonstrating his ethical, pathos a

fathers tone of both anger and fear and finally logos power is exercised in the law. He

was protesting and against discrimination to end with injustice. With his letter, his

purpose was to demonstrate his innocence and to prove the accusation that led him to be

detained without just reasons.



King, M. L., Jr. (1963, August). Letter From Birmingham Jail [Letter]. Birmingham Jail,

Birmingham, Alabama.