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Kia Cleveland

Letter from Birmingham Jail Responses

Discussion Questions:

1. Martin Luther King Jr. founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. This group
associates with many organizations, such as the Alabama Christian Movement for Human
Rights. MLK led a nonviolent protest which ended up with him in jail writing this letter. King
was between two different protesting groups: the violent Elijah Muhammads Muslim Movement
and the peaceful black movement protesters who no longer had the will to fight back. Kings
protesting style is defined by these two groups. Not violent, but still stood for what is right.

2. Ekklesia is the belief in a universal church. King uses this word to describe how corrupt
organized religion can be. He tries to express how religion should be about the spirit and not the

3. King puts more emphasis on religion because he is writing to clergymen. Solutions through
violence are not in the Bible, so King does not enforce that policy. He uses religion to create
patriotism because it could teach racist cities about justices and equality amongst one another.

4. Considering the fact that I am a young, black woman in a diverse classroom taught by a
teacher with Panamanian blood, I believe the Civil Rights movement did some good, in terms of
allowing everybody to experience the same equalities.

Rhetoric and Style

1. Kings tone in the first paragraph is politely sarcastic. He politely mocks their criticism. It
seems a bit ironic that King claims he does not respond to others criticisms, yet he is responding
to the clergymens complaint.

2. Paragraph 2 explains how King innocently ended up in jail. Paragraph 3 describes the
justification for him being in jail. Paragraph 4 expresses how King cannot sit around in a jail cell
in Atlanta. If he reversed his order, the clergymen would not know what he experienced and
would not feel sympathetic for him whatsoever.

3. King is writing to clergymen, so obviously he is going to allude to the Bible. This makes him
seem more knowledgeable of his audience, which supports his ethos. Also, the clergymen like
religion, so they will be a little easier on their fellow religious brother, which is essentially

4. King goes into basic principles and process of nonviolent protesting because he it almost
seems as if the clergymen are unfamiliar with the process and they must be taught like they were
taught the Bible. Slow and steady.
Kia Cleveland

5. According to Kings juxtaposition, Asian and African cultures are reaching political
independence much quicker than American culture is.

6. King arranges the clauses of when to imitate how violence turns less intense but eventually
turns into murder. The more clauses King adds, the more the clergymen should begin to realize
how intense the everyday black lives are. Instead of winding down, the sentence builds up to
black people being murdered. The sentence contained clauses that pulled the reader down into a
depressing abyss of what black lives were like then he traps the reader in suspense up until the
final moment of passionate anger and cruelty.

7. By continuously asking rhetorical questions, King forces the clergymen reading the letter to
think for just a moment and answer the questions on the inside. How can you advocate breaking
some laws and obeying others? What is the difference between the two? How does one
determine when a law is just or unjust? Can any law set up in such a state be considered
democratically structured?

8. King proposes the rhetorical question of what is the meaning of an extremist. He also
references famous extremists. He provides very famous teachings/quotes from each of the
extremists. King makes another biblical reference of Jesus at the cross. And finally, he
suggests that the South needs extremists.

9. King wanted to end his letter with the injustices of Birmingham policemen and he wanted to
emphasize how the black community did not do anything wrong, and they were only trying to
peacefully protest.

10. King often refers to this time as a dark time, a low time, and even a sick time for political
justices in the South, but he does allude to the fact that there will be light, there will be a high,
and there will be a time of health for the Unites States political justices.

11. In paragraph 14, King uses parallel repetition of clauses beginning with when. Each
statement builds on the last, expressing the depressing aspects of colored lives. Each phrase is
the same as the one before. Kings repetition creates an emotional impact on the reader because
it creates a sympathetic response to how colored people are currently being treated.

12. The last three paragraphs almost make King seem like he is better and more, as the kids call
it nowadays, woke than the clergymen. King is more sympathetic and understanding than they
are, and he proves it to them by apologizing for the length of the letter, the intensity of the letter,
and hoping for the best between the clergymen and King himself.