Rhetoric In Letter From Birmingham Jail

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For dozens of years, black people were treated like animals, even decades after they were “freed” from the shackles of slavery. It wasn’t until the mid-1950’s that one man took it into his own hands to make a change, and his name was Martin Luther King, Jr., a name with which virtually the entirety of America is familiar. King did a lot of monumental things, and almost all of his influence lay within his mastery of word manipulation and rhetoric. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of his use of rhetoric happens to be in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”, written to a group of white clergymen in 1963 after they criticized his campaign. However, one can argue that the letter isn’t actually written to the clergymen, but rather to a much …show more content…

Possibly the most praised parts of his letter are indeed the most emotional. Quite arguably the most famous part of his letter is his over three-hundred word sentence describing why change needs to happen immediately, and why there is no longer time to wait. Anyone who has even skimmed the letter knows what sentence is being referred. Here is a small excerpt: “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 when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children… - then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait” (2). Of course, that’s barely scraping the surface of what the entire paragraph has to offer, but this certainly shows how King uses emotion so masterfully within his writing. It reaches out to every person, even the most racist of whites, and asks them to truly feel, if only for a second, what black people feel almost constantly. In doing this, King utilizes perhaps one of the strongest emotions we can experience: sympathy for others. King is almost irrefutably one of the greatest speakers of the century, if not all of history, and it is this particular section of his writing that helps illustrate …show more content…

It certainly seems that throughout many parts of the letter that King uses the clergymen as a stepping stool to achieve this, whilst still simultaneously castigating them for their earlier remarks against himself. As Leff and Utley said, “This construct allows King to criticize his target without alienating himself from it and also allows the ‘eavesdropping’ black audience to discover a model for reconstructing their own sense of agency” (37). Truly, King shows off his master of wordplay in quite an outstanding way within this

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