Rhetorical Analysis Of Letter From Birmingham Jail

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Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a letter in response to a published statement by eight clergymen while incarcerated in a Birmingham jail. In the statement, the clergymen defined King’s “present activities ‘unwise and untimely.’” (King 806) King wrote the response to correct the misconceptions held by the clergymen and to justify his nonviolent campaigns. He felt that the white power structure left the black community with no option but to persuade the community to face the issue directly. King targeted his “fellow clergyman”, the community, and churchgoers.he responded to the clergymen’s criticisms with patience. He politely argues and creates an answer for any possible counter argument. King uses different modes of appeal to establish his credibility. King uses ethos, or ethical appeal, when he describes the clergymen as “men of genuine good will”(806) and tells them, “your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.”(807) With this statement he lets the clergyman know he is not angered by their criticism and understands their concerns. When King quotes the clergymen’s questions, “‘Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t …show more content…

He mentions he is “compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond” his own home town.(807) When King says, “We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights,”(809) he refers to blacks suffering at the hands of whites for hundreds of years. He emphasizes with “vicious mobs” that “lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brother at whim,” to invoke emotion. King calls out the city’s injustice when he mentions being denied “the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.”

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